Business & Economy

Walmart Express
Leoneda Inge

There are five new Walmart stores in North Carolina that might make you do a double-take.  They’re mini Walmarts popping up in rural communities, miles away from the nearest Walmart Supercenter.  They’re called Walmart Express and some say they are designed to compete with your corner “dollar” stores that are shining in this down economy.

Leoneda Inge:  We all pretty much know what a Walmart “Supercenter” looks like, aisles for days.  Well, Walmart Express stores run 10 to 15-thousand square feet.   That’s one- tenth the size of a supercenter.

North Carolina utilities regulators have approved the merger of Duke Energy and Progress Energy, the last major hurdle to creating the largest American electric company. North Carolina Utilities Commission Chairman Edward Finley Jr. said Friday the deal was the best possible in an environment of energy industry consolidation. Finley says it was preferable for the two North Carolina-based companies to combine rather than be bought up by a company elsewhere. Conditions to the merger include the companies passing along at least $650 million in savings to customers.

A new study shows growth at High Point University has led to an increased economic impact on the local and state economy.

Jeff Tiberii: The report says that the annual economic impact has nearly tripled in just the last seven years. The private university with about 4-thousand undergrads has undergone a significant make-over during that time under President Nido Qubein.

Strip Clubs Pony Up For The DNC

Jun 28, 2012

It's not just city officials and business leaders rolling out the red carpet for the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte. So is the adult entertainment industry. The same thing is happening in Tampa, the site of the Republican National Convention. As WFAE's Tanner Latham reports, strip club owners, managers, and dancers are all hoping to cash in on the excitement.

In Winston-Salem a new president has been named to the Piedmont Triad Research Park. Jeff Tiberii has more.

Jeff Tiberii: Eric Tomlinson has been chosen by Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center to lead the PTRP. Tomlimson has experience as both a scienctist and leader of several start-ups. That was a major draw for the leaders at Wake Forest, including Dr. John McConnell, the CEO of Baptist Medical Center.

PNC is investing a million dollars in North Carolina to spur the economy and boost preschool education.

Asma Khalid: The Pittsburgh-based bank is collaborating with Wake County Public Schools, Carolina Ballet and the North Carolina Museum of Art to introduce low-income students to the arts.

Wake County Superintendent Tony Tata welcomes the PNC initiative.

The decision to permit a Duke Energy-Progress Energy merger in now in the hands of state regulators.

Gurnal Scott: North Carolina Utilities Commission chairman Ed Finley was non-committal after yesterday's hearing.

Duke Energy officials hope a state Utilities Commission hearing today is the final hurdle before a merger with Progress Energy is complete.

Gurnal Scott: The commissioners will hear from company leaders about how consumers will be protected as Duke Energy seeks to become the nation's largest utility. Spokesman Tom Williams says the last year and a half since announcing the 26 billion dollar merger has prepared them.

Swine Waste
Asma Khalid

Back in 2007, North Carolina passed the first renewable energy mandate in the Southeast. The new rules say that by the end of this year at least three percent of all electricity needs to come from green sources. The power companies say they'll easily meet that, but they're going to come up short on two fronts. The law includes a provision for electricity from poultry waste and hog manure. The utilities say they can't meet either one of those terms.

Durham-based Quintiles has had a strong presence in China for 15 years. Now it is building a headquarters there to serve nearby Asian countries.

Leoneda Inge:  Quintiles is building a 14-million dollar regional headquarters in Shanghai. The bio-pharmaceutical services company that manages clinical trials already has a presence in Beijing and Hong Kong.  Phil Bridges is a spokesman for Quintiles.  He says it was time to significantly expand lab testing capabilities in China.
 

Clothing manufacturer Ralph Lauren has announced it will expand in North Carolina.

Jeff Tiberii: The company plans to add 500 jobs by the end of 2017 while also investing about $100 million. Ralph Lauren is the city’s fourth largest employer and will have nearly 2,000 local workers after these additions. Governor Bev Perdue says the growth is a positive sign for the economy.

RTI International has been awarded 4-point8-million dollars to develop technology to help reduce the energy needed to power manufacturing facilities.

Leoneda Inge:  RTI International will partner with Duke University and Veolia Water Solutions in Cary to develop a system that will allow heat from industrial processes to treat waste-water.  David Danielson is Assistant Secretary of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy for the US Department of Energy.  He says his office is funding 13 projects in this first round.

The new quarterly survey by Duke University and CFO Magazine shows most CFOs are ready to hire.

Leoneda Inge:  The new global business outlook survey shows most chief financial officers plan to expand their firm’s workforce by an average of two-point-five percent.  Campbell Harvey is a Finance Professor at Duke’s Fuqua School of Business. He says that’s huge.

Job Fair For Veterans

Jun 1, 2012

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is sponsoring a job fair for veterans and military spouses in Chapel Hill today. It's part of a national initiative to curb the high unemployment rate among veterans.

Charles Hayes
Gerry Collins Photography

Business Leaders, economic developers and other stakeholders came out in the hundreds to hear yesterday’s State of the Research Triangle Region address.

Leoneda Inge: Charles Hayes is President and CEO of the Research Triangle Regional Partnership. He says in 2011 the region’s population grew by nearly two percent and wages grew by almost five-percent. But job growth is still slow. Hayes says since their economic plan was implemented in 2009 the 13 county region has added only 22,400 jobs.

The summertime travel season gets underway today. Officials at the State Department of Transportation are suspending most road works for the Memorial Day weekend. Tom Crosby works for AAA Carolinas. He says nearly a million drivers will be on North Carolina roads and highways this weekend, partly because gas prices have dropped from this time last year.

Public transportation has long been a contentious topic in the Triangle. As cities like Charlotte have expanded bus service and built a light-rail system, cities like Raleigh and Durham have failed to keep up.

But now, a plan to increase busses and begin the long process of connecting the cities in the Triangle by rail is just a few steps from being implemented. Those last few steps are proving to be the hardest.

A new survey released by UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School shows significant managerial and gender gaps on the perception of how women business leaders are developed.

North Carolina's unemployment rate is continuing to show improvement.

Gurnal Scott: The state's jobless rate in April fell to 9.4 percent down three-tenths from 9.7 percent in March. This marks four straight months that the rate has gone down. Larry Parker is spokesman for the state Commerce Department's Division of Employment Security. He says while the decrease is good news, it doesn't mean the state's economic recovery is speeding up.

North Carolina is manufacturing, selling and shipping a record number of goods according to latest numbers.  

Leoneda Inge:  Governor Bev Perdue’s office says North Carolina shipped 27-billion dollars in merchandise last year, a record.   It’s eight-percent higher than the year before.  And it’s 60 percent higher than a decade ago.  Derek Chen is the Director of Foreign Operations for the state Commerce Department.  He says the growth is phenomenal.

Bank Of America To Face Shareholders, Protestors

May 8, 2012

Hundreds of protesters have pledged to descend on Bank of America's annual meeting in Charlotte tomorrow. 2011 was a rocky year for Bank of America. The bank fell from its perch as the nation's largest and weathered a series of public relations storms.

The state Agriculture Department is hosting its first Food Business Conference today in Alamance County. 

Thousands of North Carolina residents have been notified that their extended unemployment benefits will expire by the end of the week.

Leoneda Inge:  Notices were sent out to 17-thousand unemployed workers, informing them of the bad news.  The extended jobless benefits from the state kicked-in four years ago, during the recession.  But because of the steady drop in North Carolina’s unemployment rate, the extended benefits, or E-B trigger has stopped.  Larry Parker is a spokesman for the Commerce Department’s Division of Employment Security.

Durham and Orange county residents will get a closer look today and tomorrow at a proposed light rail transit plan.

More than 80 counties across North Carolina experienced a drop in their unemployment rates.  But communities in the eastern and western corners of the state did not fare as well.

Some minority owners of small businesses met with U.S. Senator Kay Hagan to chat about challenges they face and opportunities available to help them prosper. The North Carolina Democrat brought a member of the Small Business Administration to hear how owners are falling short in the marketplace. Leah Brown is president of medical research firm A10 Solutions in Cary. She says they try to compete for big-money contracts, but it is a challenge to find qualified workers

Hopes and plans for a thriving Elizabeth City Air Park have not panned out over the past year.  Businesses have not been able to create the jobs they promised in this economy.

More than a hundred coastal families displaced by Hurricane Irene faced a deadline yesterday to move out of mobile homes provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. But North Carolina Emergency Management says all of them have been given a 30-day extension. Dawn Baldwin Gibson of the Pamlico County Disaster Recovery Coalition says many residents are still trying to get money for repairs from their insurance or mortgage companies.

There is another sign economic recovery is moving slower in North Carolina than in a lot of other states.   The rate of per capita income growth is among the smallest in the country.

Leoneda Inge:  The US Bureau of Economic Analysis says per capita income growth in North Carolina was 3.3-percent between 2010 and 2011.   The only states with a smaller income growth rate are Maine and Alaska.  Alexandra Sirota is Director of the North Carolina Budget and Tax Center.  She says the state fared better three to four years ago.

Duke and Progress Energy have filed an updated merger plan with federal regulators.  The companies filed a “market power” mitigation plan they hope will move the process along.

Pages