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Salisbury lawyer appointed to state’s new Economic Development Partnership

Salisbury attorney Bill Graham is among 17 business leaders from across the state who have been appointed to the board of directors that will oversee the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina, the state’s new public-private approach to creating jobs and stimulating growth.

John Lassiter, a former Charlotte City Council member and president of Carolina Legal Staffing, will serve as chair of the board, which represents a variety of industry sectors and includes 11 members who served on the state’s former Economic Development Board. The new board, which meets for the first time Nov. 21, includes corporate executives, family-owned business operators, entrepreneurs, and hospitality and economic development professionals.

“These business leaders reflect a broad spectrum of North Carolina industries, and bring a range of skills and expertise to our economic development efforts,” said Gov. Pat McCrory. “Their knowledge and experience will invigorate our drive to create jobs and opportunities across North Carolina.”

A nonprofit corporation, the partnership was created to consolidate and enhance North Carolina’s marketing and business recruitment functions previously conducted by the state Department of Commerce. Under a contract with the state, the partnership leads efforts in economic development, international trade, tourism, film and sports business development.

Graham, a partner at the Wallace and Graham law firm in Salisbury, has been appointed to the new board. He had been serving on the state’s former economic development board as an at-large member after being appointed by McCrory in 2013.

“My role on the (previous) commission was to oversee community development,” Graham said, adding he thinks he’ll continue in that role on the new board.

The partnership is meant to streamline the process when businesses are trying to work with the state, Graham said. He said the new board will provide a single point of contact with the Commerce Department.

“It’s already working,” he said about the partnership.

A key factor in the new partnership will be to help existing businesses grow, he said. “That’s where you get the most economic bang for the buck,” Graham said, growing existing medium- and small-size businesses.

The partnership’s board will meet quarterly and rely on a robust committee structure that will allow for further input and expertise from business, community and economic development leaders statewide. The board also will report on progress and initiatives to the state’s Economic Development Accountability and Standards Committee chairman each quarter.

“This board offers the type of leadership and strategic thinking you’d see at a Fortune 500 company,” said Lassiter. “These leaders understand how to compete, and the importance of collaboration in getting the job done. It would be hard to find better ambassadors for North Carolina than people like these who live and run successful businesses right here.”

Using the state’s 10-year jobs plan as a road map, the partnership develops new business prospects, manages relationships and works closely with the state Department of Commerce, which retains responsibility for job-creation incentives and state funding decisions.

In its first month, the Partnership helped bring to fruition eight projects that created 1,560 jobs and represented an investment of $439 million, a news release said.

“North Carolina is already seeing positive results from this public-private venture,” said state Secretary of Commerce Sharon Decker, “and I am confident in the ability of the new partnership board to work with us in helping guide our economic growth.”

Under the legislation creating the partnership, the board is expected to reflect geographic and specific industry sectors, with nine members – including the chair – appointed by the governor, four by the speaker of the state House of Representatives, and four by the president pro tempore of the state Senate.

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