N.C. Senate bill may dissolve AdvantageWest, Citizen-Times reports

Part of North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory’s plans to turn the Department of Commerce into a public-private partnership that would be run like a business, Senate Bill 127 would mandate the dissolution of regional organizations like AdvantageWest and strip it of state funding. It passed a second reading in the Senate Monday night, May 13, by a 31-17 vote.

Earlier this spring, Gov. Pat McCrory announced plans to turn the North Carolina Department of commerce into a public-private partnership that would “run much as a public business would, with a board chaired by the governor and filled by a mix of government appointees and executives from the private sector,” WRAL reported on April 8.

The Asheville Citizen-Times reported on an element of that plan — the dissolution of regional economic-development organizations like AdvantageWest.

Based at the Asheville Regional Airport, the organization receives half its funding from the state. Chartered in 1994 by the North Carolina General Assembly, AdvantageWest covers a 23-county area of Western North Carolina. It’s “a nonprofit, public-private partnership whose primary focus is marketing the North Carolina mountains to corporations seeking to relocate or open a new facility, expand an existing business within our region, and those who might otherwise improve the quality of life for citizens within our region through activities such as filmmaking, entrepreneurship and tourism.”

AdvantageWest was a key player in such economic developments as getting New Belgium and Sierra Nevada to locate facilities near Asheville.

Senate Bill 127 “would force AdvantageWest and three other regional partnerships to disband or reorganize as nonprofits, losing their state funding,” the Asheville Citizen-Times reported on May 13.

Private companies would be able to pitch in toward economic development efforts, either to help pay staff salaries or toward incentives used to land new companies.

from the Asheville Citizen-Times

Senate Bill 127, sponsored by Sen. Harry Brown, R-Onslow, the Senate’s majority leader, would force AdvantageWest and three other regional partnerships to disband or reorganize as nonprofits, losing their state funding. The full Senate was scheduled to debate the bill Monday night.

That rural counties in the west could lose out to larger urban areas in the quest for new industries worried Tom Alexander, chairman of the board of AdvantageWest. “I don’t know how the Senate bill would address that discrepancy.” …

From the April 8 WRAL report:

Top advisers encouraged Gov. Pat McCrory to move toward privatizing the Commerce Department’s job recruiting operations in a white paper drafted a month before the Republican took office. Key among the advantages of a public-private partnership is the ability to pay job recruiters based on performance and reward those who recruit businesses to the state, wrote the authors, who now occupy top policy jobs in McCrory’s administration. McCrory publicly rolled out those plans in early April, although emails and documents obtained by WRAL News show plans to push for a conversion continued nonstop from his transition team through the early months of his administration.

As described in documents and interviews, the new public-private partnership would run much as a public business would, with a board chaired by the governor and filled by a mix of government appointees and executives from the private sector. Incentive grants would still have to be approved by a public body, but its unclear if or how open meetings and open records laws would attach to the new public-private entity.

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About Margaret Williams
Managing Editor Margaret Williams has been at Xpress since 1994. An Alabama native, she has lived in Western North Carolina since 1987.

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