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Loss of 'Project Soccer' leads to finger pointing

READ MORE: Loss of 'Project Soccer' leads to finger pointing
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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- It's official. Southeastern North Carolina has lost more than 1,000 jobs to the Palmetto State.

Continental Tires announced it will build a $500 million facility with 1,600 jobs in Sumter County, South Carolina.

Now the state legislature and the governor's office here in North Carolina are playing the blame game.

The company was also looking at land in Brunswick County. Thursday, NC Commerce Secretary Keith Crisco met with Brunswick County leaders to thank them for their efforts.

"We are disappointed, but it's important that we come here and say thank you," Crisco said.

Without naming any names Secretary Crisco said Senate leaders were unwilling to give Continental Tire what it needed in the end.

"There (were) several packages put forth, but at the end of the day they were unwilling to make the exact statement, make the exact proposal that the company required to come here," Crisco said. "We were told many times, 'It's yours to lose.'"

The issue: timing.

Crisco said Continental needed the incentives it requested in the building stage of the project instead of over a long period of time.

"The senate leadership was unwilling to meet that timing request," he said.

State Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger (R-Rockingham), though, blames Gov. Bev Perdue for the loss.

"Pay-to-play politics in North Carolina, unfortunately, is something we have seen time and time again," Berger said.

Berger's comment refers to reports that the sale of the Brunswick County property would have lined the pockets of Perdue's campaign donors.

"We immediately contacted the Commerce Department, made the governor aware of what we had been advised," Berger said. "They seem to have no concern what so ever of the appearance that existed."

Berger did not say if the issue played a role in continental's decision. Crisco says there was nothing questionable in the site selection. He said an independent consultant selected the site, not the governor or the Department of Commerce.

The governor fired back late this afternoon. In a statement she said:

"Sen. Berger is making reckless accusations in order to evade responsibility for his own decision, a decision that cost North Carolina 1,300 jobs. I didn't have any involvement in the site selection process, and it didn't matter to me what piece of land the company selected, as long as the 1,300 jobs came to North Carolina. I supported the package that would bring these jobs to north carolina because it was a good investment for our state; Sen. Berger decided to oppose it because he thought the jobs were not worth it. Now he should stand up and take responsibility for his decision."

The governor's office contends Berger and the legislature knew everything about the offer that was on the table and approved it. This afternoon, her office released the chain of correspondence related to the pitching of the project.

READ THE CORRESPONDENCE BETWEEN STATE LEADERS AND PROJECT SOCCER EXECUTIVES (.pdf file)

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