N.C. Chamber president says legal reforms, less red tape will help boost jobs

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 16, 2013

SALISBURY — N.C. Chamber of Commerce President Lew Ebert told local business leaders Friday to plan for growth as state leaders hope to cut red tape.
Ebert cited four areas the chamber aims to improve: education and talent development, a competitive environment, infrastructure, and innovation and entrepreneurship. But for the time being, an abundance of regulations keeps prospective businesses away, he said.
Workers’ compensation reform will help, Ebert said, but he also hopes to spur lawmakers toward legal tort reform and a red tape reduction.
Ebert spoke to the Rowan County Chamber of Commerce at The Gateway building on East Innes Street Friday morning.
Ebert said Rowan County has begun laying the foundation of an infrastructure for growth, mentioning the new Yadkin River bridge.
But with economists predicting a population increase in North Carolina, he said, Rowan County needs to start preparing for future growth.
“Three million more are moving (to North Carolina) by 2030,” Ebert said. “You can’t wait until they’re here before you get ready for growth.”
Business leaders voiced opinions on pending tax reform legislation and an unemployment benefits bill expected to be signed by Gov. Pat McCrory.
Dari Caldwell, president of Rowan Regional Medical Center, asked what statewide businesses thought of Kannapolis’ research campus.
“How is the North Carolina Research Campus perceived outside of this area?” Caldwell asked.
“I think it’s seen as a real positive asset,” Ebert said.
He said it’s the kind of bet the Research Triangle Park made decades ago.
“I think it’s generally seen very favorably,” he said.
Ebert said the state has to find a way to cut regulations and make North Carolina more business-friendly.
Right now, he said, the state can’t compete.
Robert Van Geons, executive director at RowanWorks, said he’s seen the problem first-hand when competing with neighboring states.
“Five years ago I never lost a project to Georgia,” Van Geons said. “But they’ve got a pro-business governor, they’ve gotten aggressive about economic development. We’re losing two out of every three projects.”

Contact reporter Nathan Hardin at 704-797-4246.