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Fate of local job-recruitment agency an “open question” as statewide revamp moves ahead

The fate of local job-recruitment agencies such as the Charlotte Regional Partnership remains “an open question” as North Carolina moves to a statewide economic development strategy, a key official told Charlotte business leaders Tuesday morning.

John Lassiter, chairman of the N.C. Economic Development Board, told a crowd at the Charlotte Chamber’s quarterly economic development breakfast that Gov. Pat McCrory’s effort to refocus job recruitment efforts under a single statewide public-private agency is moving ahead, with a completed plan expected to roll out in January.

Many have questioned what that will mean for the seven existing smaller partnerships that currently serve different regions of the state. Officials with the Charlotte Regional Partnership have said that while they saw their state support drop from about $500,000 to about $130,000 this year, they expect to survive using additional private fundraising.

Lassiter, a former Charlotte City Council member and former member of the Charlotte partnership’s board, said some of the existing partnerships will survive, some will change and some will disappear. He said he had no personal opinion on what should happen with the Charlotte partnership.

He said “all this layering” of economic development efforts at the local and state level is too expensive and doesn’t always deliver results. He noted that only 4 percent of the job recruitment leads coming into the state in the past three years have come through the seven partnerships.

“That’s not saying they’re not doing their jobs. But at a point of limited resources, how do you get the most bang for your buck?” he asked. “That’s an open question as we kind of move to the next level.”

Local business leaders will play a role in answering it, Lassiter said. N.C. Commerce Secretary Sharon Decker is on a “listening tour” of the state, hoping to find out what leaders in each region want to see happen with their regional partnerships, he added.

Ronnie Bryant, head of the Charlotte Regional Partnership, has said his organization and several other regional partnerships weren’t created by the General Assembly and can’t be dissolved by it. All, however, could find themselves competing with the new state agency for support from corporations.

“Those private dollars will make judgment calls about where they think their money is most effective,” Lassiter said. “Some of that will be for issues that are within the region; others will be for issues that are broader across the state.”

Bryant couldn’t immediately be reached for comment Tuesday.

Frazier: 704-358-5145; @Ericfraz on Twitter
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