Education Is Key to Growth, Easley Tells Renamed Pro-Business Group

Update: North Carolina Citizens for Business and Industry changes its name to North Carolina Chamber, outlines ‘competitiveness’ agenda.’

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DURHAM, N.C. – On a day when the state’s largest pro-business lobbying organization changed its name and refined its message, Gov. Mike Easley told the group that North Carolina must continue to be aggressive if it hopes to remain competitive for new growth and jobs.

“If we are going to compete in the global economy, we must have the world’s best educated workforce,” Easley told the North Carolina Chamber, which up until Wednesday had been known as North Carolina Citizens for Business and industry. “The more our children learn, the more qualified they are for the high-skill jobs of the 21st century,” Easley added.

Easley chronicled North Carolina’s success in securing jobs and industrial facilities during his two terms of governor, including 40,000 jobs landed in part through economic grants.

“We must continue to be vigilant in protecting our business-friendly climate,” Easley said.

The group, which has members across the entire state, changed its name under the direction of S. Lewis Ebert, who took over as its president last summer. The change, a new logo, a new Web site and the revised “Competitiveness Agenda” were introduced at the NCCBI’s 65th annual meeting in Durham.

In fact, Ebert has referred to the old NCCBI as the state’s chamber since taking the job. A long-time chamber of commerce executive at previous jobs in Kansas and Pennsylvania, Ebert traveled the state for more than 100 meetings talking about the organization, and the name change was something many members advocated, according to Sherry Melton, NCCBI’s vice president of communications.

The group will no longer use the NCCBI acronym.

“The North Carolina Chamber is extremely excited to unveil its new brand today,” Ebert said in a statement. “Our new name and logo more accurately reflects who we are, what we stand for and what we do. We are a non-partisan business advocacy organization working to make sure that North Carolina is and remains the best state in America in which to do business, and the most competitive for jobs. “

 As part of the logo, the group says it will be a "Force for Business."

The group’s mission statement reads: “The North Carolina Chamber (NCCBI) is a non-partisan advocacy organization working to make sure that North Carolina is—and remains—the best state in America in which to do business, and the most competitive state in the country for jobs.”

The agenda is based on results of a poll of chief executive officers in North Carolina as well as 18 “listening meetings” and a “listening tour”. The NCCBI also will work with the NC Chamber Federation, which is an alliance of more than 70 local chambers of commerce across the state, to help drive its plan.

The priorities are:

1) Improving North Carolina’s Business Climate: Lower costs of doing business through:

• A competitive and fair tax system that stimulates growth and job creation and does not unduly burden business.

• Market-driven solutions to rising healthcare costs for North Carolina businesses and employees to help businesses and employees manage and lower costs.

• A fair way to help employees while lowering transaction costs of Workers’ Comp

• Improvements to make North Carolina’s legal system faster, fairer and more predictable

2) Increasing Economic Development: Support smart economic strategies that reward performance and job growth, development and maintenance of critical infrastructure needs, and a fair and predictable regulatory environment.

3) Focusing on Education/Workforce Preparedness: Implement effective education policies and funding solutions for education facilities that provide for a well-educated, well-prepared workforce for employers.