Commerce chief: New state job-recruitment agency won’t displace Charlotte group

North Carolina’s new public-private economic development agency opened for business this week, but N.C. Commerce Secretary Sharon Decker said Friday that it won’t displace job-recruiting agencies in Charlotte and other fast-growing urban areas.

The N.C. Economic Development Partnership, which opened Monday, has triggered worries in Charlotte and elsewhere that it will duplicate the work of local job-recruitment groups such as the Charlotte Regional Partnership.

But Decker, speaking to leaders at the Charlotte Chamber’s fall planning meeting, said the new agency will work with the chamber and the partnership to recruit and grow jobs for Charlotte.

In an interview afterward with the Observer, she explained that the state agency will take a more aggressive role in rural areas that need more job-recruiting help.

“You’ve got a strong local team in place (in Charlotte), so our role will be to bring leads to that team, and to find ways to support the projects that are already at work,” she said. The state’s role “will look different across the state because of the diversity that’s here.”

Decker said the state agency remains in startup mode, hiring workers and securing furniture.

The emergence of the state group has spurred talk in Charlotte’s business circles that it’s time to consider folding the Charlotte Regional Partnership into the chamber – the group from which it was birthed decades ago, and which also has its own job recruitment efforts.

Ronnie Bryant, head of the Charlotte Regional Partnership, reiterated that his group handles job recruiting and marketing for a 16-county region that includes Charlotte. He noted that a study is underway to define the roles of the chamber and the partnership. It is expected to be completed early next year.

“We definitely have some structural issues I think we need to continue to refine,” he said. “But in terms of how we interact with (prospective companies), it is pretty seamless.”

Asked what his group will do differently now that the state agency is open, Bryant replied: “We’ll keep doing what we’ve been doing.”

During the panel discussion, Charlotte City Manager Ron Carlee suggested the area’s marketing efforts need to be better focused.

He said the area has a lot of “sub-brands” but lacks a distinctive unifying theme. He pointed to the “Charlotte’s Got a Lot” slogan used in the city’s tourism and visitor promotions.

“Charlotte’s got a lot of different brands,” he said. “Sometimes I think the whole might be somewhat less than the sum of the parts.”