RALEIGH — About 150 people gathered downtown Wednesday to discuss immigration, workforce training and other issues critical to the state’s small businesses.
Gov. Pat McCrory, the keynote speaker at the National Federation of Independent Business Small Business Day at the Capitol, told an audience at the Raleigh Marriott City Center that his administration aims to bridge the disconnect between commerce and education in the state.
“I have heard from many of you saying you have job openings, but ‘We can’t find qualified people to fill the jobs,’ ” McCrory said. “And these are in areas with 15 to 20 percent unemployment.”
McCrory said he’s also working on solving the state’s perennial Medicaid overruns, and moving to improve customer service among the many agencies that deal with small business owners on a regular basis.
Jeanette Cornett, owner of Temperature Control Solutions, knows first-hand about the difficultly of finding skilled workers. Her company has locations in four counties, including Wake, and can’t fill mobile service technician positions that pay $80,000 to $100,000.
“It is hard work,” in which employees have to work in the sun and the cold, and get their hands dirty, Cornett said. “But it is good money.”
Charlotte and Patrick DiLeonardo said they support McCrory’s fiscal objectives. But they said they’ve had trouble recruiting highly skilled workers, partly due to the state’s handling of high-profile social issues, such as the ban on gay marriage that voters approved last spring.
The couple owns Zebra Print Solutions in Morrisville and is working on a startup, Flip Your Training, that provides an online collaborative learning platform.
The DiLeonardos said the N.C. General Assembly’s focus on smaller-scale conservative social issues is scaring some job candidates and preventing them from accepting positions in the state.
Patrick DiLeonardo said he wants to learn more about how McCrory plans to fund culture and arts, which he believes could also help the area compete for talent.
Another speaker at Wednesday’s two-hour luncheon was NFIB President and Chief Executive Officer Dan Danner. He told small business owners that the biggest problem in Washington is the spending deficit and the debt.
“There is no clear path, there is no clear agreement on even where you start the debate,” Danner said.
The NFIB is a nonprofit organization with a mission to promote and protect the rights of their 350,000 members to own and operate their businesses, Danner said. The organization has about 8,000 members in North Carolina, and NFIB Small Business Day at the Capital has been held annually for at least 20 years.
Danner also addressed other hot-button issues that have been debated in Washington in recent months.
He said he believes the debate on gun control is over, but that there is a significant chance that some form of immigration reform can pass. He also said that the Affordable Care Act will move forward, but it is coming apart at the seams.
“It is going to cost more than projected,” Danner said. “It is going to cover less people than projected, and it is very complicated.”