Amid changes in how the state recruits new jobs, the N.C. Commerce Department and the heads of the state’s three urban regional economic development partnerships will work together next month to pitch the state to location consultants and journalists in New York.
It’s the first time the Charlotte Regional Partnership, the Piedmont Triad Partnership and the Research Triangle Regional Partnership have joined together to tout their regions and share resources, the groups said on Tuesday. The three areas comprise about 65 percent of the state’s total population.
The move comes amid uncertainty about how the partnerships will function under Gov. Pat McCrory’s new approach to economic development. A state official last week said the fate of the local job-recruitment agencies remains “an open question” as North Carolina moves to a statewide economic development strategy that is expected to be rolled out in January.
At stake is how North Carolina and local officials recruit new companies and business expansions to a state with an unemployment rate of 8.7 percent in August, tied for sixth-highest in the country, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Tuesday’s news release about the cooperative initiative said “basic reforms to North Carolina’s economic development structure and strategy” may have caused some site-selection consultants to take a “wait-and-see approach to bringing clients and projects” to the state.
In an interview, Ronnie Bryant, chief executive of the Charlotte Regional Partnership, said he doesn’t know of any project that has been put on hold because of the changes, but he said there is concern among consultants about the reorganization. He also said the state’s marketing has declined from the past as the new approach has been developed.
“We are stepping in to keep the momentum going,” he said.
Bryant said he didn’t take the remarks last week by John Lassiter, chairman of the N.C. Economic Development Board, as a “negative toward the partnership.” Historically, there has been a good relationship between the commerce department and the partnership, he said.
“We expect that to continue in some form,” Bryant said. “We do not know the exact nature that partnership will take.”
Bryant 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.
“My mandate comes from the Charlotte region,” Bryant said Tuesday. “My partnership is good for Charlotte.”
The leaders of the partnerships and N.C. Commerce Department Secretary Sharon Decker will hold their first meetings in New York City on Nov. 14. The officials could eventually hold similar events in other key markets, Bryant said.
Rothacker: 704-358-5170; Twitter: @rickrothacker
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