Boom Technologies, an unproven startup, extracts $200 million from North Carolina taxpayers.

October 13, 2023

At the beginning of 2022, North Carolina announced that a startup company, Boom Technologies, would soon begin building supersonic commercial planes at the Piedmont Triad Airport. The facility, located outside of Greensboro, would benefit from an assortment of state and local subsidies: an $87 million state grant for job creation, $106.7 million in infrastructure development, and almost $5 million more from the city of Greensboro and Guilford County.

A Boom Technologies supersonic plane flies in the sky. The picture shows a side of the plane.
Source: Boom Technologies company website

While the news generated some media attention, one fact was largely overlooked: the state had promised almost $200 million to a little known, untested startup. And, stories mentioned one or two of the subsidies, but none added up the entire package.

This isn’t uncommon. Often, company representatives or state elected officials will announce one corporate giveaway but exclude or downplay others; the extra local subsidies may be negotiated separately, sometimes quietly out of public eye.

It can be difficult to total it up, especially for reporters working on tight deadlines.

It required some sleuthing for Good Jobs First to piece together the total windfall Boom Technologies received. The governor’s press release and subsequent news coverage mentioned the $87 million jobs grant (awarded through a program called the Job Development Investment Grant) in passing. It was later included in the state Department of Commerce’s annual JDIG report.

Though the state has a long history of providing the public with access to subsidy data, a plus, those reports can be difficult to find. After we learned about the state award, and knowing local subsidies are often a part of a subsidy deal, we tracked down the Greensboro and Guilford County councils’ minutes of meetings to piece together the entire package.

The entry is now listed in our latest update to our Subsidy Tracker database, which added over 12,000 state and local entries.

The update includes other dubious giveaways.

Tech giants Facebook, Apple, Amazon, and Google all received massive property tax breaks for data centers – which produce few jobs –  through Oregon’s Long Term Enterprise Zone program. Those four companies collectively enjoyed $143 million tax breaks in 2023 alone. That’s money that isn’t going to improve roads, expand parks access, pay for after-school programs, expand universal pre-K, or any number of other vital public services.

In California, through a program called California Competes, another startup that hopes to launch commercial rockets into space, Relativity Space, Inc, received $30.7 million (in all, CC has agreed to give out to companies $484.8 million in 2022 alone).

And we added more than 500 entries received through a freedom of information request to Baltimore’s Development Corporation. Among them: a $38.6 million Tax Increment Financing award to Beatty Development for a tower of retail, office space, and luxury residential units.

Taken together, these giveaways are part of the estimated $95 billion given to companies each year in the name of economic development.  We hope you will use Subsidy Tracker to learn which companies are taking money from your state and your community – and continue to ask hard questions about whether the giveaways are worth it.