Business & Economy

Blue Cross Blue Shield pen
frankieleon / Flickr Creative Commons

The Affordable Care Act was designed to give more access to healthcare at lower costs. But the state’s largest health insurer, Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina, has requested a rate increase of more than 34% for patients enrolled in the ACA plans.

The company says it needs the additional revenue to offset increasing costs. The request, along with increase requests from other insurers, will be considered by the North Carolina Insurance commissioner.

An image of a wine and beer mug
chris riebschlager / Flickr Creative Commons

If you’re looking for a luxury libation, come to North Carolina. The craft beer business is thriving in the state, adding new breweries and brewpubs every year, as North Carolina’s wine industry continues to grow.

An image of downtown Raleigh
NCDOTcommunications

 

Downtown Raleigh is booming and other downtown areas are noticing. According to a recent story in the Tampa Bay Times, Tampa should model its downtown after Raleigh’s tech-savvy and eco-friendly businesses, efficient mass transit and urban housing for young professionals.

An image of people holding up alcholic beverages
Pixabay Public Domain

The Chapel Hill Police Department is getting help from the North Carolina Alcohol Law Enforcement (ALE) to check whether bars are serving patrons under 21.

The partnership began before 20-year-old UNC student Chandler Kania caused a car accident on I-85 on Sunday, killing three people.

Minimum Wage, Home Care Workers
Leoneda Inge

From California to New York, a minimum wage increase to $15 an hour is becoming more of a reality.  Durham workers rallied Thursday in support.

Most of the people rallying outside a McDonald’s restaurant in Downtown Durham were longtime home care and child care workers, like Tolanda Barnette.   Barnette says after more than a decade of working in child care in North Carolina, she still only makes $10 an hour.

“We do the hardest and the most work in the child care center and we are the least and most underpaid," said Barnette.

Image of Toyota Plant in Indiana. North Carolina was in the running to be the home of Toyota's North American Headquarters in 2014, but Plano, Texas won the bid.
Kurt Weber / Wikimedia Commons

North Carolina was able to lure 47 new or expansion business projects to the state last year. The haul promises to bring more than 8,000 jobs and $1.4 billion in capital investment.

But the state recently lost the bids for a Volvo manufacturing plant and the Mercedes Benz U.S. headquarters.

So how's the state doing with economic development overall?

Image of train running in western North Carolina. When the Western North Carolina Railroad Company expanded railroad access to western North Carolina, it allowed several industries to boom.
Gerald Ledford Collection

Railroads have always been important to the economic development of North Carolina, but for many years the western part of the state was left out of the equation. The intense, mountainous terrain deterred companies from developing in the area around Asheville.

But in 1877, the state-owned Western North Carolina Railroad Company, headed by Maj. James H. Wilson, began boring through the mountains west of Old Fort. And this started a new chapter in western North Carolina history. Industries like mining, timber and tourism all began to boom.

Image of fiber optics
Kainet / Flickr Creative Commons

In a bizarre turn of events, the North Carolina based company RST Fiber will no longer be providing ultra-high-speed Internet to the town of Wake Forest.

Ironically, the reason seems to be a lack of communication. The company has stopped responding to customers, partners or reporters, and it has been plagued with multiple lengthy service outages since January.

  

Image from a drone hovering in the air
NGAT at NC State

North Carolina is taking small steps toward opening up the skies for unmanned aerial vehicles.

The Department of Transportation has created a position to regulate the skies for recreation and commercial drone pilots and the state is creating new test that ensures pilots know the rules before they launch their planes into the skies.

Produce, Shopping, Grocery Stores
www.usda.gov

A new study out of Duke University shows people shopping with reusable bags often make surprising choices.

Bryan Bollinger is an Assistant Professor of Marketing at Duke’s Fuqua School of Business. He says they examined the habits of close to 900 families who shopped at a California supermarket. Bollinger says here’s what happened if they shopped with their own, reusable bag.

Downtown Raleigh Skyline viewed from Boylan Ave.
Jmalljmall / Wikipedia

Raleigh restaurant owners will ask the City Council Tuesday to reconsider plans to charge $5 fees at downtown parking decks on nights and weekends.

Parking is currently free after 7 p.m. and on Saturday and Sunday. The Council estimates it will cost $1 million to pay for security and maintenance at night, where public urination has become a problem.

Image of sticky notes with one titled find job
www.flazingo.com / Flickr Creative Commons

New economic numbers out this month show workers in the Triangle are finding fewer jobs, and those who do have employment are making less money. 

The latest unemployment figures are the highest the Triangle has seen since August of last year. 

Host Frank Stasio talks with Triangle Business Journal reporter Jason deBruyn about the latest figures. 

Image of Ramon, who helps out with a Know Your Rights training session.
Ramon Zepeda

Foreign-born farmworkers are vital to the American food system. But while most of the produce that ends up on American plates is handpicked, the day-to-day lives of people laboring in the fields still remains more or less invisible. Ramón Zepeda is a 28-year-old working to change visibility of farmworkers.He grew up in a small farming community in Jalisco, Mexico. Most of his family members have spent time in the fields, and he has devoted his life to working in solidarity with underrepresented workers.

An American Airlines Boeing 777-200 from London-Gatwick landing at RDU in 2005.
Ken Thomas / Wikipedia

Raleigh-Durham International Airport is offering area residents a chance to learn about a process for establishing a long-term growth and efficiency plan.

RDU Spokeswoman Mindy Hamlin says the airport is launching its 18-month master plan study process.

A picture of sweet potatoes.
Llez / Wikipedia

Europeans, Brits and Canadians are responding to an aggressive campaign marketing sweet potatoes from North Carolina.

"The sweet potato to them is new, it's like an exotic fruit almost, or an exotic vegetable. They don't know a lot about it," said Kelly McIver of the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

North Carolina is America's largest producer of sweet potatoes.

Google Fiber, Google, Internet Construction
Google Fiber

Folks in the Triangle cheered when Google announced it was bringing ultra-high-speed internet and TV service to the area.  Google officials say now it’s time for patience as they start digging up and building new infrastructure to accommodate the technology.

A lot of lobbying and planning went into the Triangle and Charlotte being chosen for Google Fiber, which can deliver data 100 times faster than your basic Internet service.

Governor Pat McCrory was one of the biggest cheerleaders at the announcement five months ago.

NC Poultry Industry Prepares For Bird Flu

Jun 11, 2015
chickens
Katie Brady / Wikimedia Commons

State agriculture officials are ramping up efforts to protect North Carolina's poultry industry against the avian flu.

The bird flu, called H5N2, is not a danger to humans, but has devastated poultry flocks in 21 states. Since its first appearance in December 2014 in British Columbia, the virus has killed nearly 50 million birds. The disease is spread by wild water fowl as they migrate across the continent. 

North Carolina is still free of the bird flu, but Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler said that may change as wild birds begin their migration south in the fall.

An image of somebody picking strawberries
Joseph Rodriguez / News & Record www.greensboro.com

Matthew King’s motto is simple: “think global but act local.”

For King, this is the solution to food insecurity. He is the executive director of Vision Tree Community Development Corporation, a nonprofit that helps Greensboro residents get food to their doorstep with mobile food markets. He said the basic idea of connecting urban farmers to local consumers can be applied anywhere in the world, but Greensboro needs it more than ever.

Vivian Howard, Cynthia Hill, A Chef's Life
Leoneda Inge / WUNC

Kinston is the heart of Lenoir County in eastern North Carolina.  Longtime residents say it was heart-breaking to see their hometown fall apart as traditional industries like textiles and tobacco disappeared.  But during the past decade a new, more diverse economic landscape has developed. 

One person who is getting a lot of credit for helping to transform her hometown of  Kinston is Chef Vivian Howard.

Nothing brings Kinston residents together like the annual BBQ Festival on the Neuse.

Image of Eddie Willis, who is a fourth-generation fisherman. He is the founder of a community supported fishery called Core Sound Seafood.
John Day

The United States controls more ocean than any other country in the world, but more than 85 percent of the seafood Americans eat is imported.

Charles Hayes, RTRP
Research Triangle Regional Partnership

The Research Triangle Regional Partnership is celebrating twenty-five years of marketing and growing the economic base of the region.

Charles Hayes heads the Research Triangle Regional Partnership and remembers when the group’s economic development focus was in three counties.

“UNC Chapel Hill, Duke and NC State University and the cities they were in," said Hayes.

Wikipedia / Creative Commons

Many North Carolina residents are asking questions about the state's train safety after an Amtrak train derailed last week in Philadelphia, killing eight people.

Paul Worley, NC Department of Transportation Rail Director, said the system that would control train speed and other safety factors through GPS is being fitted on trains and switches across the state.

Light Emitting Diodes
Mike Deal / Flickr

Durham-based Cree, known for its LED lighting, is spinning off another company.

Cree is calling the new business group the Cree Power and Radio Frequency Division.

Sharon Belenzon is an Associate Professor of Strategy at Duke’s Fuqua School of Business.  Belenzon says he was not surprised by the news.

“So this legal separation in many, many cases creates huge value when you have divisions which have high growth opportunities and divisions which have low growth opportunities," said Belenzon.

South Estes, Public Housing, Chapel Hill
Leoneda Inge

A big step is underway to help bridge the “digital divide” in Chapel Hill.

Town officials announced today, along with AT&T, that residents living in eight of its public housing communities will soon have free internet service.

The move is a long time coming, especially in a town that is already one of the most wired in the state.

The South Estes Public Housing Community in Chapel Hill sits right off 15/501, near University Mall.  The 44 units were built in 1970, are gray in color and probably need a little fixing up. 

An artist's rendering of a light rail stop.
GoTriangle / Triangle Transit

Durham County and City officials will get updates about opportunities to improve affordable housing along the planned light rail line that will run into Orange County.

"What we've seen around the country is that, as these light rail systems are built, they are a major public infrastructure, and you see property values and rents go up in these areas, usually," said Aaron Cain, a Planning Supervisor for the city.

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