Newly sworn-in N.C. Commerce Secretary Sharon Decker returned to her Charlotte roots Monday, and said the state could take a cue from its largest city’s history of growth.
Speaking at the Charlotte Chamber’s quarterly advisory board meeting, Decker said Charlotte has “set the pace for this state for a long time.” She cited unpublished figures that showed that 30 percent of the jobs and 41 percent of the capital investment in North Carolina in 2012 came from the Charlotte region.
And she said the state needs the same type of leadership that Charlotte had when a group of business leaders made decisions that led to growth for the city and for its major companies. The group would have to be larger and more diverse now, she said, but the focus is the same.
“We’re in one of those transformational periods in North Carolina right now,” Decker said. “The table needs to be larger now, but it takes the right kind of commitment.”
Her rapid-fire speech touched on the legislative issues she’ll deal with, like tax reform and infrastructure funding.
Decker said the goal of her department under Gov. Pat McCrory’s administration is not just to bring in new jobs but to raise the quality of life for North Carolinians.
And she laid out a handful of broad areas where her department would focus: health care, education, infrastructure, tax reform, business incentives, small business, arts, culture and tourism, and quality of life and the environment.
Decker was a familiar face to the Chamber crowd gathered at Central Piedmont Community College’s Harris Campus.
Decker was chairwoman of the Chamber in 1998 after she became the first female vice president of Duke Energy, where she spent 17 years. She grew up in the Charlotte area and was named Charlotte Woman of the Year before she moved to Rutherfordton in 1999 to run women’s apparel line Doncaster.
She was sworn in as commerce secretary Jan. 5 after being tapped by McCrory, which Chamber CEO Bob Morgan called an “inspiring choice.” McCrory is a former Charlotte mayor.
Since then, Decker has focused on wrapping her arms around the department and getting to know her team, she told the Observer in a short interview after the meeting.
She said she’s already working on several industrial projects, including manufacturing and information technology. The department is also putting together ideas for a proposal on tax reform.
The Chamber board of advisors also approved Monday the Chamber’s legislative agenda for the upcoming session.
It includes tax code “modernization” that would include lower corporate and personal income rates, annexation and zoning laws that encourage growth, and funding for Charlotte area highway projects.