Business & Economy

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. 

Officials in Currituck County announced today they are building a Regional Aviation and Technical Training Center. The area is surrounded by several aviation-type businesses and the U-S Coast Guard in Elizabeth City.  Dan Scanlon is the Currituck County Manager.  He says this is a great opportunity for northeastern North Carolina.

Roy Cooper
governor.state.nc.us

A settlement between the Environmental Protection Agency and the Tennessee Valley Authority includes a payment to North Carolina. The TVA agreed to implement better emissions technology at all of its coal-fired plants including the four closest to North Carolina. Attorney General Roy Cooper filed a lawsuit against the TVA in 2006.

Foreclosures Down in NC

Apr 14, 2011

The number of foreclosures in North Carolina was down in the first quarter of 2011. That's according to a report from RealTrac, a firm that tracks foreclosures. But the number is down due to a logjam of foreclosures for lenders, not because there are fewer people going into foreclosure. Banks are being investigated for lending practices that led to the mortgage meltdown. Daren Blomquist with RealTrac says the seemingly good news is artificial.

Republican and Democratic leaders are playing hard-ball with the state budget.  And extended unemployment benefits seem to be the latest pawn.

Republicans are tying additional unemployment benefits for 37-thousand people to a provision that would have state government operate at lower funding levels if a budget is not approved by June 30th.  Governor Bev Perdue calls the legislation “extortion.”  House Speaker Thom Tillis.

Thom Tillis:  "Ideally what she’ll do is take seriously our budget proposal which will come to her the first week of June and sign it."

Raleigh has been named the winner in a national sustainability contest. The city took the top prize in the Siemens Sustainable Community Awards in the mid-size community category.

Drivers can learn how to save gas at a workshop today in Raleigh. The North Carolina Solar Center will host the Drive Green, Save Green demonstration. Participants will drive a five-mile course as they normally would and then try again with a few pointers in mind. Anne Tazewell from the Solar Center says a conscientious driver can save an extra 10 to 30 percent on fuel by following their advice.

The U.S. is more energy dependent on Canada than you might think. That's why Duke officials say they've planned a conference tomorrow on the U.S.-Canada energy relationship. Stephen Kelly is the associate director of Duke's Center for Canadian Studies. He says most people don't realize how big a role Canada plays in our energy supply.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack
usda.gov

A manufacturing plant in Greensboro could benefit from a new push for ethanol fuel by the Obama Administration. US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has announced cash incentives for gas stations who want to install pumps that provide different combinations of ethanol and gasoline.

Every corner of the state is experiencing a decline in its unemployment rate.  The largest decline was in Graham County.

Ferry terminal on Ocracoke Island
ncdot.org

Some of the budget cuts under consideration by state lawmakers could lead to increased tolls for ferry services on the Outer Banks. The state Department of Transportation has come up with budget options for the state Ferry Division. One proposal would charge a 10-dollar toll for ferry services that are currently free, and double the price of other ferries. Residents of Ocracoke Island aren't happy with that idea.

Slim Jim
Wikimedia Commons

The town of Garner in Wake County is preparing to lose its largest employer, ConAgra Foods.  The company employed about 600 people in its Slim Jim plant there until the summer of 2009 when a fatal natural gas explosion killed four works and injured 67. But instead of rebuilding the plant where the explosion took place, ConAgra announced last year that it would be cheaper to close its Garner plant and move its operation to Ohio.

Some city and town officials are crying foul over a bill that would limit their ability to provide high-speed internet to their citizens. North Carolina courts have twice ruled local municipalities have the right to provide broadband service: once for Morganton in the 1980s and again for Laurinburg in the mid 90s. Those towns, along with Wilson and Salisbury offer broadband to its citizens, and Fayetteville is planning to.

Salisbury Assistant City Manager Doug Paris says those court decisions make the argument against municipal broadband a weak one:

strawberries
NC Strawberry Association

The North Carolina Strawberry Association is optimistic about the upcoming season for growers. The weather has been ideal lately and growers are hoping there won’t be extreme temperatures in the coming months.

Safer Road Edges

Mar 23, 2011
dot.gov

The North Carolina Department of Transportation is trying a new resurfacing technique intended to help drivers who drift off the road. A pilot program is starting Johnston County that uses a piece of paving equipment called the Safety Edge. Crews add a 30 degree angle of asphalt between the surface of a road and the shoulder. Current resurfacing projects leave a vertical drop-off at the edge of roads, which is filled in with loose materials, but can erode over time.

A food distribution program at UNC-Wilmington is opening a food processing center this week for local farmers. The center will act as a way to deliver locally grown fruits and vegetables to area schools and restaurants. Farmers can store their goods at the center and make a profit from distribution.

Leslie Hossfeld is a co-founder of the program that sponsors the food center, called Feast Down East. She says the facility has partnered with more than 70 restaurants in Wilmington:

A local newspaper called The Garner Citizen is no longer circulating. Owners say their revenue wasn't keeping up with production costs. Officials with the Audit Bureau of Circulations say newspaper circulation nationwide dropped nearly 9 percent last year. The last print edition of the Garner Citizen was delivered yesterday morning. Founder and executive editor Barry Moore says the paper was losing subscribers as fast as it gained them:

Some of the top innovative thinkers in the country will gather this morning at U-N-C Chapel Hill. The Obama Administration chose this spot to kick-off a series of public forums on Innovation and Entrepreneurship. 

North Carolina’s jobless rate inched up a bit during the month of January. The latest numbers were released today.

Chief financial officers in the US have a more optimistic outlook about the economy. That’s according to a new survey from Duke University and CFO Magazine. It finds optimism among CFOs to be at its highest level since early 2007.

John Graham is a finance professor at Duke and the director of the survey:

"Things are looking up. There are still a couple of worries. One is employment. Employment is expected to increase, but slowly. So we don’t expect to see too much of a decrease of the unemployment rate next year. A new worry is inflation."

The Chatham County Board of Commissioners has votedto ease energy efficiency regulations for new and renovated county buildings. The decision repeals a policy that required any county construction projects of 20,000 square feet or more to include certification from Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. Commissioners say the new policy will save money by allowing for more ways to design the county's new judicial facility.  Chatham County manager Charlie Horne believes the county can maintain a high standard of energy efficient buildings without having LEED certification.

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