Business & Economy

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.

Cape Lookout Lighthouse
National Park Service

Ferry Service on the southern end of the Cape Lookout National Seashore will be getting an upgrade. Officials are planning new passenger service to the Shackleford Banks and Cape Lookout Lighthouse from either Beaufort or Morehead City. Wouter Kaytel from the National Park Service says the NPS plans to join forces with either of the two communities to streamline services and offer contracts to potential vendors. A public meeting will be held tomorrow night to gather feedback from residents.

North Carolina’s Commissioner of Agriculture is in China this week. This is the second trip to that country since 2009. 

Ag Commissioner Steve Troxler doesn’t necessarily like the long air plane trip to China.   But he says it’s worth it.  Troxler says after the 2009 trade mission – China increased its purchase of North Carolina tobacco by close to 40-percent.  Sales of soybeans and cotton also increased.

The State Employees' Credit Union is preparing to help people who may be laid off as part of North Carolina's attempt to balance the state budget. The Credit Union is updating its mortgage assistance program to help more people stay in their homes. Mark Coburn is the senior vice president of loan servicing for the Credit Union. He says partial payments, rate modifications and extending the term of mortgages can all help.

ncturnpike.org

State transportation officials say drivers will pay 15 to 24 cents per mile to drive on the Triangle Expressway when it's complete. The North Carolina Turnpike Authority announced this week drivers will be charged electronically to use the road. The state will start selling transponders this fall that connect to a prepaid account. Sensors on the road will deduct 15 cents per mile along the way. Drivers don't have to buy a transponder, but cameras will photograph their license plates and send a bill through the mail for 24 cents per mile. 

The 2010 Census numbers are out for North Carolina.  It’s no surprise – we’re still growing. There are now 9-point-5 million people living in the state – an increase of 18-point-5-percent. Metropolitan areas including Charlotte, Raleigh, Winston-Salem and Wilmington witnessed tremendous growth this past decade.  Experts say the latest numbers show North Carolina is becoming increasingly more urban and metropolitan. 

Entrepreneurs in the Triangle have the chance to tell the federal government how it can help grow their businesses. The U-S Small Business Administration will host a roundtable in Durham today to gather ideas for reducing small business regulations. S-B-A press secretary Hayley Meadvin says Durham is the first stop in the series of meetings called Startup America.

Bus ridership is increasing throughout the Triangle, thanks in large part to rising gas prices. January ridership on Triangle Transit was up 17.7 percent from last year. Brad Schulz at Triangle Transit says gas prices are just one reason people are choosing the bus.

Durham-area business owners got the chance to have some face-time with the head of the U-S Minority Business Development Agency.

Robin Costello is a Vice President at Piedmont Investment Advisors. The company is 10 years old managing three-and-a-half billion dollars in investments.

Robin Costello:  "The corporate."

David Hinson:  "We’re working on it."

Robin Costello:  "It’s hard."

Sanderson Farms is delaying plans to build a poultry processing plant in Nash County.

Joe Sanderson, CEO of Sanderson Farms, says overproduction in the chicken industry has left the price of chicken low while feed costs are high. And so the company decided to delay building the plant until market conditions can be reevaluated in the Fall. The plant has also drawn controversy from some who allege wastewater from the plant will contaminate local water supplies.

North Carolina conservation groups say preserving land for public use has long-term economic benefits. A new report from the non-profit Trust for Public Land claims that every dollar North Carolina invests in parks, farms and wilderness has a return of 4 dollars to the local economy. The report measures the “natural goods and services” of different ecosystems in the state. An area is valued by the quality of its air and water and its ability to remove pollutants naturally—making wetlands and forests the most valuable and developed or barren land the least valuable.

GSK Cutting Jobs in RTP

Feb 17, 2011

Some GlaxoSmithKline employees in Research Triangle Park will be laid off as the drug maker scales back its Neuroscience Medicines Development Center.

The cutbacks follow an announcement last year by Chief Executive Andrew Witty to "modernise" the company's focus on research and development.  Kathy Pitman is a GlaxoSmithKline spokeswoman:

The Triangle will be hit especially hard when Borders Books closes several of its stores.


By April – the Borders Group will close about 30-percent of what the company calls its under-performing stores.  Borders’ reorganization plan was reveled yesterday when owners announced they are filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

North Carolina Amtrak will suspend Piedmont mid-day service between Raleigh and Charlotte starting today.  Service is being halted due to improvement projects along the route. Amtrak Spokeswoman Amanda Perry says the closures are to give workers a chance to recondition the tracks and improve on-time service.

"It would minimize delays and service interruptions and that sort of thing.But the actual speed of the train is not expected to increase."

Red Hat To Stay, Grow In Triangle

Feb 12, 2011
Perdue's Red Hat
Laura Leslie

Linux software giant Red Hat will be staying in Wake County, and adding hundreds of jobs.  Laura Leslie reports.

Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst says his company has settled on Wake County for its new corporate headquarters.  The company will add 540 jobs over the next 5 years, in return for state and local incentives totaling around 18 million dollars.

Durham Central Market
Durham Central Market

Durham Central Market, a community grocery store cooperative, lets local investors build social and financial capital in the construction of a downtown supermarket. Host Frank Stasio speaks with Project Manager Don Moffitt and Robin Arcus, a board member and Durham Central Market co-founder, about the co-op, which is scheduled to open in 2012.

U.S. Chemical Safety Board

The deadly explosion at the Con-Agra Foods plant near Garner has resulted in a safety video to help prevent future tragedies. 

The video was produced by the U.S. Chemical Safety Board. It’s called “Deadly Practices” and begins like this.

It's Pothole Season

Feb 11, 2011

North Carolina roads may be clear of ice and snow, but drivers still might hit trouble spots. It's the beginning of pothole season. Department of Transportation spokesman Steve Abbott says drivers should watch out for potholes. But he says the cold weather actually has minimized damage.

"Because we haven't had the thaw and freeze and thaw and freeze of last year potholes are not as bad as they were last year."

Researchers and business experts in developing countries are meeting at UNC Chapel Hill to discuss one of the newest models to help move people out of poverty.

This new business model is called micro-franchising.   It’s different from micro-enterprises which involve small amounts of seed money to help a poor person become an entrepreneur. Jason Fairborne is the author of Micro-Franchising – Creating Wealth at the Bottom of the Pyramid.  He says micro-franchising can help more people:

www.biofuels.coop

Pittsboro-based Piedmont Biofuels is cutting the ribbon on a new tank location in Saxapahaw. The new tank at the Saxapahaw General Store will provide biodiesel to Piedmont’s members. Biodiesel is a renewable fuel made from cooking oils that’s cleaner than pure petroleum. It typically sells for around 3-fifty per gallon making it slightly more expensive than regular diesel.

Numbers released by the state’s Employment Security Commission shows 2010 as a year of static job growth – but better than 2009.

Numbers released yesterday show the unemployment rate edging up a bit – from 9.6-percent in October – to 9.7-percent in November and 9.8-percent in December.

Larry Parker is a spokesman for the Employment Security Commission.   He says the unemployment rate has increased because a lot more people are looking for work again.  One of the biggest job growth areas for 2010 was in Professional and Business Services:

Triangle Home Sales

Jan 24, 2011

Home sales were down in 2010 in the greater Triangle area.  But the average price of homes went up. 

The federal tax credit for first time home buyers kept housing sales on track for the first two quarters of 2010.  But when the program ended – housing sales took a hit.

Stacey Anfindsen is director of the Triangle Multiple Listing Service.  He says the total number of home sales in the greater Triangle area was 20,643 homes – six-percent behind sales in 2009.  But the average price of homes jumped three-percent.

A new report from Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business shows a shortage of skilled workers in the U-S may be one of the main reasons for the off-shoring of American business service jobs.  Arie Lewin is a Duke professor of strategy and international business.  He says American companies in I-T services and software development are not saving money by off-shoring

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