By Scott Mooneyham for the SNAP
Monday, January 21, 2013 —
RALEIGH — Pat McCrory decided to move the spot where governors traditionally have given their inaugural addresses.
Instead of taking the podium along Jones Street, within the shadow of the Legislative and State Archives buildings, McCrory gazed down Fayetteville Street near the south side of the Old Capitol Building.
It wasn’t a haphazard choice.
In his speech, McCrory called the spot “the intersection of government and Main Street.”
“Not too long ago, it was main streets just like this that brought my parents to North Carolina in 1966,” the newly sworn-in governor said.
“As I look out toward Main Street with government at our back, I see unlimited opportunity … our face and our approach should be outward, not inward.”
McCrory was making a promise to hear and be responsive to the working families and small businesses usually brought to mind by the Main Street metaphor.
And he didn’t have it wrong. Fayetteville Street is Raleigh’s Main Street.
Around the same time that McCrory’s parents arrived in this state, my grandmother made a ritual of leading me and my sister, following Sunday services at First Baptist Church just across from the Capitol, to Union Square to feed peanuts to the pigeons and then down Fayetteville Street to peer into the shop windows.
My favorite was a photography shop. It fed my young ego. For several years, the display photographs in the front window included a portrait of me, taken at two or three years old.
I suppose there is no accounting for that photographer’s taste, but it sure served as a sweet irritant to an older sister before she continued further along the path to gaze into the clothing, wig and hardware stores.
Fayetteville Street, like a lot of main streets, has changed quite a bit in the four-and-a-half decades since then.
Today, it is home to office towers that house global banks and multi-state law firms. At the far end of the street from the Capitol, a sleepy electric utility called Carolina, Power & Light, that served a portion of one state, became multi-state Progress Energy long ago and is now merging with McCrory’s old employer, Duke Energy.
The corner drug store is a now a chain, CVS.
The small businesses along the street are largely confined to the eateries and bars where office workers and courthouse lawyers break for lunch or an after-work beer.
Like other governors before him, McCrory will be hearing from the mega-banks, the multi-state corporations and the big law firms that now populate Raleigh’s real, and not its metaphorical, Main Street.
Those companies are major employers. They have interests that are key to the state’s economic future.
Any governor would be foolish not to listen when their executives speak.
McCrory, though, wasn’t referencing those companies in his allusions to the Main Street of his parent’s day.
He meant those small business owners and entrepreneurs, the real drivers of job growth, who have mostly fled Main Street for Suburban Tree Lane.
Let’s hope he keeps the distinction in mind.