From Tuesday's 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.”
He said the proposed bill seemed to “be at a disconnect” with plans announced by Gov. Pat McCrory to turn the Commerce Department into a public/private partnership.
Scott Hamilton, president and CEO of AdvantageWest, learned about the move to abolish his agency only after the Senate Commerce Committee approved the measure Friday. An earlier version of the bill didn’t include that provision.
The economic development agency headquartered at Asheville Regional Airport received $1 million in state money this year, nearly half of its $2.2 million budget.
With nine full-time employees and two contract workers, the partnership oversees business recruitment in the 23 counties of Western North Carolina.
Along with AdvantageWest, Brown’s bill specifically mentions the Southeast Regional Economic Development Partnership in Elizabethtown, Eastern Region in Kinston and Northeast Commission in Edenton.
The state’s three urban partnerships in Charlotte, the Piedmont Triad and the Research Triangle Park, are already nonprofits funded through private industry and would not be affected by the proposed law.
Brown told the Senate Commerce Committee last week that the commissions are all structured and funded differently and that they provide only a small percentage of economic development leads.