Five companies contributed a combined $440,000 to help get the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina off the ground.
Duke Energy gave the biggest chunk, $200,000, followed by Red Hat Inc. ($100,000), Piedmont Natural Gas ($75,000), Lenovo Group Limited ($60,000) and Charlotte Pipe and Foundry Co. ($5,000). Executives at two companies – Jim Whitehurst at Red Hat and Tom Looney at Lenovo – are members of the partnership's interim board of directors.
The fledgling partnership released the names of its original donors in a news release Friday.
"What's different about our approach is that we're marshaling public and private resources to help in North Carolina's business recruiting efforts," said partnership chairman John Lassiter, president of Carolina Legal Staffing in Charlotte. "We're delighted with the confidence these companies have shown by joining us, and with the quality of new and expanding business prospects who are considering planting or growing their roots here."
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Lassiter, responding to questions, expressed no concern that two of the five donations came from companies whose executives sit on the board of directors. He noted that Red Hat and Lenovo are owned by their shareholders and not by any board member.
"We are very confident about the support the Partnership will receive from the private sector and expect to announce several more investors in the near future," he wrote in an email.
The partnership opened its doors about a month ago in Cary. It was created to consolidate the state's marketing and business recruitment functions previously handled by the Commerce Department. Under state law, it is required to raise private dollars to supplement state funding. In order to receive roughly $17 million a year in state dollars, the partnership also will be required to privately raise $750,000 in its first year and $1.25 million a year in subsequent years.
In Friday's news release, the partnership took credit for helping "bring to fruition" eight economic development projects in October. The projects, the partnership said, created 1,560 jobs and represent investments of $439 million. They included Gordon Food Service in Cabarrus County, Patheon in Pitt County, Argos Therapeutics in Durham County and Daimler Trucks North America in Guilford and Randolph counties, each of which will create between 200 and 500 jobs.
The partnership is led by chief executive officer Richard Lindenmuth. It has 38 employees. The partnership on Friday also released the names of 20 management-level employees and their salaries, which range from $62,000 to $120,000.
"In less than a month, we have gone from start-up to successful business operations, in an open and accountable manner," said Lindenmuth. "We have a duty to the state and the people of North Carolina to quickly show a positive return on our efforts in economic development, international trade, tourism, film and sports development."