January 10, 2013Gov. Pat McCrory came home to Greensboro for the first time as governor on Tuesday, Jan. 8, and a couple of hundred delighted folks turned out to say hello. Certainly, there were some in the crowd who had not supported McCrory, but everyone seemed delighted to see him and he seemed delighted to see everyone. But McCrory's face would really light up when he spotted an old friend in the crowd.
When McCrory speaks around here where he grew up, he periodically interrupts himself with a shout out to someone in the audience he has just recognized. His enthusiasm is contagious.
One thing that is certain with McCrory as governor – North Carolina is not going to sit back and wait for things to happen. You don't have to be around McCrory long to realize that he likes to keep moving and get things done. And he has Charlotte as proof he knows how to get things done. He was mayor for 14 years, and during that time Charlotte went through explosive growth.
At the reception Tuesday at the Elm Street Center in downtown Greensboro, McCrory first did interviews with local television stations and daily newspapers, but not weeklies. So by the time he got upstairs there were a couple hundred people more or less in kind of line around the room.
No elementary school teacher in the world would have approved of the line, which was 10 people wide in some places and one person wide in others, but it resembled a line.
McCrory started shaking hands and talking to people and the line started moving, but it didn't move fast enough for McCrory, so he started walking back up the line as people came toward him. He surprised a number of folks when they looked up from their conversations and there was the governor reaching out to shake their hand and say hello.
McCrory is a big hugger. He's not quite as much of a hugger as Greensboro City Councilmember Yvonne Johnson, but he doesn't hesitate to hug people he knows. And, of course, since he grew up in Jamestown and graduated from Ragsdale High School, he knows an awful lot of people in this area.
McCrory was nowhere near through the line when his handlers said if he didn't speak, he was going to miss his next meeting. So Sheriff BJ Barnes called the room to order, which was no small task, and spoke for a few minutes while people got settled down and they got the right number of chairs behind the podium.
Former Greensboro Mayor Keith Holliday introduced McCrory, which caused a ripple of whispered questions to go through the crowd, because Greensboro Mayor Robbie Perkins had been in the crowd earlier and Perkins is a Republican while Holiday is a Democrat. It was like being at a wedding where the father doesn't walk the bride down the aisle.
The newly appointed NC Secretary of Health and Human Services Dr. Aldona Wos, who is from Greensboro and is the former US ambassador to Estonia, joined McCrory on the podium.
In his introduction Holliday said that in working with McCrory when he was mayor of Charlotte, that he and other North Carolina mayors could "feel the leadership."
He said McCrory brought it to their attention that they weren't competing with each other or other Southern cities, "But were in competition with Singapore and Bombay. We're in competition with the world."
Holliday also said he was certain McCrory was going to outwork everyone else in Raleigh.
It was also abundantly evident that McCrory is ready to get to work. He said that on Nov. 6, after he won his political victory, the celebration was limited to about two hours and then he went to bed so he could get up and get started the next day.
He said he had eight cabinet positions to fill and he wanted diversity, including geographic diversity. But he said mainly he wanted "talent." He said, "My major job during this transition was to find talent."
He said he was looking for leaders who could think outside the box, and for "problem solvers."
McCrory said the small towns have to be revived because so many have lost their manufacturing base.
He said the state has a host of policies in place and right now his staff is busy reviewing all of them. He said, "We're reviewing the policies that we have on the books. Do they have a return on investment." And he said they were studying them to see if they still worked.
McCrory noted that the state is just like any big organization and periodically you have to look at what has been built and decide if it is needed.
It's a daunting task, but the state has been in control of the Democrats for so long, it has been over a century since a whole new team came in to look at how things have been done. In other words, they have a tremendous amount of work to do, but if they do it well the state could be a much better place to work and live.
McCrory said, "In economic development we need to revisit our brand." He said the most recent statewide plan for economic development they had been able to find was dated 1985.
McCrory said, "In 1985 our brand was good."
He noted all the Fortune 500 companies we had in the triad in 1985, but said that most of them had left and the brand needed to change.
When he said, "Our neighboring states including South Carolina started changing their brand," the crowd chuckled. He went on to say that they had reinvented themselves and been successful doing it while North Carolina had been sitting back getting comfortable.
McCrory said, "We have an information technology program that is totally broken." He listed that as a short-term fire that had to be put out immediately.
Another is the $2.8 billion that North Carolina owes the federal government for unemployment. McCrory said, "I hate to live off a credit card and I'd like to get that paid off as soon as possible."
A groan went up from the audience when McCrory noted that Obamacare was the law of the land and the state had some big decisions to make on how to implement it.
But he added, "We cannot lose track of developing long-term vision for the economic development of North Carolina."
He said he wanted to work on the disconnect between education in the state and industry. He said he's been told by business owners that they have jobs but can't find people who have the training to fill those jobs.
There were also some back home moments. McCrory noted that he learned to drive a car on a big empty lot where Four Seasons Town Centre is today.
McCrory said, "This will always be home to me. This is where I grew up and learned my values."
With that he was whisked off, not before shaking another 50 or so hands and having his picture taken a couple of dozen times.
McCrory may make some mistakes but it's not going to be because he's sitting around waiting for things to happen.