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North Carolina’s privatized economic development group gets new CEO, former head to stay on as contractor

North Carolina’s privatized economic development group already has a new leader, less than two months after the group officially launched in October.

Christopher Chung,  38, an experienced economic developer from Missouri, will begin Jan. 12 leading North Carolina’s job recruitment efforts.

Christopher Chung

Christopher Chung

He will replace Richard “Dick” Lindenmuth, 62, a business executive hired last January to help shift North Carolina’s job recruitment efforts from the state Commerce Department to the new privatized set-up.

Chung, who has led Missouri’s version of the privatized economic development efforts since 2007, was announced Monday through a press release from the economic development group, and came as a bit of a surprise.

An Ohio native, Chung holds a bachelor’s degree in economics and Japanese from Ohio State University and oversaw $80 million in financial incentives when leading Missouri’s public-private partnership.

UPDATE: Details were released Monday evening about Chung’s compensation. He will make an annual salary of $225,000, and can earn additional bonuses of up to 25 percent of his salary if he meets benchmarks that the economic development partnership board will make in January. Public money will be used for $120,000 of his salary, in line with the legislation that created the partnership. Chung’s moving expenses will also be covered, and he’ll be given a car once he arrives in North Carolina.

The new 17-member board for North Carolina’s economic development partnership held its first meeting on Nov. 15 at its Cary headquarters and made no mention about the potential hire during the open session of the public meeting.

Lindenmuth, who made $120,000 a year as the CEO of the partnership, will continue working with the group on a contract basis working on projects that will include expansion of high-speed internet services to rural parts of the state, data analysis and recruitment of veterans to the state, according to Monday’s press release from the economic development partnership.

Richard Lindenmuth

Richard Lindenmuth

With most of his career spent managing or consulting for troubled companies, Lindenmuth came to the job with no economic development or public sector experience. An N.C Policy Watch investigation published earlier this year found that he’d been scrutinized by a federal bankruptcy judge for padding his expenses to a company in bankruptcy proceedings.

N.C. Commerce Secretary Sharon Decker applauded Chung’s hire.

“The Partnership is off to a strong start and is working closely with us to bring in new jobs,” Decker said, according to a news release from the partnership. “They have enjoyed strong leadership from day one, and now have in place a CEO and Board of Directors that will help ensure an excellent first year of economic growth in 2015.”

N.C. Policy Watch requested, but was not immediately provided, information about Chung’s salary , as well as details about Lindenmuth’s proposed contract work and his pay. (See update above for details about Chung’s salary)

North Carolina, through legislation passed this summer, shifted its tourism, marketing and business recruitment divisions in October to a the newly-created Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina. A central piece of Gov. Pat McCrory’s jobs plan, the public-private partnership is funded with $16 million in public funds and less than $500,000 in private donations. The quasi-public method of economic development has had mixed results in other states. Supporters say moving economic development efforts outside of state government allows for more effective recruitment of new employers while detractors point out that other states have seen conflicts of interest and a pay-to-play culture emerge.

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