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Today in North Carolina February 2005

Basnight's Chief of Staff Named NCCBI's Top Lobbyist

The new top lobbyist for NCCBI started work at a good time ­— just the day before the association’s annual Legislative Conference. Instead of planning public policy for Senate President Pro Tem Marc Basnight, Rolf Blizzard will be planning how to persuade Basnight — and 169 other members of the General Assembly — to vote for the business agenda.

Blizzard started work at the end of last month, the day before NCCBI unveiled its new public policy agenda  at the Legislative Conference. Basnight, his old boss, was one of the legislative leaders speaking at the Feb. 1 event.

As NCCBI’s vice president of governmental affairs, Blizzard succeeds Leslie Bevacqua Coman, who left NCCBI late last year to join the staff of Capstrat, a Raleigh public relations and marketing firm.

In making the announcement, President Phil Kirk said, “NCCBI is fortunate to be able to attract a person so experienced in the inner workings of the North Carolina General Assembly as Rolf Blizzard. He is energetic, has a strong work ethic and unquestionable integrity. He will bring new ideas on how to get things done to further improve the business climate in our state.”

In addition to his lobbying duties, Blizzard will serve as staff for the NCCBI Council of Local Chambers, NCCBI Small Business Advisory Board and for NCCBI’s public policy committees on tax and fiscal policy and environmental concerns.

Blizzard, a native of Kenansville, has worked in Senator Basnight’s office for the past nine years, serving in the positions of administrative assistant for policy and research, interim director of communications, director of research and special projects, and chief of staff. From September 1999 until July 2000, he served as the assistant director of the North Carolina Redevelopment Center which coordinated the Hurricane Floyd recovery effort.

Blizzard received a bachelor of science in business administration degree in 1995 and a master of public administration degree in 1997 from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He was the manager for the men’s varsity and junior varsity basketball teams at UNC. He is married to the former Ashley Degner of Fair Bluff and they have one son, James Rolf, who is 17 months old.

Blizzard joins another new member of the NCCBI Governmental Affairs staff. Elizabeth Dalton, a Rutherford County native, joined the staff in November as the director of governmental affairs, replacing Julie Woodson who went to the North Carolina Pork Council. Dalton, also a UNC-Chapel Hill graduate, is a former lobbyist with Bone and Associates.


EDC Marks Milestone With Another Banner Year

Celebrating 20 years of providing economic development leadership, the Randolph County Economic Development Corp. presented an impressive 2004 report to its county board in January.

Highlights included $71.2 million in new and expanded industrial investment and the creation of 582 new jobs. During the year, 16 companies announced decisions to locate or expand operations in the county. They are expected to bring in $356,000 in new tax revenue annually.

New and expanding companies include Rheem Air Conditioning, which decided to locate a 180,000-square-foot facility in West Randleman Business Park. Technimark Inc. announced the largest project of the year, a $36.5 million expansion of its Asheboro plastic molding operation, adding 79 new jobs. Computer Designs purchased the former Flow Serve plant in Liberty and will relocate its plastic packaging operation to High Point, bringing 35 new jobs to the area.

New jobs created are expected to generate $17.2 million in annual wages and salaries.

The EDC also completed its first Target Industry Study to act as a roadmap for future recruitment and rolled out a redesign of its web site at


Manufacturing Expansions Slash Jobless Rate In Half

Two expansions by Harnett County manufacturers late last year extended an ongoing trend that helped the county cut its unemployment rate from 8.7 percent in 2002 to 4.8 percent in 2004.

Southeastern Transformer Co. purchased a 35,000-square-foot shell building in Dunn to expand its local operations. The company bought the building, which was vacant for 12 years, and five acres of land in Edgerton Industrial Park, for $325,000. Southeastern repairs and remakes transformers and other electrical equipment. It will invest $750,000 in the building, creating five new jobs.

Tomsed Corp. in Lillington, which makes turnstile and crowd control equipment, said it will expand its operations in the Harnett County Industrial Park and build a new facility of more than 50,000 square feet, creating 15-20 new jobs.

“We’re growing from within, and that’s a precursor to being able to recruit more businesses to come here,” says Lee Anne Nance, director of economic development in Harnett.

Nance says numerous other county employers expanded in 2004. Saab Barracuda, a military supplier in Lillington, completed a new 20,000-square-foot facility and doubled its workforce to 230 last year. Armtec, another military supplier, added 48 new employees. Godwin Manufacturing, which makes truck bodies, saw Champion Hoist & Equipment spin off, creating 175 new jobs and bringing a vacant textile plant back to life.

In addition, Betsy Johnson Hospital added 98 new employees and Campbell University about 100 in the last year, while Good Hope Hospital in Erwin wants to build a new facility which would create 64 new jobs, says Nance. — Allan Maurer


University's New Leader Plans to Focus on Life Skills

Acclaimed speaker and businessman Nido Qubein says that as the new president of High Point University, he wants students to “learn not only what to do, but also how to be.”

Qubein, who took the reins as his alma mater’s president in December, says, “Book smarts are very important, but life skills are equally an important part of the university experience. We want our students to leave High Point University armed with the skills and insights necessary to lead successful and significant lives.”

Qubein speaks from his own experience as an internationally renowned speaker, successful businessman and philanthropist.

He came to America as a teen-ager with little knowledge of English, no contacts and only $50 in his pocket. After graduating from Mount Olive College, he enrolled at High Point where he received his bachelor’s degree in human relations in 1970. He has lived in High Point ever since. He also holds a master’s degree in business from the Bryan School of Business and Economics at UNC-Greensboro and an honorary doctor of laws degree.

Qubein has received the highest award given to professional speakers, the Cavett, and has been inducted into the Speakers Hall of Fame.

“Nido Qubein has spent time nearly every day before beginning his official term as president, meeting with faculty, planning for his new role and energizing community leaders,” said Richard Budd, chairman of the board of trustees. “We are confident this new era under his leadership will propel High Point University to new heights of extraordinary achievements.”

Qubein says his primary goals for the university include strengthening academic programs, enhancing its national reputation, building its endowment, improving student life and growing the campus.


Growth Moratorium Imposed to Refine Zoning Regulations

After more than a decade of rampant growth, Cabarrus County will rein in development with a six-month moratorium on new subdivisions in unincorporated areas.

Most communities surrounding Charlotte and Mecklenburg County, especially Cabarrus and Union counties, have experienced almost burdensome growth over the past decade. While Union is the fastest growing county in the state, Cabarrus isn’t far behind. Along its western border new subdivisions have gobbled up farmland, creating huge demands on roads, water and public schools.

 “Union is growing faster but Cabarrus is no slouch county when it comes to growth,” says Bill Duston, planning director of the Centralina Council of Governments.

The county’s population grew by 32.5 percent from 1990 to 2000, making it one of the fastest growing in the state. Homebuilders have obtained a record 1,969 permits this year. In September, Cabarrus County commissioners raised a per-lot fee on new homes from $1,008 to over $4,000 to help build new schools.

The towns of Concord, Kannapolis and Harrisburg recently adopted a unified development ordinance that combines zoning and subdivision rules into one ordinance that put some controls on growth. But the county opted not to go along. Now it has approved a moratorium so that its planners can spend the next half-year revising its development rules and considering whether the unified development ordinance is the correct path.

The moratorium will not affect more than 10,000 lots already approved in the county, including more than 5,000 in the unincorporated areas.

Still, developers, realtors and others opposed the moratorium, saying the county should promote building, which creates jobs. The county’s unemployment rate is still high from the 2003 closing of Pillowtex Corp, which created the single biggest layoff in North Carolina history.

Cabarrus County is not the first community to use a moratorium to slow growth while civic leaders consider ways to revise rules. Davidson and Huntersville in Mecklenburg County, Cramerton in Gaston County, Troutman in Iredell County and Caldwell County have all done so in recent years.

 “Rather than let the problem exacerbate, communities are saying let’s stop and come up with a solution,” says Duston. “You want the moratorium to be as short as possible while you get your homework done.”    — Laura Williams-Tracy


Textile Leader Watches Warily as Import Quotas Expire

For forty years, the United States controlled the amount of Chinese-made apparel and textile products allowed into the country through quotas. Those quotas expired at the end of 2004, and many textile companies are leery of what post-quota life will be like in the competitive new world of global textiles.

Even under the quota system, domestic textile manufacturers watched hundreds of thousands of jobs flee overseas as foreign producers became players in the battle for American retail sales.

“The potential damage is significant,” says N.C. textile executive Allen Gant, Jr. of the expiration of the quotas on Chinese textile products. As chairman of the National Council of Textile Organizations, Gant is on the front lines of the global textile business. He serves as a delegate to the World Trade Organization by virtue of that role. The WTO monitors textile employment worldwide

Some companies, like Gant’s Glen Raven Inc., have shifted their focus from commodities. Apparel, Gant says, “represented 50 to 60 percent of our business at one time. Now it’s less than 10.” The reinvented Glen Raven Mills is now directed toward problem solving and solutions, operating in 127 countries around the globe, including China.

Quick to point out that he is not “China bashing,” Gant explains that his concern is directed more toward unfair trade practices between the United States and its trading partners.

“There are very few countries that treat us better than we treat them,” Gant explains. He adds that many countries such as Brazil and India impose hefty duty charges on all imported goods.

In the short-term, Gant expects the expiration of Chinese import quotas to result in further reduction of an industry that once employed 1.8 million workers across the country, now reduced to 700,000. “I see a negative effect on the United States labor market, and especially in North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia,” he says.

 To balance the worldwide textile business, Gant suggests a leveling of the playing field in trade agreements between the United States and trading partners around the globe.

He has also called for new leadership sensitive to business concerns here at home. “The cost of doing business in North Carolina is more than in other states and in many countries.  We’ve got to realize our competition is not local, it’s global,” he says.   — Jerry Blackwelder

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Last Modified: February 17, 2005
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