Business & Economy

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.

Officials gathered in Raleigh today to christen a new Capitol Area Transit operations and maintenance facility. The facility is needed to accommodate a rise in demand on the city's bus fleet.

Andrew High is from congressman David Price's office. He says the money for the maintenance facility came from federal funds. High says it will help with more people using public transportation.

To Tax Or Not To Tax?

May 19, 2011
Gov. Bev Perdue
bevperdue.com

  Governor Bev Perdue is finishing up a whirlwind tour of the state this week, touting the importance of public education. She is on the road as the state legislature considers cutting the education budget by nearly $1 billion.

At the center of the debate is a temporary one-cent sales tax. Enacted in 2009, it is set to end in June. Republicans want to let it lapse, the Governor and education advocates want it continued.

Town commissioners in Hope Mills have a plan for repairing the broken Hope Mills Dam. The dam failed last June leaving the Hope Mills Lake dry. The town's attorney presented the plan during a commissioner's meeting this week. It calls for repairing the existing dam rather than building a new one. The companies that built the dam will repair it at their expense. Mayor Eddie Dees says he's happy to have the plan.

The state Department of Transportation has released a survey that identifies a need for improving bicycle and pedestrian safety. Nearly three quarters of respondents said they don't feel safe biking through their communities on a daily basis. That number was about 50 percent for pedestrians. The survey identified a lack of bicycle lanes and sidewalks as the top safety issue. But DOT spokeswoman Julia Merchant says there also needs to be a mutual respect among drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians.

Tanger Factory Outlet Centers is spending the month of May celebrating its 30th Anniversary and its success as a top builder of outlet malls. Shareholders met today in New York for their annual meeting. 

 What better way to celebrate than by ringing the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange. Steven Tanger rang the bell yesterday.  He’s President and C-E-O of Greensboro-based Tanger Factory Outlet Centers.  

Outlet malls have been a big hit with bargain shoppers this millennium. Those following the industry say the up-and-down economy has resulted in leaner shoppers who demand a deal. The Tanger Family of Greensboro gets a lot of credit for developing the concept of brining up-scale retail merchandise to the suburbs, highways and by-ways. And yesterday – Tanger Outlets celebrated its 30th Anniversary at its retail outlets across the country.  

A UNC-Greensboro study shows a major economic impact of small farm ventures funded by the Tobacco Communities Reinvestment Fund. But state budget cuts could end the program.  

  In this tough economy – there are many casualties in the state budget package passed by the house.  One casualty is the Tobacco Trust Fund Commission. Joe Schroeder is director of the Tobacco Communities Reinvestment Fund Program – supported by the Tobacco Trust.  He says they have dispersed 3.6 million dollars in the past three years.  But the economic impact was more than 700-million.

Triangle residents will soon have to dial 10 digits to make local phone calls. That's because almost all numbers with the 919 area code are used up. Switzon Wigfall is a Senior Operations Analyst with the North Carolina Utilities Commission. He says this is a result of the explosion of cell phone use.

Switzon Wigfall: "When you have school kids 7 and 8 years old with cell phones, you can see the multiplicity effect of all the applications that's taken place in telecommunication markets today. So, yes. As some point, you exhaust the numbers."

North Carolina will receive 4 million dollars of the 2.4 billion dollars in federal money Florida declined for high speed rail projects. The Department of Transportation will use the money for an environmental impact study of a potential high speed rail line between Raleigh and Richmond. DOT spokeswoman Greer Beaty says this is something people should be excited about.

Port of Morehead City
NC Ports Authority

  North Carolina agriculture leaders say the state is losing exports to neighbors like Virginia and South Carolina. State Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler told the Ports Authority board almost 90 percent of North Carolina's overseas agricultural exports leave from other states. He says it's too expensive to transport goods to the coast and ports don't have the right equipment to handle large loads.

Despite all its success – some say Research Triangle Park still hasn’t reached its full potential. So, a major gift has helped create a consortium of partners to help grow jobs and entrepreneurship in the region. 

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