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Earlier this week, the McCrory administration announced what seemed to be a big win for the state – Corning Optical Communications is moving its headquarters to Charlotte, bringing 650 people to work in the area.

The fiber optic cable manufacturing company ‘s new headquarters will have space for 150 new workers, a designation that makes the company eligible for $2.35 million over the next 12 years from the state’s Job Development Investment Grant (JDIG) program.

Gov. Pat McCrory and John Skvarla, McCrory’s commerce secretary, trumpeted the move in a press release sent out earlier this week.

“Today’s announcement builds on the solid foundation this innovative company has in our state, and I am proud we emerged as the top choice for this important headquarters and the new jobs that come with it,” McCrory said, in a written statement released by his office Tuesday.

But not mentioned in the press release from the McCrory administration is that 500 of the 650 jobs are coming to Charlotte from an hour away – in Hickory.

“We’re very disappointed,” said Rudy Wright, the Hickory mayor, about the loss of several hundred high-paying jobs from his community of 40,000 in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Wright said his city had tried to keep the jobs in Catawba County, putting together what he described as a “tremendous offer.” He heard the company was also considering moving to South Carolina, and found out this week the jobs would soon be leaving Hickory.

Wright declined to specify what Hickory’s offer was, saying that publicizing that information would put the city at a disadvantage when negotiating future economic development deals. Corning will still maintain a manufacturing plant in Hickory, where more than 1,000 people are employed.

But the move of so many to a new headquarters will be tough for Hickory.

“Those highly paid people are consumers of goods and services, they’re residents, they use our schools, they bring brain power to our city,” Wright said. “This is a very important group to us.”

The move by Corning to Charlotte to Hickory highlights one of the bigger issues the state faces in its economic recovery. The state’s bustling urban centers, based in Charlotte and Raleigh, have steadily rebounded from the Recession while those in other metro or rural areas of the state have struggled to attract new employers.

Wright said he hopes to see those jobs replaced soon, and is focused on looking forward instead of getting upset about the company’s selection of Charlotte over Hickory.

“We accept the hand that is dealt,” he said.

News

Lots has been happening in regards to the search for the next president of the University of North Carolina system, with bickering and acrimony on full display.

To sum it up simply, it’s a bit of a mess.

A growing number of UNC Board of Governors members are publicly expressing their discontent with chair John Fennebresque, a Charlotte attorney, and calling for him to step down from the leadership role.

Former federal Education Sec. Margaret Spellings at Friday's UNC Board of Governors meeting.

Former federal Education Sec. Margaret Spellings at Friday’s UNC Board of Governors meeting.

Then, House and Senate Republican lawmakers, who hand-picked all 32 members of the governing board, are now complaining the board is thwarting their desires by ignoring a bill (which hasn’t been signed and isn’t yet law) requiring the top three candidates for UNC job to go before the full board instead of just a single candidate.

And Republican Gov. Pat McCrory is chiming in on the growing public spectacle as well, saying he doesn’t like the new bill’s reach into the UNC presidential search and won’t decide if he’ll sign it until Oct. 30, the same day it would become law with or without his signature.

Oct. 30 just happens to the next scheduled meeting for the UNC Board of Governors, where they presumably could take a vote to choose the next president.

Meanwhile, the name of the top candidate has also been leaked, former U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings, despite great emphasis that the search would remain confidential up until the end.

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The University of North Carolina’s Board of Governors will meet Friday for an emergency meeting to discuss the search for a new president of the 17-campus campus.

UNCsystemThe meeting, scheduled for 1 p.m. on the SAS campus in Cary, is technically open to the public, but the brief agenda indicates a briefing by a presidential search committee and much of the discussion will happen behind closed doors.

It could mean the full board is ready to select their new president, or a chance to discuss the final candidate or candidates.

The 11-member presidential search committee has met nine times in the last month, all in closed session and presumably to either interview final candidates or discuss candidates.

The UNC Board of Governors is pressed to find a replacement for its current president Tom Ross after the board moved to get rid of Ross last January for reasons that have not been fully explained, other than a general desire for a new direction. Ross, a former Davidson College president and Superior Court judge, has been at the helm of the state’s public university system since 2011, when he was selected by a governing board then dominated by appointees from a legislature controlled by Democrats. Since Ross’ hire, the legislature has switched to Republican control, and all 32 members currently owe the appointments to that Republican majority.

Friday’s emergency meeting is a significant move – whether or not a final choice will be announced coming out of Friday’s meeting, it’s the first time the full board has met to discuss the search for a new UNC president.

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This post has been updated with reaction from SEANC, the State Employees Association of North Carolina.

The former head of North Carolina’s public-private economic development group received a $30,000 “stay” bonus in January, an enticement that only kept him at the new endeavor for three months.

Richard Lindenmuth

Richard Lindenmuth

Richard Lindenmuth, a Raleigh business executive, was selected in January 2014 to get the largely publicly-funded Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina off the ground. He had specialized in helping troubled companies but had no prior economic development experience.

The public-private partnership, which received $17.5 million in state funding last year, has been a central piece of Gov. Pat McCrory’s economic development strategy, after state lawmakers granted the McCrory administration’s request to move Commerce’s job recruitment, tourism and marketing arms out of state government. The privatization of the state’s job recruitment strategies, which proponents say allow for more aggressive and effective job recruitment, has encountered accountability issues in some states that have taken similar approaches.

Here in North Carolina, Lindenmuth was in the interim chief executive officer role for the partnership until December 2014, when McCrory administration officials announced that an experienced economic developer from Missouri, Christopher Chung, would take over the organization.

Lindenmuth would be staying on a consultant, McCrory administration officials said at the time.

Records (scroll down to view) recently obtained by N.C. Policy Watch through a public records request show that the public-private partnership also opted to pay Lindenmuth a $30,000 “stay” bonus to continue as a contractor while also receiving the same pay he got as an interim director – $10,000 a month, or $120,000 a year.

 

The stay bonus didn’t manage to keep Lindenmuth at the organization for very long.

He submitted a resignation that was effective as of March 31, less than three months after he received the $30,000 stay bonus, according to Mary Wilson, a spokeswoman for the agency.

When asked for the date when Lindenmuth submitted his resignation for the contract position, Wilson responded on Thursday that the public-private partnership had no comment.

N.C. Policy Watch requested a copy of his resignation letter, which was not immediately released.

In all, Lindenmuth received $71,770 for his three months of consulting work in 2015 – the $30,000 stay bonus, $35,538 in regular pay and $6,231 for accrued time off.

Lindenmuth declined to comment for this article, and hung up on an N.C. Policy Watch reporter who reached him by telephone this week.

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Governor Pat McCrory’s education advisor, Eric Guckian, is leaving his job at the end of July to serve in a leadership role for a national organization dedicated to transforming Teach for America alums into leaders.

In a Tuesday afternoon press release, McCrory’s office touted education-related accomplishments it said Guckian’s guidance was key to making happen.

“During his tenure with Governor McCrory, Guckian was instrumental in helping pass one of the largest teacher raises in the state’s history which provided an average salary increase of seven percent and raised the base pay for beginning teachers,” read the statement, along with a list of other education initiatives in which Guckian played a role.

Guckian will join the Leadership for Educational Equity as a Vice President for Alliances. The organization is dedicated to transforming Teach for America corps members and alumni into leaders.

Guckian is a former TFA corps member himself, having served in New York City and as a teacher and as executive director of Teach for America, North Carolina.

Guckian’s last day as McCrory’s education advisor is July 31. A new education advisor is expected to be announced “in the near future.”