Lincoln County state Rep. Jason Saine, North Carolina House Speaker Tim Moore and several other state legislators hosted the Canadian Minister for Science, Kirsty Duncan, and the Canadian Consul General to the Southeast United States, Nadia Theodore, on Wednesday morning.
“It was a pretty neat experience,” Saine, a Lincolnton Republican, said. “I’ve hosted the ambassador from Kosovo before, but this was a pretty neat conversation given the investment and the number of Canadians and Canadian companies that are here in North Carolina. One example is Gildan, but there are a large number of Canadian companies that have investments and employees, both Canadian and native North Carolinians, here. To learn that, in and of itself, was both interesting and enlightening. Our guests were incredibly gracious and this meeting really reinforced our relationship.”
Given Canada’s investment in the North Carolina economy -- which includes over $1 billion and 5,000 jobs among more than 50 companies throughout the past decade, according to a report by the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina -- most of Wednesday’s conversation centered around a review of the state’s economic development in recent years.
“Canada is our number one trading partner outside of the United States, which was news to me,” Saine said. “With Canada being our friendly neighbor to the north there’s a lot of synergy there. Our guests were interested in learning about local economic development, which is what brought them to the legislature. The crux of the conversation was focused on our tax climate, which is obviously favorable, but it goes both ways. We do a lot of research in conjunction with Canada and with the higher education investment here in North Carolina and the world-renowned reputation of our universities, there’s a good working relationship there as well.”
On the topic of education, the discussion ventured to potential partnerships regarding the investment in and development of STEM education in North Carolina. Education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics has become a priority throughout the state, including in Lincoln County, in an effort to help develop a more diverse workforce and provide additional opportunities for students searching for options outside of the traditional four-year college route.
“As their companies locate here, or co-locate because they may be headquartered in Canada, but have manufacturing plants here in North Carolina, they’ve been very encouraged by our vision and investment in STEM education,” Saine said. “They wanted to encourage us to continue to do so because a lot of the highly-skilled workers that they’re looking for certainly need to have a STEM background. They were very complimentary of our approach to STEM education and what we’ve been able to accomplish in North Carolina in a very short timeframe.”
Other topics of discussion during the meeting included national and international security with regards to terrorism and information technology.