Leoneda Inge

Race and Southern Culture Reporter

Leoneda Inge is WUNC's "Race and Southern Culture Reporter." She is the first public radio journalist in the South to hold such a position, which explores modern and historical constructs to tell stories of poverty and wealth, health and food culture, education and racial identity.

Leoneda's most recent work includes the series, "Perils and Promise," an in-depth series focused on the challenges of rural education in Vance County. Leoneda has also featured reports on "Organic Tobacco," "Rebuilding Slave Cabins" and traveled to Tokyo, Japan tracking the importance of North Carolina’s pork industry to that country.

Leoneda is the recipient of three Gracie Awards from the Alliance for Women in Media and several awards from the Associated Press, the Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA) and the National Association of Black Journalists. In 2006, she and a team of WUNC journalists won an Alfred I. DuPont Award from Columbia University for the series "North Carolina Voices: Understanding Poverty."

Leoneda is a graduate of Florida A&M University and Columbia University, where she earned her Master's Degree in Journalism as a Knight-Bagehot Fellow in Business and Economics. In 2014, Leoneda traveled to Berlin, Brussels and Prague as a German/American Journalist Exchange Fellow with the RIAS Berlin Commission/RTDNF.

Ways to Connect

President Barack Obama is scheduled to visit the Triangle tomorrow.   He’s drumming up support for his “American Jobs Act” plan.

President Obama will talk jobs and the economy at N-C State tomorrow afternoon.  He’ll also speak with the owners of a small business in nearby Apex.  The business is West-Star Precision.  It is a manufacturer of specialized machined components for the aerospace and medical industries.  Brenda Steen is executive director of the Apex Chamber of Commerce. She says the company is not a chamber member – but President Obama’s visit will benefit all.

Ten years ago, a well-known U-N-C Chapel Hill Economist and his wife found themselves in the middle of the 9-11 attacks.   They were staying at the Marriott Hotel between the World Trade Center towers – attending an Economics Conference.  Jim Smith and Linda Topp had been married just five weeks earlier. 

State Agriculture leaders have come up with a “wish list” for the legislature.  They say the measures will help farmers weather future disasters.

Farmers – mainly in eastern North Carolina – are continuing to feel the wrath of Hurricane Irene.  Early estimates put damage to Agriculture at 325-million dollars.  The state Ag Board met at the fairgrounds yesterday to discuss how to help.  Ag department spokesman Brain Long says one idea is for there to be “bridge” loans available for farmers devastated by a disaster.

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.

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.

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."

A health-provider system that has worked well for Medicaid recipients will soon be available for state employees and big business.  It’s called “First in Health.” 

“First in Health” is born out of a Medicaid program that supports a team approach to health care.  It’s where you have specialists, primary care physicians, pharmacists and others coordinating services.  Doctor Allen Dobson is president of Community Care of North Carolina.  He says private employers are now saying – this can work for us.

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.

North Carolina agriculture continues to grow – despite the down economy.

N-C State Agriculture Economist Mike Walden told Agri-business leaders today in R-T-P – the state’s Ag Industry generates nearly 70-billion dollars for North Carolina’s economy.

37th US Colored Troops re-enactors participated in Pvt. Frank Worthington's headstone ceremony, Civil war
Leoneda Inge

Summer-time is known for neighborhood get-togethers and family reunions.   That’s what the Worthington-Wellington family did this month in Wilson, North Carolina.  But a big cook-out was not the highlight.  This year, family gathered at Maplewood Cemetery to honor Private Frank Worthington – a member of the 14th Regiment North Carolina Colored Troops – Heavy Artillery.  After years of letter-writing and historical research – Private Worthington finally has a Civil War Memorial Headstone – a rarity for African Americans.

Community leaders in Durham, Orange, Chatham and Person counties are meeting tomorrow to get an idea of what the future holds in business, education and other sectors.

The regions in North Carolina weathering the economic storm the best these days are the Charlotte region and the counties surrounding Raleigh.  Mark Vitner is the chief economist for Wells Fargo.  He says just like the nation, the North Carolina economy is stuck in a slow-growth mode.

Shaw University is bringing back a familiar administrator to lead the institution as it searches for a new leader.

Shaw University is bustling this week as students return for the fall semester.  But they returned to a school without a president. Irma McClaurin resigned last week after less than one year on the job.  Andrew Tillery is a 23-year-old senior at Shaw.

Andrew Tillery:  "Like, I’m a senior, I’ve been here a little, a long time now. And for 11 months, you know that, you can’t hardly get a bond with a president like that for a school."

Federal and state leaders are celebrating the second phase of a major broadband initiative across North Carolina.

Today’s virtual ground-breaking will take place in four corners of the state – including the Elizabeth City State University campus and the North Carolina Research Campus in Kannapolis.  Joe Freddoso is president and C-E-O of M-C-N-C.  He says the independent, non-profit has been funded to build more than15-hundred miles of broadband infrastructure – statewide.

There is a major move underway to grow the state’s Biotechnology industry by diving for opportunities off the coast.

The North Carolina Biotechnology Center has approved a 2-point-5 million dollar grant to establish a Marine Biotechnology Center of Innovation.  Scientists have already been using marine life to develop commercial products, but the four year grant will likely accelerate the process.   Norris Tolson is the president and C-E-O of the Biotech Center.  He says the industry is excited by such a move.

Galloway Ridge retirement facility is undergoing a $102 million dollar expansion.
Leoneda Inge

A good, long-term construction job is still hard to come by in North Carolina.   That wasn’t the case just a few years ago when the industry was growing as fast as the state’s population. Today – a lot of the projects in motion are moving ahead with bond money or private funding approved before the economic downturn.  One construction site that has put many people back to work is in Chatham County.

Many companies are still slow to bring back workers during the down economy.   But staffing agencies are busier than ever.

One of the largest staffing agencies in the country is Kelly Services.   And today they’re hosting a job fair at the McKimmon Center at N-C State.


Andrew Crawford is the North Carolina territory Vice President for Kelly Services.  He says over the last couple of years they didn’t need to have many job fairs because of the high number of job candidates.

Fiscal policy experts and money managers came together today at UNC-Chapel Hill to debate the country’s impending debt crisis. 

U.S. Senator Kay Hagan told the crowd – it’s time for shared sacrifices as the country gets close to hitting its 14-point-3 trillion dollar debt ceiling.

Kay Hagan:  "And I think that’s where the public is going to have to get involved and say, you know, Washington, it’s time to put those partisanship battles aside, this is serious stuff."

A Durham company is planning to build a plant in Henderson that will produce one-of-a-kind solar modules. 

Thousands of jobs are on the chopping block at Cisco Systems.  But analysts wonder if that’s enough to turn the company around.   Inge reports.

The 6,500 lay-offs at Cisco are no surprise.

Emily Chang - Bloomberg TV:  "Reports of impending layoffs have been circulating for weeks at the networking giant looks for ways to slash a billion dollars."

One of the first Crystal Red Chevy Volts arrives in North Carolina.
Leoneda Inge

If you are in downtown Raleigh this week you may see some small, brightly painted cars on the road that look out of place.   They’re likely electric cars on display for the national electric car conference – “Plug-In 2011.”  But there are also some sporty electric cars on display that will make your head turn in disbelief.  It’s a sign of the times and just how far the industry has come. 

Leaders in the North Carolina Department of Commerce are taking a renewed interest is business with Russia.

North Carolina business leaders are pretty sophisticated – according to Jean Davis.

Jean Davis:  "Many of our North Carolina companies have solid bases in China and Japan and are now looking at Russia as the next horizon for them."

Two North Carolina communities have been awarded money from the state to help revitalize their downtowns.

The matching dollars are from the Main Street Solutions Fund – administered by the Department of Commerce.   This round – the cities of Salisbury and Lenoir were awarded grants.  Nick Dula is the Downtown Economic Development director for Lenoir.  He says the plan is to turn a vacant furniture store into Carolina Distillery, a restaurant and a wine store.

A bison on RG Hammonds' farm in Lumberton roams close to his golf cart
Leoneda Inge

There’s a section of eastern North Carolina where the Lumbee Indians call home.  The Lumbee have a long history of farming and ranching.  But just like African American and women farmers, they were discriminated against by the federal government.   And just like those groups – Native Americans filed a class-action lawsuit – and won. This week – lawyers are back in Pembroke, North Carolina helping the Lumbees file their claims for long-awaited compensation. 

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