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Lawmakers get update on far-reaching new economic development plans

State lawmakers on Thursday heard an update from Commerce Secretary Sharon Decker on its massive reorganization, which will create public-private partnerships to boost the economy around the state.

Decker told the Joint Legislative Economic Development and Global Engagement Oversight Committee that the new entity will be in operation early next year. She is in the process of hiring a chief executive officer for what will be the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina.

Legislators budgeted $1 million to set up the new entity. Programs will be split between public and private sector programs. The private sector programs will be overseen by a 15-member board, comprised of appointments by the governor and General Assembly.

Decker names new rural chief at commerce

Patricia Mitchell has been named assistant secretary of commerce for rural economic development.

She will oversee the newly created Rural Economic Development Division, which includes three programs being transferred from the N.C. Rural Economic Development Center. These programs will be used to provide assistance for building reuse and restoration, water and seer infrastructure and economic innovation in rural communities.

Mitchell is an adjunct faculty member at Appalachian State University, Nova Southeastern University and N.C. State University. Mitchell served on the N.c. Rural Economic Development Center Board of Directors from 2007-2013.

"We're excited that Pat Mitchell will lead our efforts to promote economic growth in rural counties across North Carolina,'' said Commerce Secretary Sharon Decker. "Governor McCrory and I are committed to supporting our rural communities through targeted investments that create jobs and improve key infrastructure.''

McCrory to create manufacturing post

Gov. Pat McCrory Tuesday announced the creation of a new assistant commerce secretary for manufacturing.

McCrory said the post was designed to be an advocate for manufacturing within state government policy circles.

Appearing at the Emerging Issues Forum in which manufacturing was the key topic, McCrory said his administration will emphasize fostering manufacturing in the state as part of its efforts to reduce the state's high unemployment rate.

He noted that his father, a mechanical engineer, moved to North Carolina to work for a manufacturing plant.

SGR's Josh Ellis to join commerce department

Another one bites the dust: state capital correspondent Josh Ellis is leaving his position at State Government Radio on Nov. 4 to join the N.C. Department of Commerce as a press flak.

Ellis, whose constant presence at the legislative building makes him a leading source of statehouse news, will start his new job Nov. 7. His official title at commerce: "Information & Communications Specialist II."

His defection -- and we say it mostly in gest -- is the latest from N.C. capital press corps to the government ranks. Mark Johnson and Ben Niolet, former reporters for The Charlotte Observer and The News & Observer, now work in Gov. Bev Perdue's communications office. The N&O's Ray Martin also left to work in Republican Senate President Phil Berger's press office.

State Government Radio is owned by the Curtis Media Group and feeds radio stations across the state. A representative at the company said they haven't decided yet about whether to fill Ellis' position.

What is the JDIG program?

Answer: 

The Job Development Investment Grant program gives annual cash grants to businesses that relocate or expand in North Carolina.

The program was signed into law by Gov. Mike Easley on Oct. 31, 2002, and became effective Jan. 1, 2003. It has been amended in 2003 and 2006.

Between 2004 and 2007, the committee promised more than $200 million in grants to companies such as Google, GlaxoSmithKline and Dell Computer, in exchange for pledges of more than 20,000 jobs.

The grants are paid over as many as a dozen years. Companies must meet specific hiring and other criteria each year before the grant is given. By law, a business can create as few as 10 new jobs to qualify, but typically it's at least 100. 

The grants are approved by Economic Investment Committee, a five-member panel.

The governor appoints three people on committee: The secretaries of the state departments of Commerce and Revenue and the director of the Office of State Budget and Management. The other two are appointed by the Speaker of the House and the president pro tem of the Senate.

The committee decides on grants in closed-door sessions, though the final approval is done in an open meeting and the public can weigh in before each payment is made.

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