Business & Economy

Several environmental groups have filed a challenge to the proposed merger of Duke Energy and Progress Energy. The merger between the two North Carolina-based companies would create the country's largest utility. Southern Environmental Law Center attorney Gudrun Thompson says that makes Duke and Progress responsible for leading the way in developing clean energy resources.

Work crews are making changes to freeways in R-T-P as they build the new Triangle Expressway. The short segment of the Durham Freeway south of I-40 closed for good this week. That section of Highway 147 provided a quick connection to T-W Alexander Drive in south Durham. It will eventually be part of the Triangle Expressway, a toll road running along the west side of Raleigh from Morrisville to Holly Springs. D-O-T spokeswoman Holly Allen says drivers going south on the Durham Freeway should take a detour via I-40.

Former U-N-C President Erskine Bowles will speak on campus tomorrow about the deficit and taxes. He may also chat about his cool new appointment.

Marketing executives say they’re hiring and they’re increasing social media budgets.

Chief Marketing Officers questioned for the bi-annual C-M-O Survey, say they plan on spending about 10-percent of their budgets on social media.  That’s an increase of three-percent.  Christine Moorman is a professor at Duke’s Fuqua School of Business and director of The C-M-O Survey.  She says the increase shows companies are trying to figure out how to integrate social media with the rest of their strategy.

The city of Greensboro is taking a lesson from Atlanta on how to help spur job growth in its community. 

Deborah Hooper is president of the Greensboro Chamber of Commerce.  And she says the feed-back has been positive since announcing the new initiative – "One Job For Greensboro.”  The idea is for all 16-thousand employers in the city to add at least one full-time worker to their rolls in the next year.

State officials plan to install a temporary bridge on Hatteras Island's North Carolina Highway 12. Hurricane Irene caused a number of breaches along the road, and the structure will be erected across the largest such impasse. Greer Beatty is a spokeswoman for the North Carolina Department of Transportation.

Greer Beatty: "We're bringing in a temporary bridge, we've already ordered it. It's being shipped right now in trucks, it'll take about 35 truckloads to get all of it here, and we'll get it assembled and put it into place."

There’s a company in the Triangle that’s fighting for leverage in the big wide world of social couponing.  Twongo – based in Cary – began competing in the “daily deal” game early last year.   Today – the company considers its main competitors Groupon and Living Social. Twongo says there’s room for everybody – but in the Raleigh – Durham-area – they want to be number one.

Rural roads and bridges across the country are often unsafe and in need of repair. That's according to a new report by TRIP, a national non-profit research group out of Washington. The report finds traffic deaths are around three times likelier on rural roads than all other roads. 907 people died on rural roads in North Carolina in 2009. That's the third highest total in the country.

Agriculture officials say most of North Carolina’s biggest and most profitable farming operations are in the state’s coastal region that was hit hard by Hurricane Irene.  

Tobacco was one of the hardest hit crops during Hurricane Irene – a 750-million dollar industry.  Brian Long is with the state Agriculture Department.

Brian Long:  "If you think about how much tobacco was still out there, yet to be harvested, and then, Irene’s wind and rain just did a really big number on that crop."

The roster of laid-off State Employees continues to grow.   A new center has opened to specifically help them get back on their feet.

Margaret Jordan is spokeswoman for the Office of State Personnel.  She says this is the first time the state has needed to open its own Career Transition Center.

North Carolina agriculture continues to grow – despite the down economy.

N-C State Agriculture Economist Mike Walden told Agri-business leaders today in R-T-P – the state’s Ag Industry generates nearly 70-billion dollars for North Carolina’s economy.

Marketing professionals are helping launch a program at Wake Forest University designed to explore new ways to appeal to consumers. The school says it's partnering with marketing companies to teach students how the retail industry is changing. The project's executive director Roger Beahm says online purchases are increasing, which changes the way manufacturers have to present their products.

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

Durham-based LED light maker Cree is acquiring one of its competitors. The company announced it's buying Wisconsin-based Ruud Lighting for around $525 million. Commercial industries have been moving towards L-E-D lighting because it uses less energy and is less costly to maintain. Cree spokeswoman Michelle Murray says Ruud's experience selling outdoor lighting will complement Cree's lineup of indoor lighting fixtures.

The state Department of Transportation says it's considering ways to improve activity at North Carolina's ports. The agency is conducting a study it says is designed to explore options for expansion. The Ports Authority proposed building an international port near Southport in 2006. Opponents citing environmental concerns fear the state will use the study to justify building the mega-port. DOT spokeswoman Greer Beaty says the agency will consider every proposal.

Community leaders in Durham, Orange, Chatham and Person counties are meeting tomorrow to get an idea of what the future holds in business, education and other sectors.

The regions in North Carolina weathering the economic storm the best these days are the Charlotte region and the counties surrounding Raleigh.  Mark Vitner is the chief economist for Wells Fargo.  He says just like the nation, the North Carolina economy is stuck in a slow-growth mode.

Federal and state leaders are celebrating the second phase of a major broadband initiative across North Carolina.

Today’s virtual ground-breaking will take place in four corners of the state – including the Elizabeth City State University campus and the North Carolina Research Campus in Kannapolis.  Joe Freddoso is president and C-E-O of M-C-N-C.  He says the independent, non-profit has been funded to build more than15-hundred miles of broadband infrastructure – statewide.

Galloway Ridge retirement facility is undergoing a $102 million dollar expansion.
Leoneda Inge

A good, long-term construction job is still hard to come by in North Carolina.   That wasn’t the case just a few years ago when the industry was growing as fast as the state’s population. Today – a lot of the projects in motion are moving ahead with bond money or private funding approved before the economic downturn.  One construction site that has put many people back to work is in Chatham County.

Many companies are still slow to bring back workers during the down economy.   But staffing agencies are busier than ever.

One of the largest staffing agencies in the country is Kelly Services.   And today they’re hosting a job fair at the McKimmon Center at N-C State.


Andrew Crawford is the North Carolina territory Vice President for Kelly Services.  He says over the last couple of years they didn’t need to have many job fairs because of the high number of job candidates.

Local officials in Greensboro are considering more than a million dollars in incentives for Honda Aircraft to build a service and support center. Honda's offer asks for about $775,000 from Guilford County and $520,000 more from the city of Greensboro. The company opened a headquarters building at Piedmont Triad International Airport four years ago. That facility has about 600 workers. Honda tells county commissioners the expansion would add more than 400 jobs over the next five years. Commissioner Kirk Perkins supports the incentives. 

A Durham company is planning to build a plant in Henderson that will produce one-of-a-kind solar modules. 

Thousands of jobs are on the chopping block at Cisco Systems.  But analysts wonder if that’s enough to turn the company around.   Inge reports.

The 6,500 lay-offs at Cisco are no surprise.

Emily Chang - Bloomberg TV:  "Reports of impending layoffs have been circulating for weeks at the networking giant looks for ways to slash a billion dollars."

Food truck operators who hope to sell their creations in downtown Raleigh will soon know their fate. The City Council is set to vote today on a set of restrictions that will let them operate in the capital city. The public rift between food truck operators and bricks and mortar restaurant owners has been going on for more than a year. Some restaurant owners see food trucks as unfair competition. They say they pay high rents and property taxes, and fear that food trucks will set up outside their doors and siphon off customers.  Mike Stenke owns the Klausie's Pizza truck.

Leaders in the North Carolina Department of Commerce are taking a renewed interest is business with Russia.

North Carolina business leaders are pretty sophisticated – according to Jean Davis.

Jean Davis:  "Many of our North Carolina companies have solid bases in China and Japan and are now looking at Russia as the next horizon for them."

Two North Carolina communities have been awarded money from the state to help revitalize their downtowns.

The matching dollars are from the Main Street Solutions Fund – administered by the Department of Commerce.   This round – the cities of Salisbury and Lenoir were awarded grants.  Nick Dula is the Downtown Economic Development director for Lenoir.  He says the plan is to turn a vacant furniture store into Carolina Distillery, a restaurant and a wine store.

North Carolina's gas tax will increase by 2.5 cents this week. Analysts say that will cost drivers about $20 per year while raising about $150 million for the state's transportation fund. About 60 percent of that money comes from the gas tax. The increase goes into effect Friday, just before the holiday weekend. But Tom Crosby of Triple A Carolinas says it won't stop drivers from hitting the road for Independence Day.

The number of residents in the Triangle living in poverty is about 14-and-a-half percent and growing.  A group of community leaders met in Durham yesterday to try to address the problem. 

Community, political and business leaders took part in a “poverty simulation.”  Henry Kaestner – co-founder of Durham Cares – played an 8-year-old boy whose family managed to secure health coverage after a lay-off.

Henry Kaestner:  "The relief on her face was not a role-playing relief, it was very real relief."

Cynthia Booth works with Durham’s Parks and Rec Department.

The Harrah’s Cherokee Casino in Western North Carolina contributes almost $400 million to the local economy. That’s according to a new report from UNC Chapel Hill.

RBC bank
RBC

PNC Financial has announced that it will buy Raleigh-based RBC Bank in a move that will allow the Pittsburgh-based bank to expand into the South. The deal is worth nearly $3.5 billion. Jim Westlake is the CEO of RBC Bank in Raleigh. He says he doesn't know yet what the local impact will be.

New research shows getting so-called "unbanked" people into the formal banking system can be good for the community. Alejandro Sanchez works for the Latino Credit Union in Durham. He says the study from the University of Virginia listed several advantages to bringing banking to previously unserved areas.

North Carolina's unemployment rate held steady at 9-point-7 percent in May. The rate has been constant for the last three months. The state unemployment figure is more than half a percent higher than the national rate. Larry Parker with the state Employment Security Commission says these numbers are indicative of the sluggish economy.

Larry Parker: "I think what we're seeing is what we've seen over the last six or seven or eight months. the economy is very static right now. there have not been major gains in the job force it is just a very very slow recovery."

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