State’s newly privatized economic development group gets new board members

The Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina released the names of the 17 board members Friday that will oversee the state’s new privatized job recruitment system.

The partnership officially launched in October when the state contracted out much of its job recruitment and tourism division to a private group. A central piece of Republican Gov. Pat McCrory’s jobs platform, the public-private partnership approach to economic development has had mixed results in a handful of other states.

Proponents of the structure say moving the job recruitment duties and $16.5 million in public funding out of state government allows for more flexible and faster responses to leads in recruiting jobs to the state. Critics of the partnership say that the privatized structure encourages a pay-to-play culture, where campaign supporters of political leaders are rewarded or successes amplified to boost the public profiles of governors.

Final decisions about financial incentives will rest with the state Commerce Secretary.

North Carolina’s economic development partnership had been operating under an interim board headed by John Lassiter, a Charlotte businessman and former city councilman close to the governor. Lassiter also used to be the chairman of Renew North Carolina, a political-action committee that can accept anonymous donations from corporate donors and individuals to trumpet McCrory’s successes. Lassiter resigned from the group in early 2014.

But Bob Singer, a Greensboro attorney appointed by McCrory to serve on the new economic development group, remains the head of Renew North Carolina, according to 2013 documents filed with the N.C. Secretary of State’s office.

Lassiter will remain a chair of the economic development partnership, and said in a written statement Thursday that the 16 other members appointed to the board bring along expertise in numerous industries.

“This board offers the type of leadership and strategic thinking you’d see at a Fortune 500 company,” Lassiter said in a written statement.

The board is made up of nine members appointed by McCrory, four appointed by state Senate leader Phil Berger and four by N.C. House Speaker Thom Tillis, who was elected to the U.S. Senate earlier this month.

It will meet quarterly, according to a press release from the economic development partnership. The day-to-day operations are being managed by Richard “Dick” Lindenmuth, a former businessman who specializes in turn-around companies. Lindenmuth was the subject of an N.C. Policy Watch investigation earlier this year that found he was accused of overcharging in a previous job working for company undergoing bankruptcy.

The new board members are:

  • Marie Flow Arcuri, dealer for Flow Lexus, Forsyth County. (Tillis)
  • Charles Creighton, CEO of Colony Tire Corporation, Chowan County. (McCrory)
  • Bill Graham, attorney at Wallace & Graham, Rowan County. (Tillis)
  • Michael Hawkins, president of Pisgah Enterprises, Transylvania County. (Berger)
  • John Kane, Kane Realty CEO, Wake County. (Berger)
  • Vimal Kolappa, founder of East Coast Hospitality, Beaufort County. (Tillis)
  • John Lassiter (chair), president of Carolina Legal Staffing, Mecklenburg County. (McCrory)
  • Tom Looney, general manager Lenovo North America, Wake County. (McCrory)
  • Pleas McMichael, retired owner of Custom Screens Inc, Rockingham County. (Berger)
  • Melanie McNamara, CEO of Absolute Style Furniture, Guilford County. (McCrory)
  • Caleb Miles, Pinehurst area visitors bureau, Moore County. (McCrory)
  • Doyle Parrish, CEO of Summit Hospitality Group, Wake County. (McCrory)
  • Shelia Pierce, director of Jacksonville/Onslow Economic Development, Onslow County. (Berger)
  • Robert Singer , lawer, Guilford County. (McCrory)
  • Julie Spiro, executive director of Jackson County Chamber of Commerce, Jackson County. (Tillis)
  • Jeffery Turner, COO of Murphy Family Ventures, Lenoir County. (McCrory)
  • Jim Whitehurst, CEO of Red Hat, Wake County. (McCrory)

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