Business & Economy

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."

President Obama speaks at Cree Inc. in Durham
Brent Kitchen

President Barack Obama is searching for a real fix to the country’s jobs problem.  The White House is quick to say some two million private sector jobs have been created in the past 15 months.  But that’s hardly enough to put a dent in the country’s high unemployment rate.  So the president decided to visit a part of the country where he’s been before – a place that has steadily created jobs in the down economy. That place is Cree Incorporated in Durham.

President Barack Obama has been making the rounds across the country looking for ways to help spur economic growth and job creation.  Today he is scheduled to stop in Durham.

Chief Financial Officers are beginning to get nervous again about the economy.  That’s the latest from a quarterly report by Duke University and C-F-O Magazine. 

  Six months ago – C-F-Os were talking about increasing full-time employment by 2-percent over the next year.  Now it’s more like point-seven percent. Kate O’Sullivan is the deputy editor of C-F-O Magazine.  Despite falling optimism, O’Sullivan says things are looking up for people who already have jobs.

North Carolina’s Employment Security Commission is in the process of re-evaluating extended benefits for thousands of residents.  Some jobless residents are getting back payments thanks to an executive order signed by the governor. 

About 47-thousand jobless residents are getting a second look by the E-S-C. That’s after Governor Bev.  Perdue’s executive order, restoring an extended jobless benefits program for the long-term unemployed. Larry Parker is a spokesman for the E-S-C.   He says as soon as they confirm the status of claimants – money is being disbursed right away.

Last month, U.S. News and World Report ranked the Durham-Chapel Hill area as the best place in the country for gender equality in the workplace. As one reason, the magazine cited the area’s percentage of highly-educated women. It might seem obvious that the area’s progressive universities are part of the reason… but the truth is, universities are lagging in equal pay for women. 

Nan Keohane was a young, ambitious political science professor at Swarthmore when she got her first taste of gender inequality. 

Transportation issues will be the focus of a series of public meetings this week in Durham, Chapel Hill and Hillsborough. State and local officials are trying to deal with clogged roads and highways with plenty of growth still to come. Andrew Henry is a transportation planner for the Durham, Chapel Hill, Carrboro Metropolitan Planning Organization. He says there are at least two answers to the problem.

A non-profit organization has released a report that claims private utilities are not providing affordable or healthy water to some small communities in North Carolina. The report from Clean Water for North Carolina says private companies charge their customers using a system called single tariff. It allows them to raise rates if they make more investments in water systems. Katie Hicks is the lead author of the report.

A Lowe's home improvement store in Sanford all but leveled by the April 16th tornados will be rebuilt. Construction will begin May 25th at the same site where Lowe's employees rushed customers to safety as the tornados approached. Bob Bridwell is the Director of Planning and Development for Sanford and Lee County.

Bob Bridwell: "Lowes is the symbol of our storm damage here in Lee County. It's also the symbol of our recovery. So seeing this come back to life for the rest of the town I think is extremely important."

The state extension's division of Family & Consumer Sciences is celebrating 100 years of service. What was first called 'Home Demonstration' and later 'Home Economics' has undergone many changes since 1911. Carolyn Dunn is the state's associate program leader for Family and Consumer Sciences. She says in many ways, the program has come full circle.

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