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John Lassiter resigning as NC economic development board chair

Former Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, left, is thanked by John Lassiter after Hagel spoke before the Charlotte World Affairs Council last year. Lassiter said Tuesday he is resigning as chair of the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina.
Former Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, left, is thanked by John Lassiter after Hagel spoke before the Charlotte World Affairs Council last year. Lassiter said Tuesday he is resigning as chair of the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina. dlaird@charlotteobserver.com

The chairman of the state’s 2 1/2-year old economic development organization said Tuesday he plans to step down, clearing the way for Gov. Roy Cooper to name his own representative to the organization’s 17-member board.

John Lassiter, 62, who has chaired the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina since its creation in the fall of 2014, notified Cooper that he will resign effective April 30. Lassiter, president of Charlotte-based Carolina Legal Staffing, is voluntarily resigning before the expiration of his term in October 2018.

In December, just weeks after Republican Gov. Pat McCrory conceded the election to Cooper, the board changed its bylaws to prevent the incoming Democratic governor from removing any board members without proof of malfeasance. The bylaws left it up to the governor to designate a chairman, and Cooper is expected to name his selection in the coming days.

Despite the political undercurrent of his resignation, Lassiter said in his resignation letter that the organization has emerged as “an independent, apolitical and sustainable public private partnership.” Lassiter said that perhaps its most significant accomplishment was recruiting Chris Chung to serve as chief executive officer, calling Chung “the brightest star in business recruitment in the country.”

Chung had held a similar position in Missouri.

In an interview, Lassiter said he expected Chung to remain in his position.

Chung could not be reached for comment.

Lassiter said he is stepping down to refocus his attention on his business and family in Charlotte.

The creation of the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina shifted job recruitment from the N.C. Department of Commerce to a private-public partnership, as envisioned by McCrory shortly after he was elected in 2012. The 62-employee organization oversees the state’s efforts in economic development and international trade, including tourism, film and sports development.

Cooper’s senior adviser, Ken Eudy, said the governor gets nine appointments to the partnership’s board, but because the terms are staggered, there would be less than 90 days left in Cooper's term when he will have appointed a majority of the board. Eudy said the structure of the board will give Cooper little input on economic development decisions.

The board’s other eight appointments are split between the state Senate President pro Tem and the state House Speaker.

Eudy noted that Cooper knows many of the current board members and feels he can work effectively with the organization as it currently exists.

John Murawski: 919-829-8932, @johnmurawski

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