North Carolina’s new jobs recruiter moved to the state just after the first of the year.
Now, it’s up to Christopher Chung and the staff of the partnership – which recently took over job recruiting and tourism marketing from the state Commerce Department – to convince outsiders to move to North Carolina.
For seven years, Chung, 38, led Missouri’s public-private economic-development organization, which is similar to North Carolina’s, which opened in Cary last fall. Chung said he already feels at home here.
“I’ve got my driver’s license already. The DMV was very quick, very efficient,” he said at a news conference, referring to Gov. Pat McCrory’s emphasis on customer service at the Division of Motor Vehicles.
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Perhaps he has the political part of his job down. But Chung – and McCrory – will be judged on how well the partnership lures companies to North Carolina, which has recently seen a few high-profile projects, such as a Mercedes plant, choose other states. The partnership is among the significant changes McCrory made in his two years as governor.
North Carolina, Chung said, is “very compelling as a product,” one of few states worth leaving Missouri for. The Tar Heel State is among the top five when it comes to the “perception of our business climate,” he said.
In other words, his decision to move to North Carolina was like a football recruit choosing Chung’s alma mater – Ohio State University. The chances of success here are greater. That’s not to say Chung wasn’t successful in Missouri. A news release introducing Chung touted his record with the Missouri Partnership, which helped recruit 78 new corporate operations, 10,000 jobs and $1 billion in investment since 2010.
Asked about North Carolina’s strengths, Chung said it is growing in population, and its quality of life makes it possible – if not easy – for companies to recruit top talent from elsewhere. Recent corporate tax cuts help, along with strong community college and university systems, Chung added.
North Carolina’s partnership will be aggressive in business recruitment, getting out there to “try to shake the trees,” he said.
He also plans to work with local and regional economic developers to “elevate their game,” so they are ready when prospects come knocking.
Chung previously worked for 10 years as an economic developer for the state of Ohio, so he’s worked under public and public-private economic-development models. He’s a believer in the latter. For one, the partnership will raise money privately, giving it more resources to market the state. Second, Chung said, having a partnership outside government helps avoid upheaval and disruption of relationships each time an administration changes. Chung worked under Democratic and Republican governors in Missouri.
“I believe in the model, and I hope we can make it very, very successful here in North Carolina because I think we have an even better product to put out there,” Chung said.
Before long, we’ll have a good idea of whether he’s right.
Patrick Gannon writes about state government and politics.