Family Dollar delays Dollar Tree acquisition vote

Courtney Price on December 2014 at 3:00:00 pm 
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Family Dollar Stores Inc. on Tuesday delayed its stockholders' vote on the proposed acquistion by Chesapeake, Va.-based Dollar Tree Inc. after there were insufficient votes at the time of the meeting. The meeting was adjourned until Jan. 22.

The Matthews-based company agreed to an $8.5 billion deal in July with Dollar Tree, which will pay $74.50 per share. Family Dollar has declined an offer from Goodlettsville, Tenn.-based Dollar General Corp. for $9.1 billion, citing potential antitrust issues. Dollar General extended its offer on Tuesday to expire Jan. 30.

Tuesday's delay came a day after a Delaware court denied a request to block the shareholders' vote.

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N.C. Medicaid expansion has big benefits, study says

David Mildenberg on December 2014 at 3:15:00 pm 
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North Carolina could add 43,000 jobs and boost the economy by more than $10 billion by 2020 if the state expands Medicaid eligibility to as many as 480,000 people over the next two years, according to a report by researchers at George Washington University. The report was funded by Greensboro-based Cone Health Foundation and the Winston-Salem-based Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust.

The Republican-dominated North Carolina General Assembly, along with peers in many other states, have thwarted plans to make Medicaid available to people with income of 133% of the federal poverty level because of concerns over the long-term costs once federal support for the program wanes.

Hospital groups have pushed for expansion, contending that enrolling more low-income people in the federal plan saves money by promoting more healthy living and averting emergency room visits.

Cone Health Foundation, affiliated with the nonprofit Cone Health network of hospitals and medical practices, has more than $100 million in assets, according to its website. The Winston-Salem-based Reynolds trust, formed by the wife of a former R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. chairman with a mission of assisting financially needy North Carolinians, has assets of more than $550 million.

“We have some of the most restrictive Medicaid eligibility requirements in the country, so hundreds of thousands of low-income North Carolinians will benefit if the program expands,” Susan Shumaker, president of Cone Health Foundation, said in a statement. “The decision not to expand the program impacts all of us, not just those who are struggling to access the care they need to stay healthy. It has already also cost jobs and billions of dollars, and will continue to do so.”

About 18% of North Carolina citizens lack health insurance. If the state doesn’t expand Medicaid, it will be turning down more than $21 billion in federal funds between 2016 and 2020, according to Leighton Ku, a public health expert at George Washington and the lead author of the report. As part of the program North Carolina would need to spend $1.7 billion to cover the newly insured.

Making more people eligible for Medicaid would boost spending on construction, food service and other sectors by tens of billions of dollars, offsetting higher medical costs, Ku said.

The report, which includes the impact on each of North Carolina’s 100 counties, is available at

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Brunswick Co. builder named chair of ports board

David Mildenberg on December 2014 at 5:15:00 pm 
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Gov. Pat McCrory has named building contractor Tom Adams of Brunswick County chairman of the North Carolina State Ports Authority board of directors. He succeeds Mike Lee, a Wilmington lawyer who left the board this summer after being appointed to the N.C. Senate, replacing Thom Goolsby, who resigned.  Lee was elected in November to a four-year term.  

Adams is president and CEO of Adams Building and Consulting Company LLC.  Former House Speaker Thom Tillis appointed him to the ports authority in January.

Board membership includes N.C. Secretary of Transportation Tony Tata, six members appointed by the governor and four appointed by the General Assembly.  The governor selects the chairman and the vice chairman.  

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Pantry gains as oil slides

David Mildenberg on December 2014 at 5:10:00 pm 
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Lower gas prices are great news for drivers and investors in convenience-store operator The Pantry, which gained 4.4% Wednesday a day after reporting soaring profits. The gain came on the same day the Standard & Poor's 500 Index slid 1.6%, its worst daily showing in seven weeks.

Convenience stores benefit when customers spend less on gas, leaving more money to spend on food, beverages, cigarettes and other staples.

Cary-based Pantry reported earnings on Tuesday of $15.4 million for the fourth quarter ended Sept. 25, or 66 cents per share, beating average analyst estimates by 20 cents. (The earnings excluded three cents per share of impairment charges.) A year earlier the company earned $1.4 million, or 6 cents per share.

Revenue declined 3% from a year earlier to $1.96 billion, about $20 million less than estimates.

Pantry shares have doubled in the past year, trading as high as $29.19 this week. They closed Wednesday at $28.47.

Pantry operates about 1,500 stores in 13 states, mostly under the Kangaroo Express brand.

The S&P 500 has declined 2.4% over the past three trading days, but has gained 9.6% so far this year.


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North Carolina metro-area unemployment tumbles

David Mildenberg on December 2014 at 1:25:00 pm 
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The North Carolina job market has recovered dramatically over the past year, according to new statistics. Twelve of North Carolina’s 14 larger metropolitan areas had unemployment rates of 6% or less in October, compared with only three a year ago, according to the North Carolina Department of Commerce. The rates were not seasonally adjusted.

The biggest changes over the past year, with the unemployment rate declining by at least two percentage points, occurred in Fayetteville, Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton and Rocky Mount. Regions with the lowest rates are Asheville, 4.1%, Durham-Chapel Hill, 4.5% and Raleigh-Cary, 4.5%. The highest rates are in Rocky Mount, 8.1%, and Fayetteville, 6.5% – the only metro areas above 6% — according to the department’s labor and economic analysis division.

The October rate in Charlotte-Gastonia is 5.6%, compared with 7.3% a year earlier. Greensboro-High Point came in at 5.7%, while Winston-Salem was 5.1%.

Several smaller cities and rural areas have higher unemployment rates, including Laurinburg, 10.2%; Henderson, 8.2%; and Roanoke Rapids, 8.2%.

About 4.42 million workers were employed in the state in October, a gain of about 76,500 from the previous year. The number of unemployed declined by about 82,500.

The statewide rate, which is seasonally adjusted to reflect hiring patterns, was 6.3% in October, compared with a national rate of 5.8%. The November number will be reported on Dec. 19.

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Ryan Homes owner Schar donates $12 million to Elon

David Mildenberg on December 2014 at 10:00:00 am 
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Elon University received a record $12 million pledge from Dwight and Martha Schar of Palm Beach, Fla. Dwight Schar is founder and chairman of Reston, Va.-based NVR Inc., which operates Ryan Homes and NV Homes. The couple have a son who is in Elon's class of 2016 and another son who plans to enroll at the Alamance County university next year.

The Schars' donation will be used to build a two-story, 45,000-square-foot building for the School of Communications. Money will also be used for construction of a convocation center.

Schar is a co-owner of the Washington Redskins football team. At his alma mater, Ashland University in Ashland, Ohio, the athletic complex, education school and nursing school are named in his honor, reflecting his philanthropy.

Schar founded NV Homes in 1979 and took the company public in 1986. After acquiring Ryan Homes in 1986, the heavily indebted company filed for bankruptcy reorganization in 1992, according to Forbes magazine.

Schar controls about $88 million of NVR shares, according to Yahoo Finance. The company's shares have advanced 22% this year and NVR has a market capitalization of $5.1 billion.

Elon was founded in 1889 and has about 6,500 students, including 5,800 undergraduates. About 59% of the students are female, according tot he college's website.





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Eshelman donates $100 million to UNC

Courtney Price on December 2014 at 5:00:00 pm 
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Fred Eshelman, founder and former CEO of Wilmington-based Pharmaceutical Product Development LLC, pledged a $100 million donation to the Eshelman School of Pharmacy at UNC Chapel Hill, his alma mater. It was the largest individual donation the university has ever received and the largest ever made to a pharmacy school in the United States.

The donation will create the Eshelman Institute for Innovation, which will promote research and encourage entrepreneurship, UNC Chancellor Carol Folt said at a Wednesday announcement. Folt has been leading an effort to increase private funding at UNC.

Eshelman founded PPD in 1985 as a one-man startup. It was sold in 2011 for $3.9 billion to two private equity companies, Washington, D.C.-based The Carlyle Group and San Francisco-based Hellman & Friedman. In 2010, PPD spun off Morrisville-based Furiex Pharmaceuticals Inc., which was sold in July to Forest Laboratories Inc., a subsidiary of Dublin-based Actavis, in a deal valued at about $1.1 billion.

The pharmacy school was named for Eshelman in 2008. He has donated $38 million to the school since 2003.

The school enrolls approximately 650 students in its professional degree program, more than 100 students in its graduate program and has more than 100 full-time faculty members.

“In the past 10 years, the school has generated more than 130 patents and created 15 spin-off companies,” said Eshelman, who has been a member of the school’s Board of Visitors for more than a decade and has lectured at the school as an adjunct faculty member. “Their success demonstrates the power and the future of drug discovery in academia, and it’s a future that I am eager and proud to support.”

The UNC pharmacy school is second among the nation’s pharmacy schools in total federal research funding and specifically in National Institutes of Health funding, according to a news release about the donation.

Eshelman earlier this year urged North Carolina's political leaders to invest more money in the state's university system. He is president and a key contributor to Wilmington-based, a political group that supports Republican Party candidates.


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Raleigh incubator expanding to Greensboro

David Mildenberg on December 2014 at 2:30:00 pm 
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Raleigh-based business incubator HQ Raleigh, which hosts more than 90 companies at its downtown Raleigh offices, is expanding to Greensboro in a partnership with Gate City developer Andy Zimmerman.

The new HQ Greensboro is scheduled to open in May at a 10,000-square-foot building at 111 W. Lewis St. in downtown Greensboro. The aim will be to promote more ties between the Triangle and Triad regions and spur entrepreneurship. The building, built in 1898 for a wagon company, will include more than 20 offices and three or four conference rooms.

"This partnership will create an ideal environment to foster increased collaboration and idea collision, as well as cross-state opportunities for economic growth," says Christopher Gergen, co-founder of HQ Raleigh.

Co-founders of HQ Greensboro are Zimmerman, Ryan Barry, Ken Causey and April Harris. 

The two entities have agreed to allow HQ Raleigh companies to gain access to collaborative space at HQ Greensboro and vice versa.

HQ Raleigh was founded in October 2012 by Gergen, Jason Widen, Brooks Bell and Jesse Lipson.

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Decker resigns commerce post

Courtney Price on December 2014 at 12:36:00 pm 
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Sharon Decker, secretary of the N.C. Department of Commerce, will step down effective Dec. 31, Gov. Pat McCrory announced Tuesday. John Skvarla, secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, was appointed to the post.

Decker became commerce secretary when McCrory took office in January 2013. Since then, North Carolina has gained more than 150,000 jobs, according to a news release from the governor’s office. She also helped create the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina, a nonprofit focused on recruiting businesses and helping existing companies expand.

The (Raleigh) News & Observer reports that Decker said in June that her services had been requested elsewhere but that she planned to stick with her current post through the transition to the public-private partnership. On Monday the partnership announced its new CEO hire, Christopher Chung, who has run a similar economic-development agency in Missouri.

Skvarla worked as an attorney in Raleigh before joining the McCrory administration in 2013. He has led his department as it oversaw regulations related to Duke Energy Corp.'s coal ash troubles as well as the state's permitting of hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas production. In both instances he’s drawn fire from environmental groups for being too lenient on businesses. The governor’s news release praised Skvarla for leading the effort to create the toughest coal ash law in the nation.

The governor’s office praised Decker in its news release, which didn't include comments from her. Decker, who is also a Presbyterian lay minister, will return to the private sector. Decker worked for Duke Energy for 17 years earlier in her career.

In a Business North Carolina story about Decker in June 2013, she said, “I serve in a governor’s administration that would not ask me to compromise what I believe to be true. Will that mean I will agree with every decision? No. But if I reach a point I can’t wake up and look in the mirror in the morning, I won’t do it anymore.”

Skvarla has shown a willingness to work with businesses. In February 2013, Skvarla told the Associated Press that some state regulators had been too zealous in defense of the environment and to the detriment of business.

"We are a service agency. We are not to be an obstacle of bureaucratic resistance,” Skvarla told AP. "Our job is to take (a business) by the hand and determine how quickly we can get to the outcome within the confines of the rules and regulations."

Decker and Skvarla will remain at their current positions through the end of the year. A search has begun to fill Skvarla’s position.

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State adds new industry hunter

David Mildenberg on December 2014 at 5:45:00 pm 
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The new Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina hired a senior Missouri industry recruiter as its leader.

Christopher Chung, 38, comes from the Missouri Partnership, a public-private entity formed in 2007 that is credited with recruiting 78 companies and more than 10,000 jobs since 2010. Projects include expansions by Armonk, N.Y.-based IBM Corp. and roofing manufacturer GAF, based in Wayne, N.J.

“He is widely respected in the industry and experienced using the public-private approach, and he has proven he can create jobs and opportunities,” Gov. Pat McCrory said in a statement. Development Counsellors International, a New York-based economic-development consulting firm, named Chung one of the recruiting industry’s “Top 40 Under 40” in 2013.

Chung will succeed interim CEO Richard Lindenmuth, who will remain as a consultant for special projects, according to the governor's statement.

North Carolina lawmakers created the new partnership, a nonprofit corporation, to take on many of the recruiting and marketing tasks formerly handled by the N.C. Department of Commerce.

In Missouri, Chung worked for the administration of Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat. McCrory and North Carolina’s top legislative leaders are Republicans.

Missouri ranked 31st on Forbes magazine’s latest list of best states for business, receiving low marks for its overall economic climate and growth prospects. North Carolina ranked third.

Chung has degrees in economics and Japanese from Ohio State University.

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N.C. Railroad Co. investing $13 million

David Mildenberg on November 2014 at 5:45:00 pm 
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The North Carolina Railroad Co.’s board approved more than $13 million in improvements to its system as part of a six-year plan to spend $60 million. The moves follow a strategic plan adopted in 2013 to increase the company’s economic development efforts.

Since 2000 the railroad has invested more than $80 million in capital projects. (On down the line, February 2014 cover story.)

The largest project among those approved by the board is $5.4 million for improving tracks and sidings in Cabarrus and Mecklenburg counties.

The company is a privately owned corporation with its stock owned by the state of North Carolina. Created in 1849, it manages 317 miles of track from Charlotte to Morehead City. The company is governed by a 13-member, all-male board of directors.


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Unemployment rate declines to 6.3% in October

Courtney Price on November 2014 at 3:45:00 pm 
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North Carolina's unemployment rate fell to 6.3% in October, 0.4 percentage points below September's rate of 6.7%, and average earnings declined slightly, according to a report from the N.C. Department of Commerce. The rate has declined 1.2 points over the past year, though it remains above the national rate of 5.8%.

The state had 4.18 million employed in nonfarm, seasonally adjusted jobs, exceeding the pre-recession high of 4.17 million in February 2008, according to a release from Gov. Pat McCrory. The state's employment declined for 24 consecutive months, bottoming at 3.84 million in February 2010.

Over the past year total state employment has increased 28,447, the Commerce Department said. About 294,000 people are unemployed, or about 55,000 fewer than a year ago.

Education and health services added 6,100 jobs, while leisure-hospitality services and government each added 3,500. Financial activities reported a decline of 2,000 jobs.

Preliminary numbers show average hourly earnings fell 8 cents to $16.59, while average weekly hours dropped 18 minutes. Average weekly earnings fell $8.49 to $723.32.





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Zapata expansion to add 35 jobs

Courtney Price on November 2014 at 11:45:00 am 
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Charlotte-based Zapata Inc. announced an expansion that is expected to create 35 jobs over two years. The architecture, engineering and construction management firm will grow its service areas, including additional locations in North Carolina.

The company will partner with LJB Inc., an engineering design firm based in Dayton, Ohio, to expand its public transportation engineering design services, according to a news release.

“Charlotte and other areas of North Carolina are in a pattern of tremendous growth,” Marty Ray, Zapata vice president of strategy and planning, said in a statement. “Our ability to support our communities and the state planners and engineers will be critical to North Carolina’s success for growing and attracting future investment.”

Zapata, which was founded in 1991 by former Duke Energy Corp. engineer Manuel Zapata, has mostly focused on federal work. This expansion represents a refocus on local and regional needs, according to the company.

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Rockingham County draws $58 million in investments

Courtney Price on November 2014 at 10:40:00 am 
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Rockingham County commissioners and Eden City Council members agreed this week to provide incentives for two companies – SGRTEX LLC and Gildan Activewear Inc. – that plan investments that total more than $58 million and will add 100 jobs.

Gildan Activewear, an apparel company based in Montreal, Canada, plans to expand its Eden distribution center by adding $12.7 million in machinery and equipment and $10.4 million in building improvements, as well as 16 full-time jobs, according to a news release. The center has 310 full-time employees.

SGRTEX, an India-based textile company, announced plans in May to open a yarn-manufacturing plant in Eden, investing nearly $35.4 million over two phases and creating 84 full-time jobs, according to the release. It will be the company's first U.S. plant.

SGRTEX will receive payments of $635,261  from the county and $555,853  from the city. The company will be paid the incentives over a period of four years. The county agreed to pay Gildan $448,719, and the city will pay $392,629, also over four years. The deals require the companies to meet investment and job-creation targets before incentives are paid. 

Rockingham County is in north-central North Carolina, bordering Virginia. Its county seat is Wentworth and largest cities are Eden and Reidsville. The county's population is about 94,000.


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BNC Bancorp expands into Virginia

David Mildenberg on November 2014 at 9:45:00 am 
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BNC Bancorp., the High Point-based banking company backed by Aquiline Capital Partners, is making its biggest expansion by buying Roanoke, Va.-based Valley Financial Corp. for about $101.3 million in stock.

The move expands BNC into Virginia, where Valley operates nine branches in Roanoke and Salem. Including the Virginia bank’s $857 million in assets, Bank of North Carolina will have assets of $4.9 billion. Pending approval from regulators and stockholders expected by the second quarter of 2015, BNC will be the fourth largest North Carolina-based banking company, behind Charlotte-based Bank of America Corp., Winston-Salem-based BB&T Corp. and Raleigh-based First Citizens BancShares Inc.

BNC is paying about 1.7 times Valley’s book value and about 16 times its earnings per share, according to a statement from the company. The valuation is in the mid-range of similar-sized bank acquisitions over the past year, according to SNL Financial LLC data.

BNC has made a dozen acquisitions since 2010 in North Carolina and South Carolina, and its stock has more than doubled in the past two years. Because of its success in managing those acquisitions, industry analysts have said BNC has the best growth prospects of North Carolina’s larger independent banks. ("Fresh crop," June 2014).

Valley Financial was started in 1995 and ranks fourth in deposit market share in Roanoke, trailing large rivals Wells Fargo & Co., SunTrust Banks Inc. and BB&T. Roanoke investor George Logan is Valley’s largest shareholder, with a stake of more than 10%, according to Yahoo Finance.

Aquiline owned 1.5 million voting shares, or 7%, according to BNC's 2014 proxy. The New York-based investment company also owns 4.8 million nonvoting shares, which are convertible into an equal number of voting shares, the proxy says.


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Demand on the rise for NC tech jobs

Courtney Price on November 2014 at 4:45:00 pm 
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North Carolina employers showed more demand for technology jobs in October, with 6.2% more job openings compared with September, according to a report from Raleigh-based The Select Group, a staffing and recruitment company.

After seeing a low point of about 3,000 average daily postings at the beginning of 2014, openings have exceeded 3,500 since June and increased to 3,780 last month. 

The most demanded job categories in October were: systems engineer/support (1,020 average daily postings), IT management (750) and software development (710). Most demanded skills included Java (830), SQL (760) and Windows operating system (610).

Labor demand from most sectors increased in October, according to the report, but financial services and banking had fewer job openings. The national average increased 0.5% in October. 

Source: The Select Group

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Wilmington attracts 1,300 jobs

David Mildenberg on November 2014 at 6:00:00 pm 
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Vertex Rail Technologies LLC plans to make rail cars for transporting crude oil at a Wilmington plant that will employ as many as 1,300 people.

Vertex plans to invest $55 million to renovate the plant, which previously housed a crane-manufacturing business operated by Westport, Conn.-based Terex Corp., according to a statement from Gov. Pat McCrory’s office.

Vertex said it well be hiring assemblers and fitters, welders, painters and others for jobs that will pay an average of about $40,000 annually.

Vertex Rail CEO Donald Croteau is managing director of Middleborough, Mass.-based Vertex FD LLC, a fabricating company that employed 30 and had annual revenues of $67 million in its 2013 fiscal year, according to a September 2013 story in the Taunton Daily Gazette in Taunton, Mass.

Vertex said the plant is needed because of increased demand for rail cars by crude-oil exploration companies in Texas, North Dakota and other states.

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Economic development board members named

David Mildenberg on November 2014 at 3:30:00 pm 
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The Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina announced its 17-member board of directors, including nine people appointed by the governor and four each named by House Speaker Thom Tillis and Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger.

John Lassiter, president of Charlotte-based Carolina Legal Staffing, is chairman of the board and the sole representative from Mecklenburg County. Four members are from Wake County, including Jim Whitehurst, CEO of Raleigh-based Red Hat Inc. The group holds its first meeting Friday, Nov. 21.

The nonprofit, public-private partnership develops new business prospects and works with the N.C. Department of Commerce, which retains responsibility for job-creation incentives and state funding decisions.

The members are:

  • Marie Flow Arcuri, dealer principal, Flow Lexus in Winston-Salem and Greensboro. (Forsyth)
  • Charles Creighton, founder and CEO, Colony Tire Corp. (Chowan)
  • Bill Graham, lawyer and partner, Wallace & Graham. (Rowan)
  • Michael Hawkins, president, Pisgah Enterprises. (Transylvania)
  • John Kane, founder and CEO, Kane Realty Corp. (Wake)
  • Vimal Kolappa, entrepreneur and founder, East Coast Hospitality. (Beaufort)
  • John Lassiter, president, Carolina Legal Staffing. Board Chairman. (Mecklenburg)
  • Thomas Looney, vice president and general manager, Lenovo North America. (Wake)
  • Pleas McMichael, retired textile executive and exporter. (Rockingham)
  • Melanie McNamara, founder and CEO, Absolute Style Furniture. (Guilford)
  • Caleb Miles, president and CEO, Convention & Visitors Bureau, Pinehurst/Southern Pines/Aberdeen. (Moore)
  • R. Doyle Parrish, CEO, Summit Hospitality Group. (Wake)
  • Sheila Pierce, executive director, Jacksonville Onslow Economic Development. (Onslow)
  • Robert Singer, lawyer and partner, Brooks Pierce McLendon Humphrey & Leonard. (Guilford)
  • Julie Spiro, executive director, Jackson County Chamber of Commerce. (Jackson)
  • Jeffery Turner, executive vice president and COO, Murphy Family Ventures. (Lenoir)
  • Jim Whitehurst, president and CEO, Red Hat. (Wake)
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Forbes ranks NC third best state for business

Courtney Price on November 2014 at 11:45:00 am 
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North Carolina moved up a spot to No. 3 in Forbes’ annual study of the best states for business for 2014.

Utah was No. 1 in the ranking, followed by North Dakota. Virginia, last year's top-ranked state, fell to fourth.

Forbes’ ranking looks at business costs, labor supply, regulatory environment, economic climate, growth prospects and quality of life. Business costs, which include labor, energy and taxes, are weighted the most heavily. North Carolina’s labor costs are 16% below the national average, Forbes reported. 

The state’s unemployment rate has declined from a peak of 11.3% in early 2010 to 6.7% in September, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Read more about the national rankings at

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LabCorp makes $6.1 billion acquisition

David Mildenberg on November 2014 at 9:45:00 am 
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Laboratory Corp. of America Holdings, the Burlington-based drug testing company with a stock market value of about $9 billion, is buying medical research firm Covance Inc. for $6.1 billion in cash and stock, the companies said today.

LabCorp. will pay $105.12 for each share of Princeton, N.J.-based Covance, 32% more than the company’s closing price on Oct. 31.

LabCorp. said the combined company will make research more efficient and deliver results from clinical drug tests more quickly. The headquarters will remain in Burlington, while the Covance division will be based in Princeton, headed by Covance Chairman Joseph Herring.

LabCorp. Is North Carolina’s 11th largest public company with a stock market valuation of more than $9 billion. Shares increased 20% this year through Oct. 31.

Jim Powell started LabCorp predecessor Biomedical Laboratories in 1969 after graduating from Duke University's medical school. Biomedical was acquired by Switzerland-based Hoffmann-LaRoche AG in 1982 and the company, later named Roche Biomedical Laboratories, became the nation’s largest provider of lab tests for hospitals and physicians’ practices ("False positive," September 1997). LabCorp was formed in 1995 after the sale of Roche Biomedical to National Health Laboratories Holdings of La Jolla, Calif.

Corning Inc. spun off Covance in 1996. The company had revenues of more than $2.6 billion last year.



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Linamar plans $115 million expansion near Asheville

David Mildenberg on October 2014 at 10:17:00 am 
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Linamar Corp. plans to invest $115 million in its Arden plant near Asheville with plans to add 150 positions, according to a statement from the Economic Development Coalition of Asheville-Buncombe County. The expansion stems from a new product line for the plant, which Guelph, Ontario-based Linamar bought from Volvo Construction three years ago. A building renovation will start this year with hiring expected to begin in early 2015, according to the release. The expansion follows a 2012 announcement of plans to invest $75 million and add 250 jobs at the plant.

Linamar plans to make transmission gears for the automotive industry at the plant, which now employs about 200 people who make engine blocks for customers including Peoria, Ill.-based Caterpillar Inc.

“Linamar’s success elevates Asheville’s growing reputation as a national leader in advanced manufacturing," Paul Szurek, chairman of the Asheville-Buncombe coalition, said in the statement. "There are only a few plants in the world that can produce products with such refined tolerances. We are extremely pleased Asheville has been selected for this project."

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Honda Aircraft announces $19M expansion in Greensboro

Cathy Martin on October 2014 at 3:00:00 pm 
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With sales of its $4.5 million jet looking promising, Honda Aircraft Co. announced a $19 million expansion at its headquarters at Piedmont Triad International Airport in Greensboro.

The first HondaJet aircraft, a light corporate jet that can carry up to seven passengers, is expected to obtain FAA certification in early 2015. It has logged more than 2,000 hours of testing at more than 70 U.S. locations.

The expansion will increase its total space to more than 680,000 square feet and brings Honda’s total capital investment to $160 million. It includes a 49,968-square-foot expansion of its headquarters and a 24,405-square-foot hangar. Construction is expected to be complete in the second half of 2015.

The company, founded in 2006 as a subsidiary of Japan-based Honda Motor Co., opened a 90,000-square-foot maintenance and service center in 2013. Its 250,000-square-foot factory opened in 2010.

In February, the company employed about 900 workers. Honda Aircraft employs more than 1,200 workers and expects to add 150 more before customers take delivery, according to its statement.


Click here to take a look inside Honda Aircraft's Greensboro operation.

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Nearly 500 new jobs for Greenville

Cathy Martin on October 2014 at 3:15:00 pm 
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DPx Holdings B.V. will invest $159 million in an expansion of its Patheon pharmaceutical manufacturing plant in Greenville and will create 488 jobs by 2019. Average annual salary for the new jobs will exceed $54,000, higher than Pitt County’s $39,845.

DPx was formed earlier this year when Durham-based Patheon combined with Dutch vitamin-maker Royal DSM in a $2.6 billion deal. The Durham-based company employs about 1,680 in the state, including more than 1,000 here, and about 8,000 at 20 locations worldwide.

The company will receive $6.3 million in state grants if it meets job creation targets.

DPx's CEO is James Mullen, former CEO of Biogen Idec Pharmaceuticals Inc., one of the world's largest biotech companies. Its management team includes Gary Shope, chief of staff to the DPx executive committee and a former officer of the Research Triangle Park Foundation.

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Cowell named among world's top pension officials

David Mildenberg on October 2014 at 5:30:00 pm 
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North Carolina Treasurer Janet Cowell’s resume got a nice boost with the Sovereign Wealth Fund Institute ranking her 18th on its list of the world’s 100 most influential public investors.

The New York-based group studies public pensions and sovereign wealth funds and bases its ranking on fund size, investment performance and industry trends.

Cowell ranked fifth among U.S. investment officials on the list, which was topped by André Bourbannais, global head of private investments at the Canadian Pension Plan Investment Board. She was the second-highest ranked woman.

Cowell oversees the North Carolina Retirement Systems, the nation’s tenth largest public pension with $90 billion in assets. It provides retirement benefits for more than 900,000 people, including teachers and state employees.

Cowell, who is an elected official, outranked chief investment officers of neighboring states, both of whom are in appointed positions. Ron Schmitz of the Virginia Retirement System, was 22nd, while Hershel Harper of the South Carolina Retirement System Investment Commission was 86th.

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Carolinas come up short on Forbes 400

David Mildenberg on September 2014 at 2:30:00 pm 
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The annual Forbes 400 listing of the richest Americans shows how poorly North Carolina and South Carolina stack up when it comes to the richest billionaires.

North Carolina has three people on the list: SAS Inc. co-founders James Goodnight and John Sall and Charlotte investor C.D. “Dick” Spangler Jr. South Carolina has one: Anita Zucker, widow of Charleston investor Jerry Zucker, who died in 2008.

Almost 60% of the wealthiest live in the four most populous states. California, a tech hub, is home to 93 billionaires on Forbes’ list. Finance center New York has 65, Texas, 39, and Florida, 31. Texas has gas and oil, Florida has beaches, and neither state taxes income or dividends, providing a whopping subsidy for the wealthy.

By comparison, Illinois, Ohio and Pennsylvania, the nation’s fifth, sixth and seventh most populous states, have a combined 25  on the list. They each have income tax rates of at least 3%.

To make Forbes’ list, one needed a net worth of $1.55 billion this year, versus $1.3 billion in 2013. Yes, the rich are getting richer.

Having billionaires in a community matters — just ask anyone responsible for raising funds for everything from venture capital to the local food bank. It’s an organic process and one can’t mint billionaires. But the concentration of wealth — and the ensuing power — in the four biggest states is not a positive trend.


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U.S. economic outlook solid, PNC forecasters say

David Mildenberg on September 2014 at 3:30:00 pm 
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Investors can sleep soundly, two senior forecasters at PNC Financial Services told the bank’s customers in Charlotte today.

The U.S. stock market has been on a roll for five years and “there’s nothing to point to suggesting this thing is coming to an end,” Bill Stone, chief investment strategist at PNC Wealth Management, told the group assembled at Quail Hollow Club.

Stocks are trading at fair value, neither expensive nor cheap based on historic standards, he said, adding that the past three bull markets have lasted six, eight and 10 years.

PNC expects the U.S. economy to grow by 2.2% this year, 2.9% in 2015 and 2.6% in 2016, according to a company report. Unemployment should decline from 6.3% to 5.3% over the next two years, said Bill Adams, senior international economist for the Pittsburgh-based company, which is the second-largest U.S. regional bank with assets of $327 billion.

The best historic indicator of a pending recession is the spread between the yields of 10-year Treasury bills and 30-year Treasury bonds, Stone said. The past four recessions occurred after the spread declined to less than zero. The current spread is about 0.70%, or 70 basis points.

PNC bought Royal Bank of Canada’s Raleigh-based RBC Bank USA for $3.5 billion in 2012.

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Three Charlotte women on power ranking

David Mildenberg on September 2014 at 5:00:00 pm 
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Three women based in Charlotte rank among the nation’s 25 most powerful bankers, according to an annual report by the American Banker trade publication.

Bank of America Corp.’s Cathy Bessant, global technology and operations executive, is rated seventh, while Laura Schulte, president of eastern region community banking at San Francisco-based Wells Fargo Corp., is 19th. Andrea Smith, global head of human resources at Bank of America, is 22th. Bank of America is based in Charlotte, though the bank's CEO, Brian Moynihan, lives in Boston.

According to the trade publication, Bessant has more influence than Bank of America’s Anne Finucane, global chief strategy and marketing officer, who is 13th. She is based in Boston

Bessant told the publication her recently completed stint as president of the Foundation for the Carolinas helped her handle the stress of the financial crisis. The Charlotte-based community foundation had assets of $1.4 billion on July 31. "During the toughest years in banking I would have been lost if not for the offset of my civic work," she says. "Imagine the opportunity to go every other month and sit with important, caring, inspirational people. What a rejuvenation."


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Charlotte software company to create 603 jobs

Cathy Martin on September 2014 at 1:00:00 pm 
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AvidXchange, a Charlotte-based software company, said it will quadruple the size of its local workforce, adding 603 jobs to its existing 200 by the end of 2018.

Founded in 2000, the company provides automated accounts-payable systems to small- and mid-sized businesses.

The company will invest $21.4 million in a new, 115,000-square-foot headquarters at the NC Music Factory in uptown Charlotte.

The new jobs will pay an average annual salary of about $61,651, slightly higher than Mecklenburg County's $59,046, according to a press release from Gov. Pat McCrory's office.

“AvidXchange is deeply rooted in the Queen City, and as we continue to prosper, it is important for us to grow and contribute to the city that has supported us from our days as a small startup to the Inc. 5000’s 20th fastest-growing company in the Charlotte metropolitan area," CEO Michael Praeger said in the release.

AvidXchange employs more than 300 people in North Carolina, New Jersey and Georgia.

"The direct and indirect impact felt to our local economy as a result of the more than 600 jobs created will be significant,” Bob Morgan, Charlotte Chamber president and CEO, said in a statement.

The company could receive more than $7.5 million over 12 years from the state's Job Development Investment Grant program if it meets job creation goals.

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Raleigh clinical trials company plans IPO

David Mildenberg on September 2014 at 1:00:00 pm 
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Raleigh contract research organization PRA Health Sciences Inc. filed for a $375 million public offering, a year after Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. LP bought the company for $1.3 billion.

PRA, one of the largest clinical trials companies in the world, reported a $14 million loss on $712 million in revenue during the first half of 2014. KKR owns 99% of the shares after buying PRA in 2013 from Genstar Capital LLC, a San Francisco-based private equity company.

The company has 10,000 employees in more than 80 countries, running trials on experimental drugs for pharmaceutical companies.

PRA CEO Colin Shannon is a former executive at Wilmington-based Pharmaceutical Products Development LLC. He was paid $8.8 million last year, according to the IPO filing. Chief Financial Officer Linda Baddour, also formerly of PPD, received $5.86 million.

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The Facebook effect: $707 million in NC

Cathy Martin on September 2014 at 3:00:00 pm 
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Facebook Inc.'s Forest City data center, which employs fewer than 100 people, has had a $707 million economic impact since the Menlo Park, Calif.-based company started construction in 2010, according to a report prepared by Research Triangle Park-based RTI International. Much of the benefit stemmed from construction spending of $526 million, which includes data-center equipment, software and infrastructure at the 800,000-square foot facility that is about 75 miles west of Charlotte.

Forest City is one of three locations in the world where Facebook stores billions of photos, videos and comments from users. Other sites are in Prineville, Ore. and Lulea, Sweden, while a fourth is under construction in Altoona, Iowa.

The social-network service provider spent $17 million in operating expenditures in 2013, which supported 310 jobs and had a total statewide economic impact of $27 million.

Western North Carolina is home to other large data centers such as Google Inc. in Lenoir and Apple Inc. in Maiden, all drawn by the region's plentiful supply of electricity and relatively low costs.The Facebook site once housed a Burlington Industries Inc. textile mill and later, a boat manufacturer.

In July, Facebook announced a partnership with Tryon-based PANGAEA Internet and Rutherford County to provide free Wi-Fi access to homes of about 100 students in Forest City, where more than a third of residents had income below the federal poverty level between 2008 and 2012.

The company also has issued $450,000 in community grants to Rutherford County schools and nonprofits since 2011.



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Read more here: July, Facebook announceda partnership with Tryon-based PANGAEA Internet and the local government to provide free Wi-Fi access to homes of about 100 students in Forest City, where more than a third of residents had income below the federal poverty level between 2008 and 2012The company also has issued $450,000 in community grants to Rutherford County schools and nonprofits since 2011.


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