Archive for October, 2017

SO WHAT IDEAS EMERGE?

North Carolina senators and representatives may be looking a infrastructure programs, including internet access to towns in rural areas. Work-based apprenticeships with agencies like the Manufacturing Solutions Center, the Textile Technology Center, and more support for community colleges could be on the agenda. Seek industry input in the design of curriculum. And move more government offices out of Washington DC and Raleigh.

Encourage smaller communities to rethink traditional approaches to attracting industry. Just setting aside land or offering incentives are not enough. Amazon in its search for a new headquarters employing 50,000 people listed cutting-edge universities, top-level infrastructure, and cultural diversity as priorities. A Hickory NC bid was among the 238 Amazon received. This was from a community not to be bound to the past.

WHERE PAST CLASHES WITH FUTURE

The present state of North Carolina is wrestling with the dilemma of the “the two North Carolinas.” As America rapidly transitions into a new economy, the past offers no road map for the future. Nor are the think tanks of prominent futurists and economists. Manufacturing is caught in the middle.

Raleigh News and Observer columnist Rob Christensen recently had a thoughtful article about a trend that is bothering a lot of Republican legislators from rural areas. The so-called “brain drain” from smaller communities to the successful urban areas where higher paying jobs for skilled people are replacing opportunities in towns like Hickory, Rockingham, Wilson, High Point, Shelby and dozens of others. They may be the victim of the state’s success at attracting sophisticated technology and biomedical companies to Charlotte, Raleigh, and to some extent Winston Salem-Greensboro.

Starting with early 20th century, North Carolina industrialized “in a gentle way” with textiles, apparel, furniture and tobacco mills that spread out in small communities across the state, Christensen writes. In the mid-1990s, there were 300 hosiery companies, many of them employing a few dozen people, operating in 38 counties. Then came NAFTA, globalization, and massive job layoffs. The comfortable lifestyle for 30,000 hosiery company families was threatened. Tens of thousands of textiles and furniture jobs disappeared.

Some legislative leaders feel the state needs to help small counties and towns recover their losses. Sen. Harry Brown of Onslow, power chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, feels too much state money for new business incentives goes to Wake and Mecklenburg Counties, each experiencing double-diet growth over the past 10 years. But he and other lawmakers cannot answer this question: How do you convince a company to set up operations in an area where their employees do not want to live?

A new study by the Brookings Institution, a renown Washington DC think tank, found that smaller cities have had a much more difficult time recovering from the Great Recession. The survey found that between 2009 and 2015, private employment grew almost twice the rate in metropolitan areas with 500,000 or more people than those with 80,000 to 215,000. It also found that income grew almost 50 percent more in larger areas.

Eduardo Porter, a New York Times columnist, wrote “Bigger cities are more productive. They are more innovative. They draw better educated people by offering them higher wages. They develop a richer variety of industries.”

NEW YEAR … NEW CYCLE

Primary voters will go to the polls in March 2018 and this means an early filing period for candidates to the Legislature and some local offices. Within the next three months aspirants for seats in the House or Senate will be making announcements and holding fund-raising functions. Considering the current political climate, it is safe to predict there will be high turnover and more new faces. This is a critical time for our lobbying program

Thanks to the manufacturers who have renewed memberships in the Hosiery and Textiles Governmental Affairs Council. Our work has cranked up after a summer lull that was all too short.

FABRIC DISCOVERY CENTER

Advanced Functional Fabrics of America (AFFOA), the government-supported initiative to push manufacture of high-tech textiles, has awarded contracts to the Manufacturing Solutions Center and Textile Technology Center to support in-plant training. The College of Textiles at NCSU also is included in the program that will support North Carolina and area manufacturing plants that compete for contracts from the U.S. Department of Defense.

The training programs is an important step in the creation of a U.S. Fabric Discovery Center in the state by AFFOA which functions through MIT. Leaders in the General Assembly earlier this year sent letters supporting the establishment of a Fabric Discovery Center in the state.

OUTS

Three Republican senators have announced they will not seek re-election

Chad Barefoot of Wake Forest, Bill Cook of Chocowinity, and Tommy Tucker of Union County. Four House members and two other senators have unofficially put out the word they will not seek re-election.

INS AND OUTS OF POLITICS IN RALEIGH

This week the General Assembly again convenes with an agenda yet to be announced. Current legislative leaders have ushered in a new approach to doing business. The House and Senate have been in special sessions every month since the long 2017 session recessed in July. In previous years, so-called “special sessions” could only be called by the governor. However, new rules for operation of the House and Senate allows the leaders to schedule sessions to address “unfinished business.” Overriding vetoes by Gov. Roy Cooper tops these agenda. But bills dealing with budget adjustments and redistricting also are being thrashed out in the committees and on the floor. The sessions this week probably will override the governor’s veto of a bill to eliminate primaries for judicial candidates in 2018. Gov. Cooper vetoed the proposed legislation, arguing that it is part of a Republican strategy to eliminate election of judges. The bill also changed judicial districts for judges and district attorneys. Proponents argue that new districts give rural voters more choices. Judges and organizations representing the judiciary have opposed the bill.