Business & Economy

State agricultural officials travel to eastern North Carolina this week to get an update on recovery efforts in the wake of Hurricane Irene. Leaders from the state Department of Agriculture will meet with farmers today in Rocky Mount and Thursday in Winton. Former Congressman Bob Etheridge is an advisor to the governor for hurricane recovery. He says some crop damage might not be covered by state or federal disaster funds.

Bank of America has set up shop in the Raleigh Convention Center to help homeowners teetering on foreclosure. 

Craig Willis says he’s had a lot of sleepless nights worrying about his house in Burlington.

Craig Willis: " I would just hate to give all that up and have to start over doing it again."

Willis got behind on his house payments in 2008, after losing his job and then a divorce.  Jessica Garcia is a Bank of America events manager.  She says they contacted 19-thousand customers within 150 miles of Raleigh inviting them to talk with specialists.

Protesters who say they're concerned about corporate greed and social inequality plan to gather at Raleigh's old state capitol grounds tomorrow.

Triangle Expressway Map
ncturnpike.org

Drivers can start buying electronic transponders for the Triangle Expressway Tuesday, October 11th. The transponders are a means of paying tolls easily. They come in time for the opening of the first section of the Triangle Expressway in mid-December. That's an extension of the Durham Freeway into Research Triangle Park. There will be two transponders to choose from. One is for North Carolina travel. That one will cost $5. The other includes states up and down the coast and is $20. David Joyner is Executive Director of the North Carolina Turnpike Authority.

Piedmont-based PSNC Energy will begin selling compressed natural gas at two locations in Raleigh with plans for a third in Gastonia. State regulators approved the $1.70-per-gallon price tag. That's about half the cost of gasoline. But you'd have to have a vehicle that uses CNG or to have converted your vehicle to be able to use it. PSNC spokeswoman Angie Townsend says they've had a handful of CNG customers since the early 90's but interest is growing.

Wayne Goodwin
NC DOI

The North Carolina Department of Insurance has set up a series of temporary insurance assistance centers in areas hardest hit by Hurricane Irene. The centers are designed to help customers who believe they are not being treated fairly by insurance companies.

Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin decided to open the centers after his office fielded a steady stream of complaints from customers in coastal counties.

Goodwin says many complaints have centered on non-existent or non-communicative insurance adjusters.

This week one North Carolina company gave Davie County a substantial gift.

Winston-Salem based R.J. Reynolds Tobacco gave the rural county 360 acres of undeveloped land southwest of the city. The gift is expected to help bring manufacturing jobs. Terry Bralley is President of the Davie County Economic Development Commission. He says at least one furniture company is considering a plant in the area.

Eric Hodge:  North Carolina Congressman Brad Miller has introduced a bill he says will give consumers the power to switch banks if they’re disgruntled over fees. Leoneda Inge reports.

Recent announcements about rising fees from big banks like Bank of America have some consumers mad.  Democrat Brad Miller of Raleigh says that’s why he introduced the “Freedom and Mobility in Banking Act.”

Brad Miller:  "Banks should send money by electronically from one bank to another when you decide you want to transfer your accounts because you weren’t happy with your first bank."

Several dozen supporters staged a small rally this morning to support the passage of two separate city-wide bonds on the ballot for next week. If passed, the bonds would go to improving transportation and low-income housing. They would total about $56 million and cost the average homeowner about $17 a year. Outgoing mayor Charles Meeker is hoping the historically strong support for bonds in Raleigh continues.

NC-Based PPD Sold

Oct 4, 2011

North Carolina’s clinical trials industry is seeing a major shift.  The latest example is the purchase of Wilmington-based P-P-D.

Interstate 95 map
i95highway.com

State transportation officials are looking at ways of raising revenue to modernize Interstate 95. One thing they're looking at is tolling the highway. That's being considered up and down the coast. Greer Beaty with the Department of Transportation says a large-scale study of I-95 started early last year. She says there are a number of things to consider.

The Small Business Administration visited Raleigh to kick-off a new national program to help businesses grow internationally.

Karen Mills is the Administrator for the S-B-A.  She visited "Raleigh Denim" to announce the new State Trade and Export Promotion program.

Karen Mills:  "American manufacturers can still produce world class products, even in textiles."

Small businesses on Hatteras Island are struggling to turn a profit a month after Hurricane Irene swept across the Outer Banks. That's despite a decision from the Department of Transportation earlier this month to restart ferry service for both visitors and residents. Keith Andre owns a construction business in Frisco. He says building centers that usually provide his equipment are nearly empty.

FEMA's announcement that it won't run out of funds this week is good news for counties in eastern North Carolina. Local governments have been fronting the bill for disaster relief without a guarantee of reimbursement after Hurricane Irene. In Hyde County, health director Wesley Smith says officials ordered an insecticide spray from low-flying planes for 20,000 acres. He says flooding caused a boom in the mosquito population.

The State Department of Transportation has been working on a high speed rail proposal for downtown Raleigh for several years.  Today the public is invited to see an updated plan at the Raleigh convention Center. 

The economic impact of North Carolina's wine industry is now more than billion dollar-a-year.

State regulators continue a hearing today about whether Duke Energy and Progress Energy should merge.

The North Carolina Utilities Commission will hear testimony Tuesday on the proposed merger of Duke Energy and Progress Energy. The Commission will hear from company officials in favor and from environmental groups opposed to the merger. Tom Williams is a spokesman for Duke Energy.

Some of the nation’s leading housing finance experts will be in Raleigh today and tomorrow for the American Mortgage Conference.  Thad Woodard is president and C-E-O of the North Carolina Bankers Association.  He says they wanted to present a major platform to answer some major questions about the future of home financing.

Governor Bev Perdue will lead a forum today on overcoming the challenges facing of the state's rural communities. Her first stop is in Martin County in eastern North Carolina.

85 of the state's 100 counties are considered rural. These small communities are struggling with higher-than-average unemployment, infrastructure problems, and young people moving away to larger cities.

Perdue will lead conversations on these and other challenges in an effort to improve rural competitiveness. The panels will be made up of state and local leaders, as well as rural development experts.

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.

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