Burlington, N.C. — Gov. Pat McCrory said Monday that he wants to create a nonprofit to handle North Carolina's economic development efforts.
The Partnership for Prosperity, headed by a board of directors that McCrory would chair, would oversee small business development, entrepreneurship, international investment, imports and exports and travel and tourism.
Commerce Secretary Sharon Decker said many details of the nonprofit won't be worked out until June, but McCrory said it will be more competitive than the current system, where state, regional and nonprofit efforts are not coordinated.
"The customer is very confused on how recruitment is actually being done because we have so many different voices speaking from North Carolina and it's not always the same message," he said. "It makes negotiations extremely difficult against other states."
The Division of Employment Security, which handles unemployment claims, won't be privatized under the proposal.
The nonprofit will leverage existing state funds to get the private sector more involved in economic development, McCrory and Decker said. Eventually, they said, less state money will be needed to run programs now handled by the Department of Commerce and regional groups that receive state funding.
“We have to be able to move faster, primarily in terms of job recruiting,” Decker said. “Our economic development efforts must also recognize that one size does not fit all, and the economies of all communities are important to us."
Privatization will mean big changes, and McCrory said he is already working with legislative leaders to craft the proposal, which could be introduced this week.
Bill Elmore, vice chairman of Coca-Cola Bottling Co. Consolidated, has volunteered to lead the restructuring in the coming months. His group will meet with and seek input from various business groups and North Carolina's education system.
Officials will conduct a national search for the chief executive of the Partnership for Prosperity.
"There are going to be a lot of people out there who are going to want to keep the status quo, and as I say and Sharon says, if we keep the status quo, we will get the same results. It's time for change," McCrory said.
The plan was unveiled at Copland Fabrics, a textile-maker near Burlington that exports most of its fabric to Central and South America.
McCrory said the company provides a blueprint for the state's future – an economy based on manufacturing exports and agribusiness.
Chief Executive Jason Copland, the fourth-generation leader of the company, said he appreciates that McCrory wants to help existing North Carolina employers as much as those the state is trying to recruit.
"Where do a lot of the jobs, the new jobs, where they're grown from, it's actually existing businesses," Copland said. "So, just to hear them say that and a recognition that we're here working hard and doing everything we can to try to help people in North Carolina, It was nice to hear."