Former president of Tanner to manage Rural Center transition

acurliss@newsobserver.comAugust 8, 2013 

The state’s main efforts in rural North Carolina will be led over the next two months by a Charlotte-area executive with ties to Commerce Secretary Sharon Decker.

Commerce officials said Thursday that Laura Kendall, a former chief financial officer at Food Lion and a former president of Tanner Companies, has been hired on an interim basis to “manage the transition process with the N.C. Department of Commerce and the N.C. Rural Economic Development Center.”

The Rural Center had long overseen grants and other efforts in rural parts of the state, funded by millions from the General Assembly. The state cut off funding and halted the center’s ability to spend state funds after a critical audit last month.

The Department of Commerce, in a news release, said Kendall is “being retained” for 60 days. She will be paid $20,000 for the contract.

Kendall worked with Decker at Tanner, a privately held clothing company, about a decade ago. Decker was president of Tanner Holdings and its Doncaster brand of luxury women’s apparel from 1999 to late 2004.

Kendall left Food Lion in 2001 and joined Tanner in 2003, rising to become president in 2008. A profile on LinkedIn says she served in that role until this year.

This week, state officials authorized payment for 17 grants funded by the Rural Center, totaling nearly $1.6 million, a first move in taking over center functions.

Decker has said the Commerce Department intends to honor previously awarded Rural Center grants, though oversight and accountability will be needed.

“We’re committed to an effective smooth transition so that grants can continue to be funded,” Decker said in a news release.

The department said Kendall will serve as a consultant and liaison to work through grant-making and a review of programs.

Lawmakers diverted any further Rural Center funding to a new Rural Economic Development Division and Rural Infrastructure Authority. Commerce officials say they will begin taking applications for new rural grants on Oct. 1.

Curliss: 919-829-4840

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