Business & Economy

A picture of the newspaper want ads
Creative Commons / http://mycareerinfo.ca

The state unemployment rate is dropping, but the labor force is also shrinking. 

The North Carolina Department of Commerce reports unemployment fell from 8.8 percent in January 2013 to 6.7 percent in January 2014.  But that number doesn't include people who have stopped looking for work.  The state's labor force is made up of people who work or are trying to find jobs, and that pool shrank by more than 60,000 people during the year. 

North Carolina State University Economist Michael Walden said 2013 was somewhat of a disappointing year for job growth.

Money
bestclipartblog.com

Chief Financial Officers say increasing the national minimum wage to $10 an hour could have negative consequences.

The latest survey by Duke University and CFO Magazine shows companies would cut jobs or reduce hiring if the minimum wage rose to $10 an hour. 

Duke Finance Professor John Graham says nearly half of retail firms and one-third of service and manufacturing companies said they would decrease hiring plans.

The Chatham Park project could boost Pittsboro's population to 60,000 people
Screen shot from online video / Preston Development Company

In a meeting Monday night, the Pittsboro Board of Commissioners presented Preston Development with more than 40 new requests to follow up on with regards to Chatham Park -- the massive new 7,120 acre live,work, play community. The project could bring as many as 60,000 new residents to Pittsboro, a town of 4,000 currently.

DES Office
Leoneda Inge

For ten years, North Carolina attorneys have had access to a daily list of unemployed workers who are scheduled for appeal hearings.   Most of these people had their unemployment claims denied and are appealing the decision. 

But last week, the Division of Employment Security said it would no longer provide a daily list of these hearings.  A Durham attorney is fighting back and has filed a lawsuit against the Department of Commerce and its employment division.

Triangle Transit Authority

The Federal Transit Authority (FTA) has given the green-light to begin the first steps of a 17-mile light rail project connecting Durham and Orange Counties.

The decision authorizes Triangle Transit to begin development on the project, by studying the potential environmental impact of two proposed rail routes.

Triangle Transit has put together this video "fly-through" of the proposed light rail route:

The Chatham Park project could boost Pittsboro's population to 60,000 people
Screen shot from online video / Preston Development Company

Preston Development Company has big plans for Pittsboro, but an urban planning consultant says it isn't very clear what they are.

The Chatham Park project is meant to turn thousands of acres into full neighborhoods of residences and office space just 15 miles from Chapel Hill. It could turn the town into a sizeable city. The project is controversial, and Pittsboro hired the Lawrence Group in Davidson to review its master plan.

Power plant in Goldsboro, NC.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/dukeenergy/11441208065/

NC WARN, a progressive environmental non-profit, is teaming up with an unlikely partner: the John Locke Foundation. The two organizations share a desire to increase competition in the power industry and challenge Duke Energy's monopoly on electricity in the state.  

Erika dashes on to the 36-seat passenger bus. She's exasperated, but remarkably well put together. She's young, and afraid.

"Prescott... I'm late," she says, her hand gripping a rail for balance.

"... No you're not." He replies. "With the GoLive Real-Time Arrival System, you'll never be late for the bus again!"

"No..." she says. "I mean... I'm late."

Also, Prescott has an identical twin, Sebastian, who might be the father.

President Barack Obama talks about the importance of raising the minimum wage.
Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy

President Barack Obama signed an executive order last week to raise the minimum wage for federal contract workers to $10.10 per hour. He is pushing for Congress to pass a bill that will do the same for all Americans. 

North Carolina Zoo

The North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro will be closed Saturday and Sunday. Zoo staff must clear more than 5 miles of walkways inside the park. The facility will likely reopen Monday.

In addition, the NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources reports:

Valentine's Day
Leoneda Inge

Florists across the state are working overtime to make sure the snow storm doesn’t wipe out Valentine’s Day sales.

A steady stream of customers in Chapel Hill made their way through the slush of melting snow to grab some flowers.

Charles House owns University Florist and Gifts on Franklin Street.  He says the snow and ice couldn’t have come at a worse time.

Southpoint Mall
Dave DeWitt

A normal Wednesday night at the Streets at Southpoint mall is a swirling mass of activity. Shoppers. Diners. Teenagers on escalators. But this Wednesday was not a normal night.

“Everybody seemed fine until they realized, oh shoot, it’s really coming down,” said Maureen White, an employee of the mall. “It came on so quick.”

Maureen proved pretty quick herself. About 1:30 in the afternoon she called the hotel across the street and booked a room.

SAS

One of the state’s largest and most successful tech companies is the Cary-based SAS. CEO and co-founder Jim Goodnight says the success of the global business analytics company is rooted in policies that keep employees happy. Benefits like on-site childcare, health clinics and flexible work hours keep SAS at the top of many lists of the best places to work. Host Frank Stasio talks with Goodnight about his work and his workplace philosophy

internet sweepstakes, gambling,
Pete Labrozzi / Flickr Creative Commons

Gambling is illegal in North Carolina. But there is a gray area: It's called an "Internet sweepstakes." And contrary to it's name, such sweepstakes are often not on the Internet. They are operated in small shops, often in strip malls, across the state.

Strickland Farms
Leoneda Inge

The North Carolina Farm Bureau is applauding the passage of the new Farm Bill.  Leaders say it provides stability and certainty to the state’s largest industry.

Larry Wooten is President of the North Carolina Farm Bureau.  His family farms tobacco, corn and soybeans in Pender County.

“Very thankfully this extravaganza of a piece of legislation that took over two years to bring to fruition is finally passed the Senate and it’s headed to the President’s desk to be signed into law.”

Salvation Army Logo
The Salvation Army

The Salvation Army in Fayetteville administers two funds for those in financial need. The first, know as CIP (Crisis Intervention Program) is there to help people whose electricity could be cut off at any minute.

The second, known as LEAP (pronounced "lee-app") is a seasonal fund to help cover higher-than-usual heating bills. After a polar vortex and an uncharacteristically heavy snowfall, LEAP is being put to the test this week.

ferry toll rates
NCDOT

The NC Department of Transportation is holding hearings this week on whether or not to raise the cost of riding the state's ferries (even in places where it's currently free). Here are five things you should know about the plan.

1) Nearly everyone would pay a little more; Some would pay a lot more.

There are four ferry routes at play here. Two of them don't currently charge passengers at all. Under the new structure, rates would go up anywhere from $0.50 to $28, basically everywhere, depending on your route and the size of your vehicle.

Josh Dunbar and Zachary Lyon of Falcon Engineering look at new plans for RTP.
Leoneda Inge

The Research Triangle Foundation has announced plans for a major expansion - its first mixed-use development project since the park opened. In a matter of weeks, 100 acres of prime real estate in RTP became available. The Research Triangle Foundation scooped it up at a price tag of $17 million dollars.

Bob Geolas is President and CEO of the foundation: "Look it's a big idea, it's a big vision. As RTP was itself 50 years ago." Geolas says that big idea will become Park Center - a mix of residential, cafes, business and retail.

Martin Marietta Materials

Raleigh-based Martin Marietta Materials is moving ahead with its largest acquisition yet.  It is acquiring leading cement producer Texas Industries.

Martin Marietta is one of the largest U.S. producers of construction aggregates like crushed stone, sand and gravel.  Once the company formally merges with Texas Industries, it’s sure to be number one.

The $2.7 billion transaction couldn’t come at a better time, as housing and other construction is starting to bounce back.

Hillside Student Bank
Leoneda Inge

Financial literacy is a growing part of the K-through-12 curriculum across the state.  But Hillside High School in Durham has taken the charge to the next level and opened a functioning bank branch at the school.

Organizers say that students, staff, and families will be able to open accounts, as well as deposit funds to checking and savings accounts right at the Hillside branch.  The program also provides internships and serves as a hands-on learning center for students to gain banking skills.

A solar panel, renewable energy
NCSU/CSE

Renewable energy generators have channeled hundreds of millions of kilowatt hours into the North Carolina power grid. That's since the NC GreenPower program was founded 10 years ago.

The initiative collects donations from companies, citizens and utility customers to buy renewable energy and diversify the state's power grid.

NC Solar Center Director Steve Kalland is on the board for NC GreenPower. He said the program has also helped utilities warm up to renewable power providers. 

Extraordinary Ventures
Courtesy of Extraordinary Ventures

In a traditional labor market, Ewan Toscano might be considered "hard to employ." But he's part of group of young adults with autism and other developmental disabilities who have a proven track record -- not only of employment -- but of entrepreneurship in the Triangle. 

Toscano really likes his job, saying, "I work at EV for two hours four days a week.I make twelve candles.  I love my job.  I see my friends."

Matt Victoriano and Robin Young in front of Matt's new business, Intrepid Life Coffee & Spirits
Robin Young via Twitter / Here & Now

A Marine Corps vet is receiving national attention for his attempts to open a small business in Durham, North Carolina.

The radio show Here & Now has been following Matt Victoriano's story since last October. The program's host, Robin Young, met Victoriano at the 2012 Democratic National Convention. Victoriano had served in Iraq and had been a sniper team leader. Since then he's been coping with post traumatic stress while trying to open a small business.

Cree's LED streetlights on Franklin St. in Chapel Hill
cree.com

Those 8,000 new street lamps will save money, and are a green choice.

The Town of Cary has announced a partnership with Duke Energy Progress to switch out most of its high-pressure sodium streetlamps (the yellow kind) with LED lamps (the white kind).

LEDs are more easily directed in a specific direction and also more energy efficient. So not only can the town do a better job of putting the light on the road (as opposed to spilling off into the neighboring areas), they'll also save an estimated $200,000 a year.

City of Raleigh

Federal budget cuts are influencing changes to subsidized housing in Raleigh.

This week, the City Council approved a Raleigh Housing Authority plan that would change the units in the Capitol Park projects away from the public housing model. Housing Authority Director Steve Beam says he's now waiting for the US Department of Housing and Urban Development to weigh in:

NC Department of Commerce
NC Department of Commerce

  

  A new Report by the North Carolina Department of Commerce's Office of Science & Technology  shows the state is a leader in innovation, but it also points out the many ways in which we need to improve. 

American Airlines
American Airlines

The American Airlines, US Airways merger is being felt in eastern North Carolina.

Airports in Fayetteville, Jacksonville and Wilmington are losing their non-stop flights to Reagan National Airport in Washington, DC.

There used to be two daily flights to DC from Wilmington International Airport or I-L-M.  John Rosborough is the airport director:

Trash at a state landfill.
N.C. Division of Waste Management

The amount of garbage headed to the Wake County has dropped significantly in the past few years.

In 2009, the county buried 460,000 tons of garbage. That dropped to 400,000 last year.

Wake County Solid Waste Manager John Roberson says a number of factors impacted the reduction in waste going to the landfill: People bought and threw out less during the recession, recycling options improved, and commercial waste businesses disposed of garbage elsewhere.

Roberson says his division saw a $2 million drop in revenue over the past four years.

Greensboro City Council
City of Greensboro

In a unanimous vote, the Greensboro City Council agreed Tuesday that its definition of a sexually-oriented business was too broad.

The problem stems from some businesses not realizing they were sexually-oriented. Spencer's, (the black light infused, sort-of-ironic t-shirt and chain wallet store often found in malls) was cited by the city as violating it's definition of "sexually-oriented." Of course, Spencer's pushed back, arguing that the items in its store that are explicitly for adults can also be found in a drug store.

Jobs
Thinglass / Shutterstock.com

The Economic Outlook for the Triangle continues to outpace the rest of the state.

The combined jobless rate for the Raleigh-Durham-Cary statistical area is 5.5 percent, according to the North Carolina Department of Commerce.  (By comparison, one year ago, the unemployment rate was almost two points higher. )

Here's the breakdown from N.C. State Economist Mike Walden. He expects final numbers will show the following:

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