Charlotte snags corporate HQ from Louisiana

David Mildenberg on August 2015 at 2:00:00 pm 
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Albemarle Corporation, a Louisiana-based chemical manufacturer that moved its headquarters from Virginia to Louisiana in 2008, is now heading to Charlotte.

The deal will add 120 new jobs by 2016 for Charlotte, which is becoming a magnet for corporate headquarters, aided by state and local incentive grants. Founded in 1994, Albemarle was based in Richmond, Va., until its move to Baton Rouge, La., in 2008. It employs 6,900, has a stock-market value of $4.9 billion and had sales of $2.4 billion in 2014, according to a release from Gov. Pat McCrory’s office.

Wages at the headquarters office will average at least $169,425 annually, the release said. The average annual wage for Mecklenburg County is $59,882.

“This is the fourth time in five months we’ve announced a corporate headquarters relocation in North Carolina,” said John Skvarla, secretary of the N.C. Department of Commerce. Dimensional Fund Advisors and Lidl announced in July plans to relocate regional headquarters to Mecklenburg and Alamance counties, respectively. In April, CBC Americas launched plans for its corporate headquarters in Wake County.

Albemarle in January acquired Rockwood Holdings Inc. The company has 137 employees and contractors at its Rockwood Lithium plant in Kings Mountain.

Over 12 years, Albemarle is eligible for North Carolina incentives of more than $2 million, provided it creates 120 jobs.

Franklin Resources Inc. and BlackRock Inc., two large money-management companies, are Albemarle's largest owners with 6.4% and 5.1% of shares outstanding, according to Albemarle's 2015 proxy statement. Albemarle's shares traded today for about $44, their lowest level since Sept. 2011.




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BNC Bancorp Buys Charleston, S.C.-area bank

David Mildenberg on August 2015 at 5:25:00 pm 
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BNC Bancorp Chief Executive Officer Rick Callicutt took an aggressive, optimistic tone in describing his vision for the High Point-based bank in a June 2014 Business North Carolina story.

He made further progress on that vision today with BNC buying Mt. Pleasant, S.C.-based Southcoast Community Bank for $95.5 million in stock. Southcoast, which opened in 1998, has about $506 million in assets and 10 branches in the Charleston area. In December, BNC bought another Charleston-area bank, Harbor Bank Group for $51 million. Harbor had $325 million in assets and 4 branches.

Charleston has among the best growth prospects in the U.S. as an internationally famous tourism magnet and, increasingly, as a manufacturing hub. Volvo is planning to build its first U.S. auto manufacturing plant in neighboring Berkeley County with production expected to start in 2018. More than 2,000 people are expected to be hired to work at the auto plant, which will join Boeing Co. as a major employer in the region.

Pending completion of the deal, BNC will have about $6 billion in assets and $4.5 billion in loans. The company is also acquiring seven branches of Greenville, S.C.-based CertusBank, N.A. in upstate South Carolina. It now has 57 branches in Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina.

BNC shares closed today at $21.89, near its record high of $22.50.


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Coke Consolidated refreshes investors

David Mildenberg on July 2015 at 8:00:00 am 
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Charlotte-based Coca-Cola Bottling Co. Consolidated, though publicly held and the nation's largest independent Coke bottler, has long operated under the radar. Shares are thinly traded and rarely tracked by Wall Street analysts because CEO Frank Harrison III’s family controls 86% of the bottling company’s voting power, while Coca-Cola owns 5%. (His family has controlled the company for decades.) Harrison keeps a very low profile for a near-billionaire, but he is among Charlotte's most influential businessmen, perhaps best known for his support of the YMCA and Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.

Now, the Harrisons' family business is showing growth prospects that are raising attention among investors, and its stock has soared over the last year after years of flat performance. Shares traded as high as $173 this week, before closing at $154 on Thursday. That's a huge change — shares mostly traded between $35 and $70 since 1996, finally breaking above $75 in early 2014. The company is now valued at more than $1.4 billion.

In May, the Charlotte-based company agreed with Atlanta-based Coca-Cola to expand its franchise territory in 10 states and Washington, D.C. Major cities that will soon get Coca-Cola products shipped by the company include Baltimore, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Richmond and Norfolk, Va. The agreement follows recent expansions in Kentucky, Tennessee and Indiana. The company earlier this month said it would relocate 160 people and add 140 at a new Charlotte call center, according to the Charlotte Business Journal.

For Coca-Cola, the soft-drink giant, offloading the capital-intensive distribution businesses allows it to focus on its famous marketing.

Coke Consolidated’s first-quarter revenue jumped almost 17% to $453 million, including more than $50 million from territories acquired over the last 18 months. By 2017, its revenue could double because of the expansions, according to an in-depth report posted on the Seeking Alpha investment website by an investor who declined to be identified. 

The 113-year-old company distributes more than 250 products and flavors, including beverages for Dr Pepper Snapple Group and Monster Energy. It has introduced its own products in recent years, such as Tum-E Yummies, a vitamin C-enhanced children’s drink. Coca-Cola Consolidated’s largest customer is Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart Stores, making up 15% of sales, while Salisbury-based Food Lion accounts for 6%.  

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McColl's PE firm buys Morrisville company

David Mildenberg on July 2015 at 12:30:00 pm 
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Falfurrias Capital Partners, a Charlotte-based private equity firm started by Hugh McColl Jr. and Marc Oken, said it bought a controlling interest in RegEd, a provider of compliance software for the financial services industry that is based in Morrisville. The seller is StoneRiver Group L.P. of Columbia, S.C. Terms weren’t released.

RegEd provides education and training to more than 400 broker-dealers, insurance companies and other clients, helping them comply with government regulations.

Falfurrias, founded in 2006 by former BofA CEO McColl and ex-BofA CFO Oken, specializes in investing in financial-services companies. One of their bigger successes was the sale earlier this year of Dorsey, Wright & Associates. The fund raised $127 million in 2013 and is now deploying that money.

John Schobel, who founded RegEd in1994, will continue to lead the company, which will operate as a stand-alone entity.

SunTrust Robinson Humphrey, a unit of Atlanta-based SunTrust Banks Inc., acted as financial adviser to RegEd.

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BNC recognized for excellence in journalism

Business North Carolina on June 2015 at 8:00:00 am 
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Business North Carolina took home a record eight Editorial Excellence awards at the Alliance of Area Business Publishers annual conference, held June 25-27 in Charlotte.

The Charlotte-based magazine, in its 35th year of publication, won two gold awards, including Best Recurring Feature for the monthly “Picture This” photo feature. The feature “vividly shines its spotlight on an unpredictable range of businesses,” according to the judges. Also winning a gold award was Edward Martin for Best Body of Work. “Martin consistently creates compelling business journalism,” the judges said, and his stories include “compelling interviews that transcend quotes taken simply from ‘talking heads.’”

Martin won a silver award for Best Investigative Reporting for “Heart of coal,” which covered Duke Energy’s coal-ash spill into the Dan River near Eden in February 2014. The feature also earned BNC a silver award for Best Cover.

Martin’s look at climate change and rising sea level earned BNC a silver award for Best Local Coverage of National Business/Economic Story. The judges found “Land’s end” (November 2014) “well sourced, clear and matter of fact.”

BNC also took home the silver award in the Best Magazine category. “High-quality reporting, a clean and easy-to-consume design and exceptional feature writing make Business North Carolina a magazine worthy of recognition,” the judges noted.

BNC earned bronze awards for Best Overall Design and Best Personality Profile, which attracted entries that were “among the strongest in the contest,” according to the press release. In “Broadening his band” (December 2014), writer Chris Burritt profiled Raleigh media executive Jim Goodmon. “The writer doesn’t shy away from tough questions and includes an incredible amount of detail.”

The Los Angeles-based organization received 622 entries from 40 publications. Entries were judged by a panel of 24 faculty members from the University of Missouri School of Journalism.

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North Carolina real-estate tales, per Citigroup

David Mildenberg on June 2015 at 6:00:00 pm 
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Research analysts at Citigroup Inc. issued a June 16 report after recently meeting with executives at real-estate investment trusts with big holdings of North Carolina commercial real estate, including Highwoods Properties Inc., Duke Realty Corp. and Parkway Properties Inc. Their report provided some interesting nuggets:

Highwoods Properties wishes they had built a bigger PNC Plaza building in downtown Raleigh because of greater demand for space than expected. The 33-floor building, formerly known as RBC Plaza, is the tallest building in Raleigh and has about 730,000 square feet.

MetLife is paying rent in the upper-$20 per square foot range at its new campus in Cary, which fronts Lake Crabtree and is near Raleigh-Durham International Airport.

Charlotte’s 525 North Tryon Building, though only four blocks from Hearst Tower, has been a challenge to lease by Parkway Properties, which bought the office building for $47.4 million in 2012.

Technology tenants are seeking space in downtown Charlotte, particularly in “edgier” buildings. It isn’t just bankers and lawyers anymore.

Liberty Property Trust bought five office buildings in Durham, totaling 705,000 square feet, for $44 million on June 12. The buildings are fully leased.

Charlotte, Greensboro and Raleigh industrial real-estate markets are “in the earlier innings of the cycle” with less vacancy and higher rents. Opening of an inland port in Greer, S.C., and Norfolk Southern Corp.’s new intermodal site next to Charlotte-Douglas International Airport are driving demand for warehouse space in the Carolinas.

Apartment developers are willing to pay more for land than office developers in the major North Carolina cities, mirroring a national trend.


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High Point official is state's top economic developer

David Mildenberg on June 2015 at 4:00:00 pm 
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The North Carolina Economic Developers Association named Sandy Dunbeck, senior vice president of the High Point Economic Development Corporation, as the state's 2015 Economic Developer of the Year.

Dunbeck represented High Point during a year in which the city in Guilford County notched some important economic development gains, including a new $34 million facility by Ralph Lauren Corp.; Heritage Home Group moving its headquarters and 300 jobs; APAC Customer Services Inc. adding 850 jobs and Thomas Built Buses adding 236 positions.

“I saw the direct benefit of Sandy’s work highlighted by the successful location of Belgium furniture manufacturer BuzziSpace,” said Loren Hill, NCEDA board member. The company added 113 jobs. “Her tireless efforts and personal attention helped the company feel confident that High Point was the right home for the company’s first North American manufacturing location. As a direct result of Sandy’s efforts, High Point is poised to make significant gains in economic development in the coming year.”


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Ben Sutton receives key state honor

David Mildenberg on June 2015 at 10:00:00 am 
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Ben Sutton Jr., who built Winston-Salem-based IMG College into a national sports-marketing power, received North Carolina's Order of the Long Leaf Pine on Tuesday. A Burlington native who grew up in Murfreesboro, Sutton founded International Sports Properties Inc. in 1992 to handle some of the business operations for Wake Forest University, his alma mater. He later sold it in a deal that created IMG College. The company has gross revenues of nearly $1 billion, compared with about $700,000 in ISP Sports' first year.
IMG College employs 300 in North Carolina and about 1,000 nationally. It produces nearly 40,000 hours of broadcasts annually on nearly 2,500 radio and television stations in the United States.  

Wake Forest University president Nathan Hatch attended the Order of the Long Leaf Pine ceremony.

A January Business North Carolina story profiled Sutton's career:

North Carolina gives the Order of the Long Leaf Pine honor to citizens who have made significant contributions to the state.



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Raleigh's North Hills gains new office tower

David Mildenberg on May 2015 at 4:45:00 pm 
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Raleigh developer John Kane plans a 12-story building in Raleigh’s North Hills district for Allscripts Healthcare Solutions Inc., a Chicago-based health care technology company with a background connected to two of North Carolina's most successful businessmen.

Allscripts plans to move 1,000 employees from existing offices in north Raleigh into the 330,000-square-foot building, which is scheduled to open in early 2017, according to a Kane Realty Corp. press release.

Allscripts merged with Misys plc, a British company in 2008. Misys had acquired Raleigh-based Medic Computer Systems for $923 million in 1997 — a record at the time for a North Carolina technology company. The company had been run since 1990 by John McConnell, who acquired it from Black & Decker Corp. in 1990 for $29 million, with backing from C.D. Spangler Jr.’s Wakefield Group investment company. By 1997 it was a public company with about 1,400 employees.

McConnell remains a major force in North Carolina, focusing on his golf-course management business.

Allscripts needs a change of scenery, having lost more than $165 million in the past three years. It had revenue of almost $1.4 billion in 2014 and has a market cap of about $2.6 billion.

Kane has developed shopping center, office, multifamily, hotel and mixed-use projects since 1978, when he started a Greenville company. Kane Realty bought North Hills Plaza for $11 million in 1999, followed by North Hills Mall in 2001, for $16 million. About $1 billion has been invested on North Hills-area projects by Kane Realty-related entities since 1999.

In addition to the new building, North Hills is also home to the Offices at North Hills that opened in 2005, the 17-story CapTrust Tower (2010) and the 18-story Tower Two, which is slated to open next year.

Kane Realty is also developing an 800-resident, $78 million student-housing project on Hillsborough Street near N.C. State University.

Related: John Kane named Business North Carolina's 2014 Developer of the Year

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Tafts adding apartments near ECU

David Mildenberg on May 2015 at 5:00:00 pm 
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Greenville’s Taft family, which has developed land around eastern North Carolina for decades, is making a splash in the university housing market in their hometown.

Taft Development Group and Ward Holdings LLC, run by local real-estate investor Jim Ward, plan a $54 million, 275-apartment project adjacent to downtown Greenville and the East Carolina University campus. It is across the street from the planned $122 million ECU Student Union, expected to get under construction this summer. The Campus Edge project will include 20,000 square feet of retail space and a 700-car garage.

A sister project developed by the Tafts, The Boundary at West End, will open this year about two blocks away. It involves a $43 million investment and includes 245 apartments.

Several larger companies that specialize in university student housing own units in Greenville, but co-owner Thomas Taft Jr. says the location of the projects should ensure their success attracting some of the 28,000 students enrolled at East Carolina.

“We think we have a finger on the pulse of the market,” Taft says. “Greenville and ECU are an exception to the rule that much of the area east of Interstate 95 is struggling.”

Taft Development owns about 2,000 apartment units, mostly in North Carolina, Taft says. The business was started by Taft’s grandfather Hoover Taft Jr. and expanded by his father, Thomas Taft Sr., a former state senator and longtime Democratic Party insider.

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Off the dole: NC pays back debt

David Mildenberg on May 2015 at 11:00:00 am 
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Gov. Pat McCrory and other state leaders took bows yesterday after the state had erased its unemployment-insurance debt to the federal government. The debt had totaled more than $2.7 billion at its peak, reflecting a combination of unexpectedly difficult economic times and questionable management decisions under previous gubernatorial administrations.

In our just-released May edition, Business North Carolina studied the issue, explaining some of its complexities. Employers clearly benefit from new policies and may use savings from lower unemployment insurance spending to expand and, hopefully, add jobs, as noted by Dale Folwell, a key McCrory administration official who led the charge on this matter.

But should North Carolina take pride in offering the most limited jobless benefits in the nation? Is that something to brag about? Interesting questions that cross partisan lines.

We reached out to Lynn Holmes and Moses Carey Jr. —  the two most recent chairmen of the Employment Security Commission before the Republicans took control of the legislature — asking for comment on Folwell's criticism of past state policies regarding the unemployed. Neither responded.

Click here to link to the story.

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State plans $250M NC-focused fund

David Mildenberg on April 2015 at 11:00:00 am 
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State Treasurer Janet Cowell announced a second North Carolina Innovation Fund, with $250 million to be invested in North Carolina-centered companies.

The first fund, started five years ago, has committed $185 million to eight private-equity managers and 12 companies through co-investments. The initial fund has had a 20% internal rate of return, including sales of three portfolio companies. The Charlotte office of Grosvenor Capital Management manages the fund.

The money comes from the state’s $90 billion pension fund. For many years, state political and business leaders had pressed the fund, among the 10 largest public pension funds in the nation, to invest a fraction of its money to spur economic activity in North Carolina. Others, including officials of the State Employees Association of North Carolina, have questioned the effort as a move that benefits politicians while obscuring the pension fund's main goal of making money regardless of where an investment is located.

Among the private-equity companies investing in the first fund – each based in North Carolina or operating offices here – were Carousel Capital, Falfurrias Capital Partners, Frontier Capital, Hatteras Venture Partners, Kian Capital Partners, NovaQuest Capital Management and River Cities Capital Funds.

Business North Carolina profiled Cowell in its March edition:

Here's a press release from Cowell's office on the program:

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Belk's biggest sale

David Mildenberg on April 2015 at 5:50:00 pm 
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Belk Inc. going on the auction block is a sad, inevitable outcome to one of the state’s most enduring business stories.

The company said it hired Goldman Sachs to help it evaluate options, which in business lingo means either a bigger department store chain or a private-equity group will almost certainly buy the company within the next few months. Goldman will shop the deal to get the best price and strive to avoid a lot of public messiness like that surrounding the recent Family Dollar Stores sale. And Charlotte will lose its third major public retail company headquarters in the past two years. CEO Tim Belk, 60, will be able to spend a lot more time on his favorite pursuits and perhaps join former CEOs Tad Dickson of Harris Teeter and Howard Levine of Family Dollar for periodic, leisurely lunches. (Levine remains Family Dollar CEO but will have to answer to Dollar Tree CEO Bob Sasser.)

On its website, Belk lists as senior management two names: Tim Belk and John Belk. No one else. It’s the definition of a family business. They oversee one of the best companies in a declining industry, but that’s not enough anymore. Department stores have lost their edge in the Internet age because increasing numbers of people buy their stuff online and the appeal of big shopping centers is lagging. Belk has done an excellent job of keeping abreast of the trends, compared with many other rivals that sold out or bit the dust years ago.

But the Belks know department stores aren’t going to be more valuable in 2025 than they are in 2015. If the family wanted to stick around and fight, Belk would have gone public years ago and raised the capital needed to speed the rehabbing of its stores and expand its e-commerce effort.

Now is the time to get out and let dominant player Macy’s or some cost-cutting PE firm take over the business. Let them make the painful decisions to close stores in smaller towns and cities that have relied on Belk for generations.

It will be a diminished Charlotte and South without the Belk family in charge of a key business. Their stores, philanthropy and public service have affected countless institutions across the region, ranging from John Belk’s mayorship in Charlotte to dozens of athletic tracks donated to colleges by Irwin Belk to the many buildings bearing the Belk name. The family also provided Charlotte with generations of intrigue — and enriched plenty of lawyers — because of inevitable infighting over how to split up the empire. The current generation has done a nice job of calming things down and keeping the arguments out of the press.

For these and other reasons, the Belks have come as close to royalty as one could expect from a family of southern Presbyterians. Thanks for the memories.

PS: Hat tip to Reuters for breaking the story. It's too bad Belk didn't hire local favorites Bank of America or Wells Fargo to oversee the auction. Belk family members served as directors at BofA, First Union and Wachovia for many years.


Here’s the Belk statement today:

Belk’s focus on a long-term strategic approach has been a key factor in the company’s success. We are entering our scheduled five-year strategic planning process within a rapidly changing industry. We are coming off a successful fourth quarter, have a strong financial position and are enthusiastic about our future. We also believe, however, that we have an obligation to consider whether there are alternatives to our current plan that would provide a better return for our stockholders. As such, we are performing due diligence to carefully explore all options for our future. As a part of that process, the company has engaged Goldman Sachs to assist us in identifying and evaluating those options. We expect to conclude our analysis in the next several months.

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Novant reports lower net profit in 2014

David Mildenberg on April 2015 at 12:00:00 pm 
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Novant Health said it had net income of $201.8 million in 2014, down from $273 million in the previous year. That included an investment gain of $28.9 million. Revenues increased 5.4% to $3.79 billion from 2013.

The Winston-Salem-based health care company said it provided $135 million of care to indigent and uninsured patients in 2014. Charity care for indigent patients ranged from providing flu shots to comprehensive cancer treatments.

“Novant Health managed itself with a strong sense of financial responsibility as we prepare for continued changes in the health care industry,” CEO Carl Armato said in a prepared statement. "Strong financial results are necessary for us to reinvest in our communities, facilities and team members. I am proud of our organization’s efforts to transform, lower costs and find efficiencies in our operations."

Bad debt was $190 million, slightly higher than 2013.

The organization invested more than $266 million in capital for construction projects, equipment replacements and the implementation of electronic health records. Construction of Novant Health Haymarket Medical Center in northern Virginia, which opened in 2014, was a significant expense. Seven medical centers converted to electronic health records as part of a $600 million, multiyear project. Among those converting were Novant Health Charlotte Orthopedic Hospital and medical centers in Huntersville, Matthews, Kernersville, Clemmons and Winston-Salem.

Novant Health boosts the North Carolina economy by nearly $6 billion, according to a 2013 economic impact study. The organization supports more than 44,000 jobs and $2.4 billion in salaries, wages and benefits in the state and generates $623 million in tax revenues, according to the study.



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Report: N.C. State offers best value

Cathy Martin on March 2015 at 2:00:00 pm 
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For a good education at a good price, N.C. State University offers the best value in the state, according to a recent report by personal-finance website

The state's public university system has a national reputation for its quality and affordability, and seven of the 10 schools deemed as the top values are members of the UNC system. Campbell University in Buies Creek and Davidson College also made the list.

The New York-based company looked at five factors to come up with the rankings: average scholarship and grant funding, starting salary upon graduation, tuition costs, living expenses and retention rate.

Each factor was given equal weight.

UNC Chapel Hill ranked second and Duke University ranked third on the list. Duke graduates had the highest starting salary among the top 10, at $55,900. The Durham-based university also awarded the highest average scholarship and grant money, though its tuition was highest at $43,623.

N.C. State ranked 15th nationally in the survey, while UNC was 34th. The University of Michigan ranked first.

Here is the list of the top 10 best value colleges in North Carolina:

College Affordability index
N.C. State University 89.37
UNC Chapel Hill 84.00
Duke University 83.99
N.C. A&T University 82.01
Campbell University 71.53
UNC Charlotte 71.13
Winston-Salem State University 70.72
Appalachian State University 69.82
UNC Wilmington 69.54
Davidson College 68.05
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N.C. tax receipts remain lower than 2007 levels

David Mildenberg on March 2015 at 10:00:00 am 
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Tax revenues collected by North Carolina are 9.5% lower than at their peak in late 2007, adjusted for inflation, according to a report by The Pew Charitable Trusts. That is similar to border states South Carolina and Virginia, which also reported receipts that are about 10% lower than 2007. In Tennessee, revenues are about 1% higher than eight years ago. 

North Carolina’s tax revenues totaled about $5.8 billion in the third quarter of 2014, compared with a peak of $6.4 billion in the third quarter of 2007. Changes in revenues are affected by economic activity and tax policy. The state’s economy has revived since the 2007-09 recession, particularly in the Charlotte and Raleigh-Durham metro areas, according to Wells Fargo economist Mark Vitner and analysts. But revenues haven’t rebounded as much as other large U.S. states because North Carolina’s Republican-led General Assembly has cut tax rates for both corporations and individuals, reducing the flow of money into state coffers for roads, schools and other expenses.

North Carolina is among 30 states in which tax receipts have not rebounded to pre-recession levels, according to Pew. “Total 50-state tax revenue has hovered above its 2008 high mark— even though most states had below-peak receipts — largely because of the recovery of collections in three states with large tax bases: California, Illinois, and Texas,” according to a Pew press release.

The Pew report didn't break down how much of the change is related to corporate tax rate declines versus personal income tax. Critics of North Carolina's tax policy changes say too much of the benefit from lower taxes is going to corporations.

Without adjusting for inflation, 50-state quarterly tax revenue was 12% above peak, and tax collections had recovered in 38 states as of the third quarter of 2014, Pew said.

Pew’s report is available here:

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Charlotte PE firm adds $125 million fund

David Mildenberg on March 2015 at 10:00:00 am 
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Capitala Group, a Charlotte-based business-development company, said it raised $125 million, marking its fourth private-equity fund.

CapitalSouth SBIC Fund IV, L.P. will invest in the debt and equity of companies with at least $8 million in revenue and $2 million in earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization. The fund typically invests $2 million to $10 million in its deals.

Capitala Group’s managed funds have made more than 100 investments since 1998, totaling about $700 million. The company manages a public capital portfolio through a publicly traded company, Capitala Finance Corp., and a private portfolio that includes the new fund.

“We appreciate the interest expressed in the fund by many long-standing relationships, as well new investors,” Chief Executive Officer Joe Alala said in a statement. Investors were not disclosed.

Capitala Finance on March 24 said it formed a joint venture with Kemper Corp.’s Trinity Universal Insurance Co. for a new fund to invest in secured loans. Capitala Finance is putting $20 million of equity into the venture, with Trinity providing $5 million. Capitala Finance went public in September 2013.



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3 N.C. hospitals name head of shared-services group

David Mildenberg on March 2015 at 11:00:00 am 
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Former Novant Health executive Mark Tribbett was named president of a new shared-services company owned by Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, Vidant Health and WakeMed Health & Hospitals.

The new Raleigh-based company, called Socius Health Solutions, aims to reduce costs and improve quality and access to health care at the three large hospital systems, which have a geographic reach across 300 miles across northern North Carolina. Plans for the company were disclosed last year, prompting speculation of a potential merger of the three groups. Wake Forest Baptist is based in Winston-Salem, Vidant is based in Greenville and WakeMed is in Raleigh.

Though the three had combined operating revenue of about $4.7 billion in 2014, only Vidant had an operating surplus — in for-profit terms, profit. Hospitals are grappling with the shift in how they get paid as insurers increasingly contest charges for repeated tests or procedures.

Socius offer services including supply-chain management and information-technology support.

The amount of investment and number of employees weren’t immediately available.

Tribbett most recently founded AlphaHealth LLC, a health care consulting firm that has worked on more than 100 projects for 50-plus medical organizations. He previously worked at hospital and health care systems for 17 years, including 10 with Novant Health and Presbyterian Health Care System.

“We will be building on the work of clinical teams from last fall to codify best practices and spread them throughout our health systems,” John McConnell, CEO of Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, said in a statement. “Some of the benefit from this work will come from identifying select specialty patients with the most commonly diagnosed conditions in the specialty across the three systems.”

Organizers said Socius is a Latin term that means sharing, associated and allied.

For a deeper look at changes sweeping the North Carolina hospital industry, see Business North Carolina's recent story "Bigger if not better (March 2015)."  

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ClubCorp adding N.C. clubs

David Mildenberg on March 2015 at 12:15:00 pm 
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ClubCorp Holdings Inc., a Dallas-based operator of golf and private clubs, is paying $44 million to buy six golf courses, including two in North Carolina, according to statement from the company. The sellers are Stratford Golf Partners and Accord Golf Capital

The company is buying Bermuda Run Country Club near Winston-Salem, a private club with 36 holes of golf, two clubhouses and a tennis center, as well as Firethorne Country Club in Marvin, near Charlotte, which has 18 holes, a water park with four pools and a tennis center.

Other clubs acquired include: 

Legacy Golf Club at Lakewood Ranch in Bradenton, Fla. — a public golf club featuring an 18-hole, Arnold Palmer-designed championship golf course.

Temple Hills Country Club in Franklin, Tenn. — a private country club offering 27 holes of championship golf, a clubhouse, junior Olympic-size pool and tennis.

Brookfield Country Club in Roswell, Ga — a private club with an 18-hole golf course, pool, tennis and fitness facilities.

• Ford's Colony Country Club in Williamsburg, Va. — a semi-private golf club offering three 18-hole courses.

Since 2010, ClubCorp has grown its portfolio of clubs by a third and now includes more than 200 clubs in 26 states, the District of Columbia, Mexico and China. Ten of the clubs are in North Carolina, including the Piedmont Club in Winston-Salem and City Club of Raleigh.

"These clubs fit well with our stated goal to continue consolidating a very fragmented industry," Eric Affeldt, ClubCorp president and CEO, said in a statement.

The company was started in the 1950s by Robert Dedman. His family expanded the company before selling it to private-equity group KSL Capital Partners in 2006. ClubCorp went public in September 2013 and now has an enterprise value of $2.1 billion, including debt. As part of the sale, the Dedman family retained ownership of Pinehurst Resort & Country Club.

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Robeson attracts $139 million poultry investment

David Mildenberg on March 2015 at 7:00:00 pm 
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Robeson County, an eastern North Carolina county hard hit by declining manufacturing employment, attracted a $139 million poultry operation that is expected to employ 1,100 people within three years.

Sanderson Farms Inc., a Laurel, Miss.-based company with a stock-market value of $1.8 billion, plans to start construction on the plant near St. Pauls this summer and eventually process 1.25 million chickens a week. About 100 contract farmers will be needed to supply poultry to the plant, Sanderson said in a statement.

“We are very delighted about this announcement,” says Steve Yost, president of the Southeastern Partnership, an economic development group representing 14 counties. “They are a first-class food company. They pay good wages and they pay benefits.”

Food companies make up more than 40% of manufacturing employment in southeast North Carolina’s 14 counties, Yost says. The region has lost thousands of former textile, hosiery and other manufacturing jobs since the North American Free Trade Agreement took effect in 1994.

Poultry is an expanding business for the region, with other new facilities started or planned there by Garner-based Butterball LLC and Delaware-based Mountaire Farms, Yost says. The region provides good transportation access for poultry producers via East Coast interstates and railroads and export potential through the state ports in Morehead City and Wilmington.

The Fayetteville City Council and the Cumberland County Board of Commissioners had courted Sanderson for a site at one of the county’s vacant industrial parks. But hundreds of residents of nearby residents opposed the project. Instead Sanderson picked a site 15 miles from Fayetteville.

North Carolina was in competition for the project with a couple of other states, Yost says. Details on incentives provided by local officials weren’t immediately available. The state has offered Sanderson $1 million if it meets its job targets.

St. Pauls Mayor Gordon “Buddy” Westbrook told the Fayetteville Observer, "I think it's probably one of the best things we've had in 30 years."

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Novant might expand in northern Virginia

David Mildenberg on March 2015 at 12:00:00 pm 
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The University of Virginia Health System and Winston-Salem-based Novant Health are talking about forming a regional health system in northern Virginia, the groups said today. The proposed agreement would involve UVA Culpeper Hospital and Novant Health’s Virginia facilities, including Novant Health Haymarket Medical Center, Novant Health Prince William Medical Center and Novant Health Cancer Center.

Plans call for creating a joint operating company by June 30. Discussions will include how Novant Health and UVA can coordinate cancer care across northern Virginia. Culpeper is 70 miles southwest of Washington, D.C.

“We believe a joint operating company will help ensure patients throughout northern Virginia receive quality care at the right time and the right place, while also providing care in a more efficient manner,” Richard P. Shannon, UVA’s executive vice president for health affairs, said in a statement.

UVA Health System includes a 612-bed hospital, the UVA School of Medicine, a level-I trauma center and heart centers and primary and specialty clinics throughout central Virginia. Novant Health was created by the 1997 merger of Winston-Salem-based Forsyth Memorial Hospital and Charlotte-based Presbyterian Hospital. It now operates in four states with more than 1,200 physicians and 26,000 employees who work at nearly 500 locations, including 14 medical centers and hundreds of outpatient facilities and physician clinics.

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Top-rated Tar Heel financial advisers

David Mildenberg on February 2015 at 12:35:00 pm 
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Thirty financial advisers from North Carolina made Barron’s magazine’s annual rankings of the nation’s 1,200 top stockbrokers, about half of them based in Charlotte.

Barron’s criteria includes assets under management, revenues generated, regulatory history and a questionnaire filled out by the advisers.

The top-ranked adviser in the state is R. Mitchell Wickham, part of a 12-person team started by his father Charles, who joined Merrill Lynch in 1960 and is now chairman emeritus of the group. Wickham's team, which includes No. 3-ranked Gregory Cash, now manages $6.1 billion with its clients having an average net worth of $40 million.

Nine Wells Fargo Advisors members are on the list, including No. 2 William Oliver of Charlotte and No. 5 Christopher Davis of Davidson. Four Merrill Lynch advisers were ranked, along with three from UBS Financial Services and three from Carroll Financial Services in Charlotte.

Advisers with the most assets, behind Wickham, are Lee Bryan III and William Spry Jr., who manage $4.2 billion at Deutsche Asset & Wealth Management in Winston-Salem.

Fourteen of the 30 are from the Charlotte area, while seven are from the Triangle and seven from the Triad. Two advisers from non-metro areas made the list: W. Kel Normann of Sanford (No. 8) and Kim Hoffman of Wilson (No. 25).

Money management remains very male-dominated in North Carolina, with just three women named, including Hoffman, who works for Edward Jones. Two work for Wells Fargo Advisors in Charlotte: Kathleen Malone (No. 13) and Angela Ostendarp (No. 18).


Here’s the top 10 in North Carolina,  according to Barron’s:

R. Mitchell Wickham, Merrill Lynch, $6.1 billion

William Oliver, Wells Fargo Advisors, $1 billion

Gregory Cash, Merrill Lynch, Charlotte, $6.1 million

Larry Carroll, Carroll Financial Associates, Charlotte, $796 million

Stephen Thomas, Linden Thomas, Charlotte, $1.2 billion

Christopher Davis, Wells Fargo Advisors, Charlotte, $1.5 billion

Bruce Knott, Wells Fargo Advisors, Chapel Hill, $614 million

W. Kel Normann, Wells Fargo Advisors, Sanford, $609 million

Sam Rankin, UBS Financial Services, Charlotte, $923 million

Lee Bryan III, Deutsche Asset & Wealth Management, Winston-Salem, $4.2 billion


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Wilmington's nCino raises $29 million

Cathy Martin on February 2015 at 2:15:00 pm 
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Wilmington-based software company nCino Inc. completed a $29 million round of financing led by New York-based private-equity firm Insight Venture Partners. Other investors include former Morgan Stanley Chairman and CEO John Mack, Boston-based Wellington Management Company LLP and Gene Ludwig, founder and CEO of Promontory Financial Group and former U.S. Comptroller of the Currency.

Spun out of Wilmington-based small-business lender Live Oak Bank in 2012, nCino sells cloud-based software that helps banks streamline loan paperwork. Forbes magazine recently ranked nCino 93rd on its ranking of America's Most Promising Companies – the only North Carolina business earning a spot on the list, which is compiled based on revenue growth, employee growth, capital raised and other factors.

The company reported 206% revenue growth in 2014 compared with 2013 and more than doubled its customer list from 36 to 81 banks and credit unions. Three of the banks added in 2014 have assets of more than $68 billion. Earlier this month, nCino celebrated the addition of its 100th employee, Chief Product Officer Tom DiVittorio.

nCino plans to use the funds to expand in the United States, enter international markets, accelerate product development and add new employees.

CEO Pierre Naudé projects nCino will reach $50 million in annual sales by 2018. "We want to build the company long term," Naudé told Business North Carolina in a December article.

Jeff Horing, managing director of Insight Venture Partners, will join nCino's board of directors. "In our view, nCino represents the future of banking, and we are pleased to partner with a company we believe will continue to create significant value for many years to come," Horing said in a press release.

Insight Venture Partners has raised $8 billion and invested in more than 200 companies since 1995, including Twitter and Tumblr.

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Best N.C. stock of the decade?

David Mildenberg on February 2015 at 4:15:00 pm 
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Raleigh-based Salix Pharmaceuticals, acquired for $14.5 billion by Valeant Pharmaceuticals, may rank as the best-performing North Carolina-based stock in the past decade.

The company traded for $11 when it went public in 2000, then mostly traded between $5 and $23 over the next nine years. The stock finally broke out of its trading range in October 2009 and has risen about sevenfold since then. Shares traded for about $156 today after the bid by Valeant, a Canadian firm that bought eye-care company Bausch & Lomb for $13 billion in 2013.

Salix ranked as North Carolina’s 12th most valuable public company when we discussed the company's success in our annual report on the North Carolina's largest public companies in August. Based on Valeant's bid, they would rank ninth, just behind Charlotte-based Nucor, the largest U.S. steelmaker

Salix’s key has been its successful introduction of treatments for gastrointestinal illnesses and other health problems, making it a favorite target of the mergers & acquisitions crowd. Salix drew interest from four large pharmaceutical companies over the past several months, The New York Times notes. Spurned suitors included Allergan, Actavis and Shire.

Salix’s sale marks another milestone in the career of Thomas D’Alonzo, a key figure in North Carolina’s pharma industry for decades who has been the company's chairman since 2010 and became acting CEO on Jan. 30 after the resignation of Carolyn Logan. He was president of Glaxo Inc., the U.S. division of GlaxoSmithKline plc from 1988 to 1993 and later was president of Pharmaceutical Product Development, the Wilmington-based company now owned by private equity companies.

During Logan’s 12 years at Salix, the company went from one product and less than $25 million in revenue to more than 20 products and revenue topping $1 billion, the company said in a Jan. 5 statement. 

But she and CFO Adam Derbyshire, who resigned in November, left the company after Salix said it had reported excessive inventory levels of three of its best-selling drugs. That clearly didn't bother Valeant. 




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North Carolina's higher-ed makes it rain

David Mildenberg on February 2015 at 11:05:00 am 
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It’s February, the General Assembly is in session and the state’s colleges and universities are scrapping for every nickel from lawmakers. So the education lobby delivered a report this week showing that North Carolina’s colleges and universities —which rank among the state’s most important selling points — deliver a very strong bang for the buck. Their combined economic impact was $63.5 billion in 2012-2013, according to the study by Economic Modeling Specialists Inc. that was sponsored by public and private higher education systems.

State and local taxpayers paid $4.3 billion to support higher education in North Carolina during the fiscal year, including University of North Carolina System campuses and community colleges. Rankings of top U.S. universities routinely place Duke University, UNC Chapel Hill and N.C. State University among the nation’s most important research institutions — assets that would be envied by virtually every other state.

But Gov. Pat McCrory, former state Budget Director Art Pope and the Republican-led legislature have pushed the higher-ed lobby to provide more evidence of the universities’ value. That scrutiny has gotten quite detailed, including the Feb. 18 recommendation by a Board of Governors committee that the tiny, liberal-leaning UNC Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity in Chapel Hill be closed, even though it takes no state funding. Committee members expressed concern that the center, once a platform for former U.S. Sen. John Edwards, was more interested in favoring Democratic politicians than finding solutions to poverty. The proposed closing is infuriating some UNC officials and is certain to create much discussion when the Board of Governors meets in Charlotte on Feb. 27.

But back to the study, which is full of interesting detail about higher-ed systems.

The UNC system’s 16 universities enroll nearly 222,000 students and confer more than 70% of undergraduate and graduate degrees in the state. It spent $3.5 billion on payroll and benefits for about 51,500 full- and part-time workers, not including clinical, research and extension activities, the report from Moscow, Idaho-based EMSI noted. UNC system construction spending totaled $173 million.

The 58-member community college system had payroll and operations spending of $2.2 billion in 2012-13, along with a surprisingly low $37 million in construction spending, the report said. The system employs almost 46,000 full- and part-time workers. Forty percent of North Carolina wage earners received education or training at a state community college during the last 10 years, the report said. “This study demonstrates that our students play a significant role in our state’s economic success through the skills they attain at our community colleges,” NC Community College System President Scott Ralls said in a statement. “

The report also cited the impact of the 36 members of the North Carolina Independent Colleges and Universities association, which together enroll almost 90,000 students. They employ more than 66,000 full- and part-time workers, and spent $4 billion on payroll and benefits expenses in fiscal 2013 — more than the UNC system, according to the report. Construction spending totaled $166 million during the year at the private schools, which include Duke and Wake Forest universities.

“The UNC system is a treasure this state has built over many generations, and it has allowed North Carolina to prosper by producing great talent and attracting new businesses needed to build a strong economy and a better quality of life,” UNC President Tom Ross said. “We are working more closely than ever before with the community colleges and the state’s private colleges and universities to leverage our respective strengths and resources for the benefit of students and the state.”

Ross, of course, won’t be working more closely with his peers after next January, when his successor is likely to be named.

Here are places to get more details:

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$75 million IPO plotted by Morrisville marketing company

David Mildenberg on February 2015 at 12:00:00 pm 
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MaxPoint Interactive Inc. of Morrisville is a digital marketing company that has done a great job of attracting clients with little notice from the mainstream press. That may change now that it has filed for a $75 million initial public offering.

Started in 2006, MaxPoint helps its clients, which include many of corporate America’s biggest names, pinpoint the best neighborhoods to sell their products. They call it “hyperlocal advertising.” The company’s main owners are private-equity investors Menlo Park, Calif.-based Trinity Ventures and Seattle-based Madrona Venture Group, with a combined 56%. CEO Joe Epperson has 10%. He previously worked for eBay, 3Com Corp. and Ford Motor Co.

The company’s leadership team includes executives who worked at eBay, ChannelAdvisor Corp. and other Internet businesses.

MaxPoint's accounting is complex, but the IPO filing shows net losses of more than $25 million since January 1, 2011. Revenues during that period top $100 million, after excluding “revenue acquisition costs.” 

The number of shares to be issued and listing price haven't been determined.

Goldman, Sachs & Co., Deutsche Bank Securities Inc. and Pacific Crest Securities LLC are lead bankers for the offering.

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Dan Forest fundraiser attracts notable developers

David Mildenberg on February 2015 at 11:30:00 am 
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With North Carolina’s politicians back in Raleigh, the money-raising game for 2016 elections is already picking up. We saw an emailed invitatLt. Gov. Dan Forestion from Lt. Gov. Dan Forest to a fundraiser on Feb. 11 at the Raleigh home of Jim and Helen Cain. Co-chairs, who were asked to contribute $5,000, are Jim Anthony, 
Cliff Benson Jr., 
Pat & Anne Gavaghan, 
Tom & Mary Vande Guchte
, Bob Luddy, 
Chad Price
, Christopher & Michele Stone, 
Ed White and 
Steve & Anne Yager. Among the “hosts,” asked to put up at least $2,500, include John M. Kane, 
Joe & Sarah Knott
, Julian W. "Bubba" Rawl, 
Kieran Shanahan
, Tim Smith
 and Steve Stroud
. A minimum contribution of $500 is listed.

Legislators stripped most of the powers from the lieutenant governor many years ago, but Forest is on various state boards and clearly has bigger ambitions. He won the lieutenant governor’s race in 2012 by only 7,000 votes — Gov. Pat McCrory won by more than 500,000 — so compiling a war chest for 2016 from many of the state's best-known developers and business executives makes sense.

Forest, 47, has an architecture degree from UNC Charlotte and was a senior partner at Charlotte-based Little Diversified Architectural Consulting. His mother, Sue Myrick, spent 18 years in Congress representing the Charlotte area before retiring in 2013.


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Up Front: Turning a page

David Kinney, editor in chief on January 2015 at 9:00:00 am 
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I started work here two days before Christmas 1985 — which happened to be my son’s 16th birthday — but my first Up Front column didn’t appear until the May 1987 issue, after I became editor. This will be my last. Ben — now 45 and the magazine’s publisher — and I are selling the business. He’ll run it for the new owners; I’m retiring.

It’s time. I turn 66 this spring, and nearly three decades in a job should be enough for anyone. Plus, this puts Business North Carolina in good hands — and not just because they’re the kind that can slide into deeper pockets than the narrow one binding my billfold to my butt. The buyer is Old North State Magazines LLC, formed by the five men who own The Pilot LLC, which publishes the newspaper in Southern Pines and local magazines there and in Greensboro and Wilmington. Three are members of the family that owned the Raleigh News & Observer for 101 years — and this magazine for 13 of those. Talk about meet the new boss, same as the old boss: This, in effect, makes the third time that Frank Daniels Jr., the group’s majority investor, has bought BNC.

He was president of The News and Observer Publishing Co. when it acquired the 4-year-old magazine just weeks before I arrived. And not only did he back me when I bought it in 1998, but the wherewithal came from shares in the parent company I got before it was sold to the McClatchy chain three years earlier. He stuck with us until 2006, when we bought out him and another minority partner — retired McClatchy Chairman and CEO Erwin Potts.

Every one of Frank Jr.’s partners also has ties to the magazine. His son, Frank III, was publisher from 1987 to ’89, when he returned to Raleigh and that title was added to mine. Nephew David Woronoff — now publisher of The Pilot — worked here from 1991 to ’96 in several roles, including special projects manager. Jack Andrews was the N&O’s vice president for subsidiaries when we were one. Lee Dirks brokered the sale of the company, including the magazine, to McClatchy.

These guys know their business and, more important, know Business North Carolina. I trust them. They will be good stewards of the magazine, which provides them an established, respected brand and a statewide footprint to build upon. As David, manager of the group’s limited-liability companies, notes, “Our core purpose has always been to serve our community, and we accomplish that by producing world-class publications. With the acquisition of Business North Carolina, we’re able to expand our community from Currituck to Cherokee and all 98 counties in between.”

In closing, let’s not forget those, the names too many to mention, who have invested something more precious than capital in this venture. Working for only a paycheck, they provided the labor, talent, creativity and skill that made the magazine the best of its kind anywhere — sweat equity that forever holds title to my respect, admiration and gratitude.

This staff photograph accompanied the first Up Front column in 1987. You're reading the last one under that editor's byline.


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Opinion: NC's refusal to expand Medicaid leaves 1.5 million people without coverage

Dr. Yele Aluko on January 2015 at 2:00:00 pm 
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Healthcare reform affected every citizen in the United States in some way, yet little is understood when it comes to the intricate details of the Affordable Care Act, commonly called Obamacare. The law’s intent was to give all Americans access to quality healthcare that’s affordable, while slowing the growth of healthcare costs. While the national conversation has trended toward universal healthcare as the ultimate goal, the local conversation has been very different in North Carolina, where about 1.5 million residents remain uninsured—500,000 of whom would qualify for Medicaid.

Over a year since the effective date of ACA and four years since being signed into law, some of North Carolina’s neediest residents still lack access to health-care coverage. Many are uninsured because our state legislators refuse to expand Medicaid, the nation’s publicly funded health coverage program for low-income Americans and a key component for coverage expansion.

Originally, the ACA required that every state expand their Medicaid program to include everyone earning up to 138% of the federal poverty level. In 2014, that meant an individual with an income of $15,856 or a family of four with an income of $32,499. This would have provided coverage to 19 million of the 48 million uninsured Americans. If states chose not to expand Medicaid, then the law stipulated they would lose all Medicaid funding. As a result, 26 states sued, and the Supreme Court ruled this provision of the law unconstitutional, giving states the option not to expand.

North Carolina remains one of 16 Republican-led states that refuses to expand Medicaid, raising questions as to its partisan agenda to deny coverage. By doing so, it’s created a “coverage gap.” This includes poor residents who don’t earn enough to buy health insurance from the exchange but still make too much to qualify for Medicaid. North Carolina’s decision has been made irrespective of the needs of its citizens and the overall health of our communities and nation.

Medicaid expansion provides federal funds for states to finance expanded eligibility options for its citizens. According to a recent Urban Institute study, for every dollar a state invests in Medicaid expansion, $13.41 in federal aid would flow into the state over a 10-year period (2013-2022). In North Carolina, this totals $39.6 billion in lost federal dollars.

Besides the financial consequences, refusing Medicaid expansion is predicted to adversely affect the health of those affected . Low-income women will forego recommended breast and cervical cancer screening; diabetics will forego medications; and all low-income adults will face a greater likelihood of depression, catastrophic medical expenses and death.

The 1.5 million people left without healthcare in North Carolina present ongoing limitations for access to healthcare and an escalating public health burden to the state. While all of North Carolina will be affected by this decision, our rural communities will be hit the hardest. Twenty % of the people in western North Carolina have no form of health insurance. About 110,000 people in western North Carolina would have qualified for Medicaid through the expansion, according the the Carolina Public Press (2013).

For the remaining states without expansion, the Urban Institute reports 6.7 million residents are projected to remain uninsured in 2016 as a result, and these states are losing $423.6 billion in federal Medicaid funds from 2013 to 2022. North Carolina could see revenue from the broader economic effects of the Medicaid expansion, such as increased jobs, state income and tax revenues within the healthcare sector due to spending. Indeed, states that accepted Medicaid expansion have received billions in federal funding and have reported local job and economic growth. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services projects that hospitals in states with Medicaid expansion would save $4.2 billion in 2015 in uncompensated care costs.

North Carolina needs to reverse its position. Medicaid expansion is needed to preserve the well-being of our working class, to protect the health of North Carolinians, and to promote the growth of our economy. The North Carolina General Assembly’s decision to forego Medicaid expansion has led to missed opportunities for the state. It has sent the wrong message to the citizens of North Carolina, Republicans and Democrats alike.

-Contributed by Dr. Yele Aluko, MD, MBA

Dr. Aluko is a Fellow of the American College of Cardiology and Senior Vice President at Novant Health in Charlotte



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Wilmington's nCino makes Forbes 'Most Promising Companies' list

Courtney Price on January 2015 at 10:30:00 am 
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Wilmington-based nCino Inc. was the only North Carolina business to make Forbes' recent list of America's Most Promising Companies. nCino ranked 93rd on the list, which includes private companies generating less than $300 million annually and considers revenue growth, employee growth, capital raised and management, among other factors.

nCino sells software to banks to help them reduce loan paperwork. The company's CEO, Pierre Naudé, projects $50 million in annual sales by 2018, compared with $6.5 million in 2014 (Statewide, December). Employment has climbed to about 100 from 18 two years ago as banks in 19 states have bought nCino’s products. It spawned out of Wilmington-based Live Oak Bank, founded by Chip Mahan, who saw the potential for selling the software to other banks. Live Oak specializes in U.S. Small Business Administration loans, a niche that has made it the state’s most profitable bank, based on return on assets and equity (“Big Gains for Small Banks,” June)

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