Life on the EDGE: Economic Development in North Carolina

    by CLC Staff

    The Joint Legislative Economic Development and Global Engagement Oversight Committee (or “EDGE” as it is referred to in the halls of the Legislative Building) met on Thursday to watch presentations from legislative staff, executive branch leaders, economic development officials, and the CEO of a leading “waste-to-value” technology company.

    After the customary staff introductions and housekeeping items, Committee Chairman Jason Saine opened the meeting by recognizing Committee Counsel Nicholas Giddings, who shared with the attendees the purpose and charge of the committee (the full text of which can be found in General Statute 120-70.131): to “examine on a continuing basis economic development and global engagement issues and strategies in North Carolina in order to make ongoing recommendations to the General Assembly on ways to promote cost-effective economic development initiatives, economic growth, and stimulating job creation in the global economy.”

    The first presentation, which was on development factors and tier designations, was by Jeffrey DeBellis, Director of the Labor and Economic and Policy Analysis Division (LEAD) at the N.C. Department of Commerce.

    One may see and download his presentation materials here.

    Next up was Gene McLaurin, Chairman of the Board of Directors at the Economic Development Partnership of NC (EDPNC) and a former member of the North Carolina State Senate. The EDPNC, the private partner in this public-private partnership with the state, was created a decade ago “to bring some private sector practices into economic development here in North Carolina,” said McLaurin. Its stated mission is to focus “on recruiting new businesses to the state, supporting the needs of existing businesses, connecting exporters to global customers, helping small business owners get their start, and attracting tourists and visitors from all over the world.”

    The EDPNC has a 17-member board, with nine members (including the chair) being appointed by the Governor and eight being appointed by the General Assembly (four appointed by the Speaker of the House and four appointed by the President Pro Tempore of the Senate).

    McLaurin then handed it over to Austin Rouse, Director of Business Recruitment at the EDPNC, who spoke on alternatives to the system of economic development tier designations:

    Following Rouse was Chris Hare, CEO of PRTI, a Franklinton, NC-based Product Recovery Technology International, Inc. (PRTI) which specializes in converting old tires into energy.

    “Most of the tires in the world end up in a hole in the ground called a landfill. A few percent get incinerated (and) a very small amount get used for some other purposes, many of which have environmental or health challenges” said Hare during his presentation. “So that’s kind of a big deal. Another way to look at a tire is that every vehicle tire in the world has approximately the energy value of three gallons of oil.”

    PRTI converts old tires into fuel.

    “We’re basically cooking tires,” explained Hare. “We’re not burning tires. That’s a very unsubtle difference. When you burn something, you consume the energy.”

    Over the last five years, PRT has processed over 50 million pounds of tires, One may see and download Hare’s presentation materials here.

    Finishing up the presentations to Thursday’s committee meeting was Jennifer Ford, a fiscal analyst with the General Assembly’s non-partisan Fiscal Research Division. She provided a thorough and interesting overview of the economic development process in North Carolina, including which agencies are involved with it and the programs which administer them, including the:

    1. The Job Development Investment Grant (JDIG), the state’s signature economic development program;
    2. The Job Maintenance and Capital Development Fund (JMAC), which is aimed solely at job retention;
    3. The Utility Account, a public infrastructure grant program to North Carolina’s most economically distressed counties;
    4. The One North Carolina Fund, a cash grant program to local governments to recruit, expand, and retain new and existing businesses to the state;
    5. The Film and Entertainment Grant Fund, which offers financial rebates of up to 25% on qualifying expenses for the production of movies, TV shows, and commercials in the state;
    6. The eSports Entertainment Fund, a relatively new program which also offers financial rebates of up to 25% on qualifying expenses for the production of eSports (video game) events;
    7. Rural Grant Programs made to local governments in Tier 1 or Tier 2 counties and rural census tracts in Tier 3 counties;
    8. The Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), a federal program administered by the North Carolina Department of Commerce in three categories: neighborhood revitalization, economic development, and rural community development; and
    9. The 1NC Small Business Program, which provides matching and incentive funds (from the federal government) to companies applying for federal programs.

    One may see and download Ford’s presentation materials here.

    The author would like to thank Kelsey E. Lewis at the General Assembly’s Legislative Library for her assistance in providing the audio of the committee meeting.