CHARLOTTE, N.C. Alan Krueger on small business
The Democratic Party’s first small-business caucus meeting had to be moved to a bigger room in the Charlotte Convention Center after hundreds turned out.
The group first heard from President Barack Obama’s chief economic adviser, Alan Krueger, who touted the president’s actions on small business during his first years in office.
He said Obama took significant action to provide government support to small-business loans and also passed 18 tax cuts that helped small businesses. He said the government has also mandated that it pay small contractors within 15 days.
All told, the administration says that $100 billion in small-business loans have been backed by the Small Business Administration under Obama’s tenure.
“Small businesses are a very important component of the American dream,” Krueger said.
Brad Miller on manufacturing
After participating in a roundtable discussion on the nation’s economic recovery, U.S. Rep. Brad Miller gave his take on North Carolina’s own economic woes, namely the state’s shrinking manufacturing industry.
“Furniture, textiles, tobacco – all three have been very badly hurt,” the Democrat told the Observer after the discussion, hosted by POLITICO and the National Association of Manufacturers. “And that preceded the current economic problem.”
Miller said it’s not just outsourcing that has affected the state’s once-thriving industry, it’s also the need to keep up with technological innovation.
The congressman, who represents the 13th District, which includes areas of the Research Triangle, sees part of the future of the North Carolina economy in the state’s higher education institutions, which can drive innovation.
“We’ve got a great advantage in our very strong research universities that have been economic engines for various parts of the state, and I think we need to continue to encourage that,” Miller said.
More investment authority
N.C. State Treasurer Janet Cowell said she would be asking the state legislature again for more authority to put state pension fund money in “alternative investments” like hedge funds and private equity firms as low interest rates shrink the rate of return.
But Cowell, a Democrat, also touted the pension fund’s 2.21 percent rate of return, which she said is greater than many states, speaking to the Observer after participating in an event promoting financial literacy.
Cowell has recently been criticized for the pension fund’s investment in the Facebook initial public offering, which lost more than $4 million and caused the state to seek lead plaintiff status in a shareholder suit against the social media company.
That investment is part of the pension fund’s equity portfolio, where the largest percentage of the fund’s money lies.
Cowell said she will be meeting with a dozen other state treasurers at a reception during the convention.
Cam is pro-financial literacy
At that same financial literacy event, U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan also told a story about how Panthers standout quarterback Cam Newton brought a group of Charlotte students to her office and the talk turned to money.
One student said he wanted to own a Lamborghini one day. Newton asked how much he thought that would cost. The student replied, $3,000.
Newton said, “You can’t even get the rear-view mirror for $3,000.”
Visa and the NFL have a partnership promoting financial literacy and have developed a quiz-based video game on the subject.
Clean energy party
Rhode Island Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse spoke at a Monday evening clean energy party at 7th Street Public Market, saying that the U.S. had the chance to take the lead in building renewable energy technology, or risk falling behind in the race to European countries.
The event was attended by all manner of renewable energy industry developers, lawyers, manufacturers and financiers, gnoshing on sushi, pizza, cake pops and free drinks.
A key area of concern was tax credits supporting clean energy industries and technology, some of which are expiring soon. Noting that the political winds are shifting toward doing away with tax breaks, some attendees said that should also mean oil and gas companies should lose subsidies as well.
“It’s not a level playing field,” said Shannon Smith, CEO of Abundant Power in Charlotte. Staff Writer Justin Mayhew contributed.