Jake Johnson

Interview by
Published on
August 17, 2022

In this episode...

How can your State Representative best serve you? One of the youngest elected officials in North Carolina history traces his passion for service to his college years, while earning his Bachelor’s degree in Political Science and a Minor in Economics - Rep. Jake Johnson knew if you wanted results, you needed to take action, and at age 22 he took on the challenge of public service. In particular, Jake is looking out for the rural communities and the drain from their workforce. He wants to provide the basic infrastructure that will encourage the next generation of talent to come back to the community and help build a stronger future. “I can’t fix a problem that I don’t know about.” - whether you are a trade association, in education, or a trucking business owner, Jake encourages everyone to reach out to their State Representative and start a dialogue so your duly elected official can listen and take action. This episode is a discussion about the future - if Rep. Jake Johnson can help your business or county with something, what would it be? Comment down below as you watch Life By The Mile, delivered by FreightWorks.

Jake Johnson

Jake Johnson is North Carolina's 113 District State Representative


the professionalism behind it and this is a well-oiled machine this is a this is a well-oiled machine where everyone uh is aware of what their job is to make to make this company work and and i was i was just so impressed with the delegation of responsibility the trust that everyone has for each other to do their job and do it at a high level welcome to life of the mile delivered by brakeworks one of america's fastest growing podcasts actually produced by trucks indicted to tell stories compelling driver's story i need to do something

i'm your host butch malpe and we are from freight works one studio it's an absolute delight as the culmination of an extended period of time we've just had with representative jake johnson to have him finish up his barbecue and coleslaw and sweet tea and come and sit in the chair and uh we're just glad you're here eating and talking but it's two of my favorite things so we appreciate you having us out and and what a great informative tour and uh you know learned a lot in a short amount of time and that's that it was incredible thanks for having us absolutely now listen uh tell everybody who you represent and a little bit about how you got started in in in in politics you're you're you're a young state representative and you represent actually along with speaker of the house tim moore the whole of rutherford county where where where our uh freight works is located so talk a little bit about who you represent that's right and i'm born and raised in western north carolina i was born and raised in saluda i live just across the line of columbus now uh really about 15-20 minutes from here so i'm extremely local you know i i got involved being a county commissioner i loved local government i you know i loved being the first point of contact people had with their government i loved every second of it and really i got involved because at the time i didn't agree with a lot that was going on in government this was uh you know six or eight years ago i didn't agree with a lot of what was going on and i said well you know i can either sit at the house and complain about it or i can go out and do something about it at the time i was going to unc charlotte i came back ran the first time when i was when i was 19 actually and uh you learn a lot of what to do and a lot of what not to do when you run what did you run for uh county commissioners that was my first my first run and you know people say losing builds character and it it it certainly uh made me take nothing for granted uh and really made me go back and say what are the tangible things i want to get done um so we formulated those ran again was high vote getter the next time served as chair of the board in polk county at the time running in that district it was all of polk about a third to a fourth of henderson and then all of transylvania county up where brevard rosman lake talks away and uh and then this time the districts were redrawn so we lost transylvania county in the redistricting process frankly just populations more sparse in western north carolina so the districts got bigger which pushed me a little further east so we lost population there picked up over half of rutherford county which i've always considered a very close working relationship here on the commission i served on advisory boards where we partnered with rutherford on many transportation issues and other things and since serving in the legislature i now serve as vice chair of the appropriations committee i serve as chair of the i.t appropriations committee so a lot of the broadband money you're seeing come down and given to the counties that's actually running through our committee up there i was one of the primary sponsors of the largest ever internet infrastructure package in our state's history and uh we were extremely proud to get that done we know that's going to bring a lot of commerce hopefully to western north carolina so that's where we are now we're we just had a successful primary we do not have a general election in the fall so if if god sees to bless me to keep serving uh and we can we can hang in there until november we'll have two more years and we look really excited to working with the folks down in rutherford jake it it's been wonderful to have you come here and and the thing that that so impressed me was just watching you take in information we took a tour of the freight works facility you know for people that are not aware because of course people that watch life of the mile and listen on our podcast platforms are from all over can you describe the strategic nature of western north carolina why is this an important place when we talk about transportation and supply chain issues and all of that well i'll start by saying we're very far away from uh you know we're very far away from a lot of other hubs i mean we we kind of are our own hub in a way because of the interstate system and the way it lays so i can be i'll give you a good example i beat a five state capitals i believe it's either some some of our members can be to five i may be down to four that i can be two quicker than raleigh so what does that mean it means that we're in the middle of a lot of other states where we're at not just north carolina but a lot of other strategic locations across the state and you know specifically where we're at at the intersection of 74 and 26 hopefully we that we're going to have two interstate designations there soon we've already got one we hope we get 74 designated i think that'd be huge for economic development it would have it would help create workshops it would help a lot of what we're trying to do a lot of company policy just says we have to be close to an interstate designation and that's kind of built into how they make those uh site location uh site decisions so that would be very economically beneficial but you are kind of it center of you know some people say nowhere but we're really in the middle of the whole commerce along the east coast southern east coast so extremely extremely pivotal place for for economic development and transportation going forward now when you look at uh north carolina specifically you know it's been so interesting to see a number of these indices come up saying it's a very business friendly state you of course have been in the trenches in raleigh and trying to rest away control that's right from folks that don't have the same fiscal discipline that you would subscribe to and this is not a political program but you are a republican so tell us a little bit about why north carolina is a great state for freight works to be in that that's right and and you spoke to just how how much this state has pivoted um let's look back 10 years even you know 10 to 15 years this state was not looked at as a friendly place to come and start a business or expand one you already own in fact uh you know there was a lot of of big manufacturers and uh places that are mass producers and mass hires that looked at south carolina looked at florida looked at georgia didn't even consider north carolina now why were they looking there people people you know people try to overthink this whole site selection and where to do business it comes down to raw numbers in in many cases you got workforce is a big part of it but aside from that just the raw fiscal numbers of doing this so what we did just just this budget cycle we passed a budget that would phase out the corporate tax over the next decade putting us on par to be right there with anybody in the country uh they actually just came out uh forbes forbes was the first to rank us number one for a place to do business and then i think it was uh nbc or one of the other ones or cbs came out with a another poll that had us number one ranked to do business so it's it's not just and you know a lot of these outlets have historically not been friendly to our legislature so these are outlets that uh are looking at this objectively from a sense of because of our tax structure in the regulatory reform that we've passed and the tax reform we've passed this is the best place to do business in the country and by any metric you measure where we're not the best place to do business we're going to go find out what those metrics are and be number one in that too so we're really excited about what that means for someone graduating from high school here saying i can either go to a four-year university i can go straight into the workforce i can go to the military and get training i can go to an apprenticeship and get training and there will be something for me in north carolina in the field that i want to do so that's what we're shooting for and make sure somebody wants to live and raise a family and work and play in north carolina they have every opportunity to do that you know earlier today you had the opportunity to hear a briefing from joyce sakira vp of operations ray farmer executive vice president so you heard a little bit about freight works trucking and logistics what were some of the things that you took from that i mean what what what is it that you uh felt either inspired by or informed by from those discussions the the professionalism behind it and this is a well-oiled machine this is uh this is a well-oiled machine where everyone uh is aware of what their job is to make to make this company work and and i was i was just so impressed with the delegation of responsibility and the trust that everyone has for each other to do their job and do it at a high level and uh and just the retention of employees i mean that is something we see across the state whether it be the driver whether it be dispatch whether it be other things i mean it seems like there's a lot of internal promotion which is which is what companies used to be like back when somebody could spend a career in one place without jumping around every two years and i was just so impressed by someone who started and has worked their way up in the company and just the loyalty that that someone just starting out has to the brand and has to the company and and and frankly that's that's something we don't see everywhere so very impressive that's uh that's great now when you look at north carolina legislatively in the days ahead we've got you in the seat and i can ask you to look up around the corner what do you see as some of the the big issues that are going to be ahead for us as a state well and and i'll talk specifically about rutherford county for a second and where we're sitting right now and this relates to the state a lot of our rural counties have saw a real uh we'll call it drain and potential workforce and talent pool because of the lack of infrastructure and i was i was on spectrum one recently talking about this uh out of raleigh durham and saying our rural communities need the investment and here's why if a kid grows up here let's say they want to go to school somewhere else they get an apprenticeship let's say in the charlotte area relatively close to here there's not a lot to draw them back right now in the sense of if they're used to having reliable internet there where they can get online anytime you know and they come back here and their options for living don't even have internet service i mean they don't have water and sewer to build a house and these things cost so much now anyway but if they don't have that basic infrastructure housing internet the job they want if they don't have those things here what's bringing them back i mean it may be family it may be some other factors but we're losing a lot of the next generational talent they leave and they don't they don't come back and they don't come back because they don't believe there's something to come back that's right we saw that in the census and you know a lot of our communities in western north carolina are very retiree driven but to fuel that retiree economy i mean they're still going out to restaurants you gotta have somebody to work in the restaurants gotta have uh entrepreneurs to open up these new facilities so it's it's it's been a real challenge the lack of infrastructure and what it's done to the pools in these in these western populations so and you can see that all over the country i mean you see these census results all over the country and just when i mentioned the districts earlier you can just look at the size of the districts in rural areas and tell that there's less population in these counties and i think it has a lot to do with the lack of infrastructure and that's what we're trying to reverse we're trying to revitalize these small downtowns to when you know people come back to visit family they say i can see myself moving back here i can see myself buying a house and sending my kids to school here and there's something to do so that's what we're working on right now and having frankly i think a lot of success when you look at where we are strategically 74 221 40 not far away 26. what do you see happening because you also have a background real estate yes as well what do you see happening from a development perspective in this region say within 30 to 50 miles from here so i think a lot of uh what what is going to drive it's nothing to say we're doing but we need to provide the infrastructure for it is folks have more freedom to to work remotely than they've ever had have ever had maybe they have to go into the office but some parts of their uh you know job they could do remotely and and it's just it seems more culturally accepted now to have either a longer commute or you know it gives you freedom to to live places that normally you had to live really close to your job and but now i you know just working in real estate i have a lot of people move here that say you know i work with the company stationed out of atlanta or stationed out of you know newark california and they've told me i can you know live where i want to now as long as i can you know attend certain times a year and stuff and they're saying you know we visited you know western north carolina once we fell in love with it we want to move here and that's what's driving a lot of that but really one of one of the barriers to people moving back here is uh the price of things are very high here right because those are all driven off of comps you know so if someone's a retiree they may have more uh disposable income for housing they move here it drives the price up so what we've got to do is expand inventory at some point but there's a difference between i would say fast development and smart growth i like the term smart growth you do that by keeping the the rural atmosphere that you have protecting as much farmland as possible protecting the family farms protecting the rural atmosphere but doing some uh but doing some smart growth in the way of providing housing that someone in the workforce can actually afford this is life by the mile delivered by freight works listen if you haven't subscribed to the youtube channel make sure you hit that subscription button like share engage this is state representative jake johnson that's with us now jake let me ask you this when you look at public and private partnerships in other words industries like ours enterprises like ours and government what would be your coaching for us what can we do to most effectively engage with you and with north carolina government and local government do you know what i'm asking well you you've you've taken a great first step so know who your representative is and reach out to them because i always tell people this i can't fix a problem i don't know exists so that's and you know we talked about there's advocates for industry in raleigh trade associations those are great but actually meeting with the businesses in your district and being able to go back and it may be something small in a bill or something that's not included in a bill that i look at and go you know that could really be detrimental to an industry in my district or if this was just tweaked a little bit it could really help them expand and grow in the future when i'm when i'm looking for those type of things i need to be able to pick up the phone and say you know butch we need to get joyce and josh on the phone here and say you know is this going to be detrimental uh you know to to you all being able to access an interstate are you you guys you know you guys being able to uh expand you know is this going to be a problem and and being able to have those conversations and that dialogue open dialogue between frankly you know your elected officials and your people actually running the economy because i've always lived under the principle private business you guys would be just fine without government i have no i have no doubt you guys would find your way and uh and things will work out without you guys fueling the economy we don't exist i mean we have no we have no way to run basic functions so uh you know it's always been my tendency to lean on private business and say what do you need what can we do to make your operation smoother in north carolina and you know jake what we love is and we're strong believers in this freightworks is interested in relationships not transactions and you know you go back to the early history of freight works and josh and and ray farmer and others that were here to incubate this enterprise that uh now is one of the fastest growing trucking enterprises in western north carolina we've always valued people and of course it it comes out of our biblical convictions and uh not everyone here is necessarily people of faith or religious or following jesus but we do in leadership and so our commitment is to tell the truth and keep trying to bring things to the highest level of excellence that we can and we love the relationships that we have with burgett and economic development cindy cobb at the chamber of commerce and there's something really special when you get private businesses local associations like that and your elected official that all come together move it in the same direction no it is that cohesiveness you can see communities that thrive and economic corridors that thrive have that relationship you know if you go to a business and you say you know uh and and i think of something as simple as is a water line going in or zoning or something like that uh something that is the difference between a company being able to expand or come to an area if you don't know who to pick up the phone and call and and see how to access these things i mean you're dead in the water i mean there's no way there's no way to do it and and you know i've i think that is a a great principle to go by because you know i love the phrase i know a guy i love the phrase or woman you know anybody you know i know somebody i know somebody you know i love hearing that phrase when i when i'm when i'm talking to somebody i love when someone says well you know i i don't know much about that but i but i know somebody so my advice when i go speak at universities or anything like that or go back speak to a civics class or something and teacher goes you know what advice do you have for the for the younger folks i say know somebody no just no no know somebody that knows a little bit about everything and meet as many people as you can because on a day to day and what i love so much about what i do i have no idea what's going to happen when i walk into that building i mean i've got a generic plan you know i know i may have caucus i may have committee meeting i may have votes there's a million things that can happen throughout the day and and i get to meet so many people that you know i may get a call uh this morning i was up at a g current in henderson county okay learning about and flat rock right there learning about um the lights they're developing to grow crops year-round the technologies from holland they're bringing over and uh and building some there some here manufacturing i learned more this morning about integrated indoor farming than i ever thought i could know didn't i didn't even know that was on my agenda so you know something now somebody comes to me and goes you know jake we're thinking about bringing this industry here you know they they do this and that i can say i know somebody that knows something about that when i call them so just and even today i don't even know that was on the books i mean you you do you just form those relationships with people that know things that you don't and and i think that's where y'all have been so great is reach out and say we we know how to do this we want to expand our network and build relationships with other people that can help us and we can help them you know the thing that i noticed today in our time together uh is that you're a good listener as well and that's not gratuitous or patronizing being a good listener and asking good questions if you have a heart to learn you'll you'll learn and we are unabashed in our desire to have you know about trucking and logistics so that wherever you go jake wherever you go not just with a yeti mug that you already have oh yeah and you'll be able to be an ambassador for what freightworks is all about yeah and y'all and through that you're a good ambassador for the whole industry and and that's huge and you know frankly somebody gave me very good advice when i was a county commissioner very i was sworn in at 22. you know just fresh out of college somebody you know they gave me the advice you know you got two ears one mouth use them in that proportion and it'll serve you well and don't be scared to say i don't know and that was one thing that i think i've i've grown a lot since i've been in raleigh you know it's almost it was almost like a bad word in politics to say i don't know you know it was bad but but so often now in committee meetings or whatever it is you know i've learned you cannot be an expert in everything no nobody can be an expert in everything nobody ever has been or will be other than the lord nobody's ever been or ever will be an expert in anything so i said it's okay to say i don't know and how does this work and and i think that's that's a that's another big gap between industry and the in the in the political sector is a lot of times politicians are scared to reach out to private industry and say how does this work because they don't want to come off as ignorant um or anything like that i think it i think i think it shows a lot to reach out say i don't know about this industry i want to see it grow how can i do that so saying you don't know something is is not a sign of weakness or ignorance towards something it's it's wanting to learn about it so that's you know what you actually know a little bit though about trucking i think i think people would be interested to hear your family background has some taints and touch yeah trucking talk about that absolutely i got it on both sides so my my father actually works logistics for ge up there he's the most senior employee at the at the uh the plant up in uh flat rock and uh he's worked there he pumped gas when he was 18 years old and uh at bp there in saluda i'm sure the truck stopped there some some of y'all may have stopped at it and uh then he got a job at g up there's been there ever since and he uh and and he's over the whole you know logistics hiring there and and ge has went through a lot of changes and you know they've now g current but that was his side mom's side uh grew up loggers so they were always having to transport lumber and now on a wood yard down in travelers rest and they're downsizing only running you know three five trucks on a super busy day but most of the time two or three trucks but it was enough to launch oh absolutely and you know growing up i learned the challenges they faced uh whether it be uh you know getting getting people quality employees that could that could handle the equipment or you know something was always breaking you know you know nobody's exempt from that they're always having to repair something and uh just just you know the the things in d.o.t were shifting the different regulations they went through and and so and then they had a race team too so even on the weekends when they were done hauling wood they had to hook up to the race trailer and haul it across many many states and you know whether it was to florida or up in new york or somewhere to a racetrack so they were always around heavy equipment always around uh 18 wheelers and it was just very very normal to see them growing up when did you first know that you had a political bent um were you one of those in the third grade that was running no no no abs absolutely not it was um it was really you know i think some people get into politics because they see something they like in government i got into politics because i saw a lot in government i didn't like um and i think it depends on when and what era you grow up and i i think it really does it's very situational but for me i saw a lot going on i didn't like i saw inefficiencies i saw just just the way we were interacting with other nations and the way our state was was falling behind other states and and i i and and i went to went to school for business i went for business administration and i hate to say that i was sitting in an accounting class i looked at my buddy and i said i'm going up to the counselor's office and i just got just got up and went he texted me later and said where where'd you go i said i don't want to do this anymore i said i don't love it i don't enjoy this i took a political science class and i said this is where you know the the economics of it which i loved i kept my minor in economics and kept a minor in international studies uh but but the major i pivoted to more public policy and initially i thought i wanted to be a town or county manager i mean i really thought i wanted to come back home and do that and who knows what the future holds but that was that was kind of my thought then i came back and really enjoyed meeting people and asking them how how we can make government better and i think that kind of fueled the political aspirations of of improving government from an elected position well you know what i one of the first impressions that i had of you at the local uh republican party headquarters with bryson smith yes absolutely been a friend right there that is that you work hard and you show up and you keep your commitments jake and all those things for counties like ours are so important because we know we need somebody that can kind of raise their hand for us in those settings where decisions about appropriations infrastructure and support take place so we were thrilled uh with great respect for your predecessor we were thrilled to know that you and tim moore are going to be the ones that represent us and i feel like we've got a couple of gladiators in raleigh yeah and you know it does take you a little while you don't you don't come in knowing everything about how raleigh works but especially having the time where i was appointed in 2019 and then when i ran in 2020 and then this last time over that time period because i went through a full long session a full short session now i've seen how to navigate things because i mean procedurally is a lot of the battle i mean a lot of your battle is uh you know getting it to the right committee getting it through that committee getting it into the next one getting it on the floor and that doesn't i mean you don't wake up knowing how to do that you know you do have to sit back and you know everything in my gut wanted to be gung-ho and running there like a bull in a china shop but at the at the end of the day i did you know sit back at times and say okay let me watch someone who's successful let me let me watch how they navigate this system let me watch the pitfalls to stay away from the things that are going to accelerate what i'm trying to do so and i think we're in a great position now and the speaker he's he's been there a while he's he's he's been around the block and seen this so he's going to be a great partner uh here in rutherford he understands the challenges uh that we face in western north carolina also has cleveland county so i have everything running to henderson on the west he has everything running to gaston county on the east we've got a great feel for this region right here that i think is is a natural economic corridor for for the future so we're we're very excited and i have to tell you this i still remember him coming in with one of those emulated foe checks oh yeah at cleveland community college for some number of millions of dollars right and you know what it's not the only only litmus test but you want representatives that can help yeah channel monies into the county that's it because what i've learned you know it's it's if you're not fighting for it somebody will be yeah you know that's the thing and uh you know the tax package is great and really but what that tax package is meant to do is to stimulate economic growth to where not only do we not have to raise taxes and we can lower them but we can also reinvest in these communities and you know i i think there's there's a difference between wasteful spending and smart investment that's destined to have an economic return and that's that's what we're spending money on here things like water sewer internet those are the things that are driving industry uh not these programs that are to go dissolve after a couple years and you know you never hear like i won't bash any other states but there's some other states that clearly aren't acting as economically responsible as we are and frankly we know we know what will happen if we don't act economically responsible if we blow that money or we get people in there who blow that money i mean we're you only got two options you got to cut services or you got to collect more money so we understand that not every year is going to be a great economic year so that's why we're putting some money back and some folks that you know not necessarily share my uh regard for fiscal responsibility they want to spend that money now all of it i'm like well what happens next year if there's a recession what happens well we'll go find it somewhere else well that that's not the way to budget it's not it's not respectful to the taxpayer so we've been very good to hedge against bad years here in north carolina we know what as we round the home stretch the mark of great conversations by the way i often say this is they go quickly yeah and we're about to take our exit off the interstate of our conversation we're very open-hearted in saying help in getting interstate designation for 74 any kind of appropriate tax relief that may be there or enterprise investment as you get to know us better we want to be seen as kind of a tip of the spear for growth opportunities in this corridor of western north carolina and i'll also mention before i go uh you know i'm four i'm four or four and a half hours away from the capitol so i i certainly know what it means to be able to uh to make those long drives and i i told the folks here when we were out looking at the the beautiful new trucks i told them earlier i spent a lot of time in the car and it can be exhausting on some days uh it really can you know you tell people oh i've gotta you know uh and they're like oh you're just in the car you know you can't be that tiring let me tell you you know it i know you know the drivers out there they're they're they are absolutely warriors out there and it is it's it's we've got to have you we've got to have you but trust me you're talking to someone who has uh uh made a long round trip many times and has listened to many audio books listening to mini podcasts i think i know every song out there i've listened to on the radio and uh but we appreciate all you do this country doesn't move without you and uh you know people go to the store they take it for granted when they buy food or anything else but uh we need drivers out there who are who are making these trips so thank you this is state representative jake johnson and on that long trek that you have to raleigh we hope that life by the mile delivered by freight works will be a podcast that you listen to and whenever you take that yeti mug you've already

and a hat and uh in your in your jacket that when people ask who is that you can tell them freight works absolutely and be proud they're right here in our district i am so proud to represent this area and to have businesses like yours who are so community oriented uh that that's just such a huge part of it i mean it's one thing to be a successful business where you can grow internally but to grow externally in the community is a whole another as a whole another factor to it that we appreciate from from folks like you so we appreciate it and we're here to be a partner in the future this is life by the mile delivered by freight works i'm your host butch malphie this is jake johnson we love that he's one of our two representatives and we're looking forward to the days ahead make sure you subscribe like share and engage we want to grow this audience so that we can keep telling the inspiring stories of america's truckers thanks so much for being here today thank you so much thank you thanks for watching this episode you know life by the mile delivered by freightworks is one of the newest largest and fastest growing podcasts actually produced by a trucking company now we want you to like and share this episode if you'd like to see more episodes click here and make sure that you subscribe to the channel by clicking here we'll see you there


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