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BusinessNC.com BusinessNC.com
12/05/19

Good morning,

Today’s civics lesson: Business has enormous clout in the N.C. General Assembly.

That’s evident in the ratings released yesterday by the N.C. Free Enterprise Foundation, a Raleigh-based nonprofit that analyzes political action as it affects the business community. It rates state lawmakers based on their votes on about a dozen bills, then mixes in some subjective opinions.

This year’s report concluded 35 of the state’s 50 senators and 67 of the 120 representatives can be counted on to “consistently exhibit strong support of free enterprise.” Another four senators and 31 representatives are occasional supporters, leaving only about 11 senators and 22 reps as outliers.

The survey showed a record level of support for business for both chambers compared with surveys dating back to 2009.

While N.C. Free is nonpartisan, the rankings don’t reflect society at large. Rather, the survey is based on input from about 300 business leaders, business-trade association executives and lobbyists. Not a lot of school teachers, plaintiffs’ lawyers and nonprofit executives are surveyed.

Among state senators, Paul Newton, a former Duke Energy executive who lives in Concord, ranked first. Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger was sixth, tied with Charlotte’s Dan Bishop, who is now a congressman. Four Senate Democrats from Mecklenburg County ranked near the bottom of the list, including party star Jeff Jackson of Charlotte.

In the House, Majority Leader John Bell of Goldsboro ranked as the most business-friendly representative, while Speaker Tim Moore of Kings Mountain was 17th. The difference between first and 17th is small in percentage terms, however.

Rep. Pricey Harrison of Greensboro ranked least-friendly to business, followed by Rep. Kandie Smith of Greenville.

Republicans dominate the N.C. General Assembly, though the margin may narrow after redistricting and as the state's fast-growing, more liberal-leaning big cities gain clout. Whether business power has reached an apex will be interesting to watch in future N.C. Free surveys.

David Mildenberg
dailydigest@businessnc.com 
Click here to subscribe to Business North Carolina magazine

He's DaBaby

I've had fun over the last few months asking lots of young people whom I encounter if they like DaBaby. Every time, they smile and say, "You know DaBaby?" in an indication that oldsters like me aren't supposed to be in on the secret about the 27-year-old Charlotte native who has become a rap industry sensation.

Well, a lot of Baby Boomers are going to be introduced to DaBaby this weekend when he is the musical guest on Saturday Night Live. More Daily Digest readers probably have heard of the guest host, Jennifer Lopez.

Anyway, DaBaby, grew up in the Queen City as Jonathan Lyndale Kirk and attended UNC Greensboro for two years before focusing on his music career. He's now based in Atlanta.

DaBaby's interesting life is profiled in this November Rolling Stone story, which mentions in passing the incident that may always trail the rapper: reports that he was involved in an altercation that led to a shooting death at a Huntersville Walmart last year.

More mainstream credibility came last month when Forbes named DaBaby to its list of 30 most influential musicians under the age of 30. (N.C. native Luke Combs is also featured.) The magazine says DaBaby's concerts now gross in the six figures.

Now you too can say you know DaBaby.
Charlotte rapper DaBaby, credit: DaBaby Facebook page

Downtown Raleigh's latest boost

Raleigh's center city took on a new shine this week when developer Andy Andrews and Dominion Realty Partners opened the 22-story FNB Tower on Fayetteville Street. It's an innovative project that mixes office space with 239 apartments. A New York Life Insurance Co. subsidiary is partnering with DRP on the building.

DRP has more than $570 million in apartments, office buildings and mixed-use projects under development, including another FNB Tower going up in downtown Charlotte. That also mixes office space and apartments.

Read more about the Raleigh tower here.

Hospitals and computer crashes

The Trump administration wants hospitals to be more transparent and publicly disclose their reimbursement contracts with insurance companies, hoping to spur competition and slow health care inflation. In response, the American Hospital Association and other groups filed a federal lawsuit yesterday saying the move exceeds the government’s authority and violates First Amendment rights by forcing disclosure of confidential, proprietary information.
 
But another interesting aspect of the hospitals’ argument: A file with the information sought by the government “could easily crash most standard computer systems, and some members worry about the ability of their websites to function at all with such a large file," according to the lawsuit. Some hospitals have more than 100 contracts with insurers.
 
It would be hard to find a better example of the complexity of  health care finance.

Today's number: $1 million-plus

Money that Raleigh businessman Garland Tucker invested in his now-suspended primary bid to unseat U.S. Senator Thom Tillis for the Republican nomination in 2020. That's a fraction of the $8.7 million he received as CEO of Raleigh-based Triangle Capital Corp. from 2014-16, including a $2.5 million severance bonus. The company was acquired by Barings LLC in 2018 after its stock slumped and senior executives blamed Tucker's investment strategies for stunting its growth.

 

Fayetteville mayor proposes raise to $16/hour for 900 employees
(The Fayetteville Observer)

Fayetteville Mayor Mitch Colvin has submitted a new proposal for the city council which would give at least 900 city employees pay raises to $16 an hour. It’s part of a goal to increase salaries for full-time city employees to a “livable wage.” According to a study cited by the mayor, only 700 out of the city’s 1,600 employees can afford the average rental cost of $819 per month.


N.C. has 14th-highest credit card debt in nation
(CreditCard.com)

North Carolina has the 14th-highest credit card debt burden in the nation, according to CreditCards.com, a credit card resource website and marketplace. According to the report, which compares credit card debt to incomes, households in N.C. hold roughly $8,264 in credit card debt, the 26th-lowest average in the country. However, the state also has the 11th-lowest median annual income of $53,855.


North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences names next director
(N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources)

The North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences has named Eric Dorfman to serve as its next museum director, starting in 2020. Dorfman currently works as director for the Carnegie Museum of Natural History and Powdermill Nature Reserve in Pittsburgh. The N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences is the largest natural history museum in the Southeast and one of Raleigh’s most-popular tourist attractions.


BB&T, SunTrust deny Truliant trademark claims in lawsuit
(Greensboro News & Record)

With the merger of Winston-Salem’s BB&T Corp. and Atlanta-based SunTrust Banks Inc. just two days away, the two companies forming Truist Financial Corp. have filed denials of trademark infringement claims against Truliant Federal Credit Union. Truliant, which is based in Winston-Salem, claims the Truist brand would create “digital marketplace confusion” where it heavily operates in the Triad and Charlotte, which would create “irreparable harm.” Truist has denied those claims and requested a judge dismiss the lawsuit with prejudice, meaning Truliant can’t refile.


Raleigh tech startup lands $4.7M for expansion
(WRAL TechWire)

Allstacks, a Raleigh startup that uses artificial intelligence to improve software development, landed $4.7 million in capital. The company plans to use the seed funding to add staff and expand capabilities at its Raleigh headquarters and office in Austin, Texas. The funds came from seven investors including Boston-based Hyperplane Venture Capital, New York’s Uncommon Denominator and Silicon Valley’s Wildcat Venture Partners.


Harris Teeter to close Charlotte location, affecting 77 workers
(The Charlotte Observer)

Kroger subsidiary Harris Teeter is closing a store in Charlotte’s University City area, impacting 77 workers. The 45,000-square-foot operation will close on or before Jan. 5. Employees were notified Monday and offered the opportunity to transfer to other locations. A company spokesperson said it was a “strategic decision” made after careful consideration.


500-acre development planned for Southeast Raleigh
(News & Observer)

Apex-based Halle Building Group, which belongs to Maryland’s Halle Companies real estate group, has revealed plans for a 514-acre mixed-use development in the Triangle. The multi-stage Olde Towne project will consist of 24 buildings with 288 apartment units, a clubhouse, multiple parking decks and recreational amenities. The current timeframe ranges from 10-12 years, according project officials. Development can’t begin until the group receives permit approvals for 278 acres involved in stage two of the project, which could occur in the summer next year or in 2021.


Merck announces $57M expansion in Wilson County
(Triangle Business Journal)

Pharmaceutical giant Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp. has announced plans for a $57 million expansion of its Wilson County vaccine-manufacturing facility. The latest expansion is expected to add 55 jobs with wages of about $59,000 annually. The news comes Merck announced a $680 million investment in the Triangle in July, with $30 million going to the Wilson County facility.


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