The prospects of the state’s economic development marketing efforts shifting to a new public-private partnership took a major step forward Thursday as the House tentatively endorsed the concept.
The House voted 73-41 in favor of a bill that would create a nonprofit that the Commerce Department would hire to help it recruit jobs and promote international trade and tourism. Thursday’s vote followed the second reading of the bill on the House floor; a third and final reading is expected Tuesday.
“This public-private partnership is going to be the sales and marketing arm of economic development in North Carolina,” said Rep. Tom Murry, R-Morrisville, the bill’s sponsor. “Sales and marketing is not what government does well.”
But many spoke out against the bill, especially Democrats. They objected that the cost to taxpayers is unclear, that the private sector won’t be paying a fair share of the partnership and that the state’s current economic development efforts are working just fine.
“I submit to you, we could have done better, we should have done better,” Rep. Larry Hall, D-Durham, said of the bill.
Originally, the bill required that the nonprofit raise $10 million in private funds before it coulud begin operating. But it recently was changed, requiring the nonprofit to raise just $250,000 in seed money to get started. It would then have to raise an additional $750,000 in its first year of operation and $1.25 million in each additional year.
Amendments to the bill included one that spelled out that board members of the nonprofit wouldn’t be compensated, which Murry said was always the intention but wasn’t spelled out in the bill.
A proposed amendment to the bill that failed by a 75-39 margin, introduced by Rep. Jean Farmer-Butterfield, D-Wilson, would have enhanced the transparency of the nonprofit’s efforts to attract businesses. Under the bill, transparency is limited on economic development projects in which a company doesn’t receive incentives.