Policy-makers and business leaders say North Carolina’s economic future relies on energy.
Governor Pat McCrory was one of many speakers and panelists at the North Carolina Chamber's Energy Conference at the Sheraton Imperial Hotel and Convention Center in Durham. McCrory said it’s time to follow the economic recoveries of Ohio, Pennsylvania and the Dakotas.
“We have got to get into the exploration business in North Carolina, and we’ve waited far too long to begin that process," said McCrory. "I mean, Ohio was in severe trouble regarding its economic future, and energy is bailing that state out of economic catastrophe to a state which is really having a resurgence."
NC State Professor Michael Walden economic analysis shows drilling for oil and natural gas off the North Carolina coast could generate $2 billion of additional economic activity, each year the off shore activity occurs.
While the wait continues for permits to explore on and off-shore drilling in North Carolina, a wide range of energy businesses are on the rise. Scott Carlberg is President of E4 Carolinas, an energy trade association for North and South Carolina.
“So when you talk about hype, these are real paychecks, these are real square footages of plants, there are real patents coming out the door, so it’s not just something printed on a very nice four color brochure," said Carlberg.
Carlberg says, in the Charlotte area alone, there are about 200 energy related firms employing 20,000 people.
John Morrison is the COO of Strata Solar in Chapel Hill. He says his company is an example of substantial growth, even in tough economic times.
"Most of the energy that we use in North Carolina comes from someplace else," said Morrison. "The sunshine falls here on North Carolina, so the energy we produce is really homegrown, indigenous energy and as such, represents economic opportunity."
Morrison says most of Strata's solar farms are built in rural counties that have welcomed the economic boost. Strata has built 27 solar farms this year and employs approximately 1,000 workers.