The Charlotte Regional Partnership is bracing for a loss of $500,000 in state funding, or 16 percent of its budget, through legislation that would eliminate state dollars for regional economic development groups in North Carolina.
A bill, sponsored by Sen. Harry Brown, a Jacksonville Republican, aims to create eight “collaboration for prosperity zones” in the state. The zones would be staffed with officials from the state’s departments of commerce, environment and natural resources and transportation. The purpose is to create “one-stop sources” for residents and businesses seeking state services at a regional level, according to the bill.
To the Charlotte Regional Partnership’s new chairman, Pete Acker, the bill is bad news. If the legislation passes, the partnership will have to figure out a way to cut costs, Acker said Thursday during a partnership luncheon at the Charlotte Convention Center. That could mean eliminating some economic development trips, he said.
Acker, who is president and CEO of Carolinas HealthCare System – Lincoln, said the partnership didn’t learn about the plans to strip it and other such groups of state funding until six to eight weeks ago.
“We have had little, if any, input on that process,” he said.
On Thursday afternoon, after the luncheon, Charlotte Regional Partnership CEO Ronnie Bryant was on his way to Raleigh to learn more about the status of the bill, Acker said.
The partnership, a nonprofit, was formed in 1991. It’s composed of 16 Charlotte-area counties and has the mission of marketing the Charlotte region to companies.
The partnership says it has an annual budget of $3.25 million. Its funding sources, besides the state, are its member counties, which provide 25 percent of its budget, and private sources, which provide about 58 percent. Anson County pulled its funding from the partnership last year.
In an email he sent Tuesday to Charlotte Regional Partnership stakeholders, Bryant said the loss of $500,000 “would considerably impact the budget for business recruitment and marketing.”
If the bill is passed, the partnership would lose its state funding July 1, the start of the state’s new fiscal year.
Brown could not be reached for comment. But Darryl Black, his legislative assistant, said the purpose of Brown’s legislation isn’t to destroy groups like the Charlotte Regional Partnership.
“This bill is not about being anti-partnership,” he said. “This is about looking at improving the process for creating jobs for North Carolina residents through the Department of Commerce.”
The bill affects seven regional economic development organizations, of which three are nonprofits. The ones that aren’t nonprofits “may either wind up their affairs or reorganize as nonprofit corporations” that will not receive state funds, according to the bill.
The bill is in the House. As of Thursday afternoon, it had been referred to a commerce and job development committee.
For Acker, the bill becomes the first big issue he must tackle as chairman of the partnership, a position to which he was appointed last week. He also serves on the Charlotte Airport Advisory Committee, which is in the middle of the dispute over a proposed airport authority.
Acker said the partnership plans to meet to determine how to fill the funding gap. The nonprofit has “modest” reserves that it might be able to tap, he said. Being able to travel to market Charlotte is important for the partnership, he said.
“We need to keep our name out there.”
Roberts: 704-358-5248; Twitter: @DeonERoberts
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