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Duke lands $50M to study potential COVID-19 protection drug

The Duke Clinical Research Institute has landed $50 million to evaluate a potential drug for protecting health care personnel against the spread of COVID-19. The DCRI will conduct a “rapid-response study” to evaluate the benefits of hydroxychloroquine, a steroid that is typically used for treating malaria and systemic lupus but has shown promise for coronavirus in a limited number of overseas studies. The funding comes from Washington, D.C.-based Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute, a not-for-profit founded through the Affordable Care Act. Clinical trials will begin later this month.

Triangle’s public companies lose $30B in value in Q1

The Triangle’s public companies collectively lost more than $31 billion in market value over the first quarter of fiscal 2020. IQVIA saw the largest loss, with $9 billion disappearing from its market cap. Martin Marietta Materials experienced a $5.4 billion loss in value, and Advance Auto Parts, the Triangle’s only Fortune 500 firm, lost $4.5 billion in market cap. Companies will likely lay off or furlough workers to access state and federal stimulus rather than cash on their balance sheets or put all mergers and acquisitions on hold until companies are reevaluated, according to historic precedent. Collectively, the public firms employ 100,000 in the Triangle.

Furloughs likely to hit N.C. health systems

Furloughs are going to be necessary for health systems in the state as they deal with cutting costs to combat the coronavirus, according to the North Carolina Healthcare Association. Hospitals across the state have cancelled elective procedures due to the need for physical distancing and more bed capacity for a potential surge of COVID-19 patients, which has cased massive hits to revenue. The NCHSA didn’t provide a number of projected furloughs. The organization previously projected the state’s hospitals and health systems would need $3 billion in federal assistance to stay afloat during the crisis.

N.C. coronavirus job losses second-worst in nation

North Carolina’s job losses are among the worst in the nation, which has seen 10 million Americans file for unemployment over the last two weeks. More than 350,000 North Carolinians have filed for unemployment since mid-March, going up as much as 6,000% because of the coronavirus crisis. Only Louisiana has been hit harder by job losses, according to a study by financial-research site WalletHub.

BofA analysts say prepare for ‘deepest recession on record’

Economists at Bank of America Global Research say the coming recession “appears to be deeper and more prolonged than we were led to believe just 14 days ago.” The Charlotte-based bank is projecting between 16 million and 20 million job losses stemming from the coronavirus pandemic, which could send the unemployment rate skyrocketing to 15.6% from record-lows of 3.5% in February. The team is also forecasting the U.S. economy will cumulatively decline 10.4% for the rest of the fiscal year.

Biltmore Estate furloughs 2,200 as revenue drops 95%

The Biltmore Estate has furloughed 2,200 of its 2,500 employees after seeing almost a total drop in revenue in late March caused by a lack of tourism from the coronavirus pandemic. The 8,000-acre estate typically draws in 1.4 million visitors annually, making it the largest tourist attraction in the Asheville area. With tourism at a standstill, the estate has been shut to the public since March 26 and CEO Bill Cecil Jr. says, “we have seen a rapid 95% drop in revenue.” The only other time the Biltmore Estate has closed since opening in 193o was during World War II.

Charlotte hotels faces $1.39B in defaults, seek more federal aid

The hotel industry is warning of defaults on $86 billion in loans within the next several months if there isn’t further intervention from the federal government. Charlotte has the tenth-highest level of collateralized mortgage-backed securities of U.S. metro areas, with total debt exposure of $1.39 billion across 114 hotel properties. Industry groups predict a wave of foreclosures and property sales unless the economy improves suddenly.

Michigan developer plans senior living community in Cary

Singh Development Co. of Bloomfield, Mich. filed plans for a senior living community in Cary with 178 units. Named the Waltonwood Silverton, the four-story complex will have 110 independent and 68 non-independent living units. The project is on 19 acres near North Cary Park, which Singh Development purchased in 2015 for $2.45 million. A construction timeline wasn’t provided but Charlotte-based McAdams is providing planning services and Raleigh’s JDavis is architect.

Truist acquires Charlotte’s Hearst Tower for $456M

Truist Financial closed on the 47-story, 966,000-square-foot Heart Tower in downtown Charlotte for $455.5 million, more than $470 per square foot. The sale is the largest single office property transaction by total sales price in North Carolina. Truist, which was formed from a merger of BB&T and SunTrust Bank, will occupy at least 561,000 square feet of what will be called Truist Center.

Small business loans to become available by April 3, according to Treasury

Small business loans that are part of the $2 trillion federal coronavirus relief package will become available by April 3, according to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. Applications can be submitted through private-sector financial companies that participate in the Small Business Administration program. The loan program is intended to assist small businesses with payroll and other operating expenses.

UNC predicts U.S. unemployment to reach 11.5%

The national unemployment rate could quadruple to 11.5% due to small business layoffs during the coronavirus pandemic, according to projections from the UNC Kenan Institute, the economic research division of the UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School. The results followed surveys of 726 small businesses on March 19-20. Researchers say the prediction is a worst-case scenario and doesn’t take into account the federal stimulus bill or employees that take jobs with larger companies. Some Federal Reserve estimates have warned of unemployment topping 30%.

N.C. hospitality jobs grew sharply until virus slammed industry, Fed says

Growth in North Carolina’s hospitality industry over the last year could make the job losses in the state even worse,  according to Laura Ullrich, an economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond.  As of February, the state added 23,800 leisure and hospitality jobs over the past year, a 4.6% increase. However that growth was quickly wiped out in March after Gov. Roy Cooper ordered shutdowns of dine-in services at restaurants and bars. The industry makes up about 11.6% of North Carolina’s jobs.

Feds probe Burr’s stock trades

Senator Richard Burr may be facing two federal probes from the U.S. Justice Department and Securities and Exchange Commission into stock sales he made a week before the sharp market decline, CNN reported. Documents show the Winston-Salem native and chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee sold between $628,000 and $1.72 million of stock in 33 separate transactions on Feb. 13, after receiving updates on the coronavirus pandemic. Burr called for the Senate Ethics Committee to review his conduct on March 20 after news reports of the sales.

North Carolina to receive $4.1B in stimulus money

North Carolina is eligible to receive up to $4.1 billion from the new $2.2 trillion Senate coronavirus stimulus bill, according to officials with the nonprofit Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Cities and counties with more than 500,000 people are eligible for up to $200 million in funding. Overall, lawmakers earmarked $150 billion to fund state and local governments to offset a lack of economic activity caused by stay-at-home orders and the coronavirus pandemic.

Coastal resiliency projects receive millions in funding

Nine projects in coastal North Carolina have been awarded more than $10 million in funding for nature-based projects. The projects are expected to protect or enhance more than 20 miles of shoreline and nearly 8,000 acres of wildlife habitat The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Office for Coastal Management have awarded more than $43 million in grants to 27 nature-based infrastructure projects nationwide.

“No way” RNC in Charlotte is cancelled, President Trump says

There is “no way” President Donald Trump would cancel the Republican National Convention scheduled for August in Charlotte, he told Sean Hannity last week on Fox News. The president’s comments came despite growing numbers of coronavirus cases in the country. “We’re going to have the convention, it’s going to be incredible. … I think we’re going to be in great shape,” Trump said. The RNC is planned for Aug. 24 to Aug. 27 with an expected 50,000 attendees. 

Belk furloughs employees, cuts senior worker pay in half

Belk department stores began furloughing an undisclosed number of its 2,200 employees last week as it begins to close locations around the country amid the coronavirus pandemic. Most that remain working will see a reduction in pay, and most senior leaders will see their pay reduced as much as 50%. The company also created the “One Belk Relief Fund” to provide a one-time grant for employees that qualify for financial assistance. The furloughs come a month after Belk eliminated 80 corporate jobs for restructuring. 

Biotech firm to begin trials for COVID-19 treatment at Clayton facility

Grifols, a Spanish biotech company with a large presence in the Triangle, will begin the first stages of clinical trials for its coronavirus treatment at its Clayton facility. The company entered a partnership with the U.S. Biomedical Advanced Research Development Authority and Food and Drug Administration to harvest plasma from COVID-19 patients and process it into proteins with antibodies to fight the virus. As part of the collaboration, the government will identify consenting donors that have recovered from coronavirus and refer them to Grifols, which has the largest plasma-donor center network in the country with more than 250 centers. 

UNC System reassessing $315M capital project plans

The UNC System slowed down plans for $314.9 million in capital projects last week amid concerns about the financial impact of the coronavirus. The UNC Board of Governors agreed to alter its budget request and is now drafting two different proposals that will be considered in the next few weeks. One will include the original funding for renovations and repairs at UNC System schools, and the other involves items affected by the coronavirus pandemic. On March 17, the system instituted mandatory online classes and cleared campus dorms as a means of slowing the coronavirus.  

Internet speeds down as teleworking increases

Internet speeds have slowed in cities across North Carolina because of increased demand for streaming, telecommuting and other services as shelter-in-place orders have been issued in counties across the state due to the coronavirus. Speeds in Raleigh, Charlotte and Fayetteville have declined 20% or more, according to BroadbandNow, a Los Angeles-based technolgy research company  Winston-Salem’s speed decrease of 41% is the biggest slowdown in the state. Access for Durham and Greensboro remain in the typical range. 

$70M apartment project in Asheville to move forward

The $70 million River Arts District Lofts project will move forward in 60 days after the Asheville City Council gave approval in a 4-3 vote. Developer Harry Pilos says the priority over the next two months is focusing on health and recovering from the coronavirus so “we can go back to work.” The 3.3-acre project includes 235 apartments and 18,000 square feet of commercial space. 

Historic building in downtown Raleigh sold in $34M deal

New York City-based Turnbridge Equities purchased the historic Creamery building and two adjacent parcels in downtown Raleigh’s Glenwood South neighborhood for $34.7 million. The Creamery was a dairy plant built in the 1920s and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1997. The firm plans to renovate the property, which includes 82,000 square feet of mixed-use space.

Harris Teeter looking to hire 5,000

Matthews-based grocery chain Harris Teeter is looking to hire more than 5,000 employees across its footprint as part of its response to the coronavirus outbreak. The Kroger subsidiary is offering health insurance, 401(k) savings and retirement plans and paid personal and vacation time as part of the benefits. Harris Teeter is also providing some hourly employees a one-time bonus if they worked for the company before March 1. Full-time workers will receive $300 and part-time employees will receive $150. 

Wyndham shareholder sues Senator Burr over stock sale

Wyndham Hotels shareholder Alan Jacobson filed a federal lawsuit against Senator Richard Burr, accusing him of violating the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act and misleading investors through his position as head of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Burr sold $150,000 worth of Wyndham stock as part of 33 separate transactions on Feb. 13. Jacobson claims the selloff was based on material information to the company that was learned during confidential coronavirus updates and Burr damaged other Wyndham shareholders by publicly downplaying the impending threat.

Senate, White House reach agreement on $2 trillion spending bill

The White House and Senate reached a deal on a $2 trillion coronavirus spending bill early Wednesday morning. The Senate is expected to pass the bill later Wednesday. As part of the plan, people making up to $75,000 a year will receive checks for $1,200, and couples making up to $150,000 will receive $2,400, with an additional $500 per child. Other provisions include about $100 billion in assistance for hospitals; $350 billion in assistance to small businesses; $500 billion in aid for corporations, including airline companies and cruise lines that have been hurt by the outbreak; and about $150 billion for state and local stimulus funds, according to a report from NBC. 

Golden LEAF to offer $15M in small-business loans for COVID-19 recovery

Rocky Mount-based nonprofit Golden LEAF Foundation is launching a $15 million NC COVID-19 Rapid Recovery Loan Program to assist businesses suffering from economic losses due to the spread of coronavirus. The program, which will be managed by the N.C. Rural Center, will issue loans to eligible businesses for as much as $50,000 with zero interest and no payments for six months. 

Coronavirus puts strain on rural N.C. hospitals

The spread of COVID-19 is hitting the finances of the state’s 12 remaining independent hospitals, which are losing funds after the state ordered  restrictions on elective surgeries during the pandemic. Hoke Healthcare CEO Roxie Wells says her Raeford hospital, which is owned by Fayetteville-based Cape Fear Valley Health Systems, needs federal support to make up for the loss of revenue. Eleven rural North Carolina hospitals have closed since 2005. 

Unemployment claims top 110,000

More than 110,000 North Carolina residents sought unemployment benefits last week, compared with a typical average of 3,000, Gov. Roy Cooper said. The state has $3.8 billion in its unemployment trust fund, enough to get through three months, Cooper said March 17. People who lose their jobs or have hours reduced due to the coronavirus are eligible for benefits.

Gov. Cooper orders more businesses shuttered, extends school closure

Governor Roy Cooper extended the closure of public schools until May 15 to prevent further spread of the coronavirus. In his executive order yesterday, Cooper required closures of gyms, hair and nail salons, barber shops, movie theaters, entertainment facilities, and banning mass gatherings of more than 50 people. The order will go into effect at 5 p.m. Wednesday. 

More than 300 homes proposed for Durham

Durham-based Horvath Associates filed a rezoning request to allow for up to 334 homes near Leesville Road in Durham, north of Brier Creek. The proposed project is situated on 107 acres and would include single-family and townhomes. The site is made up of 11 parcels owned by a collection of Durham individuals and families. Horvath Associates filed the application on behalf of property owners and is providing planning and engineering services. A developer wasn’t listed. 

North Carolina IT job openings steady in February

IT job openings held steady in February with more than 30,000 open positions across the state, according to a monthly report released by the NC Technology Association. The number of openings between January and February declined by 190 positions, according to NC TECH. The state’s IT openings have ranged from 27,000 positions to more than 33,000 over the past 13 months. February’s figures don’t include the impact of the coronavirus, and its impact is unclear, NC TECH CEO Brooks Raiford says. 

New $13M facility planned for Gaston County business park

The 93-acre Cherryville Business Park in Gaston County secured its first project, subject to public approval. An undisclosed company plans to purchase 55 acres of the site for $1.4 million and will invest $13.1 million to construct a “technical training” facility for the energy sector over multiple phases.  County documents say the plan will create 23 full-time jobs with average wages of $82,333, more than double the Gaston County average.

N.C. unemployment claims surpass 83,000

More than 83,000 unemployment claims were filed in North Carolina between last Monday and early Saturday, a much higher rate than the typical 3,500 claims in recent months. Coronavirus was cited as the cause on 85% of claims, according to state officials. The job losses are coming from resorts, airlines and restaurants across the state that have been impacted by the coronavirus and state of emergency declarations. 

Developer delays long-awaited Charlotte project

Armada Hoffler Properties is delaying the development of its long-awaited Ten Tryon project in downtown Charlotte due to uncertainty over the coronavirus pandemic. The company has partnered with Charlotte developer David Furman on a 15-story office building to house a Fortune 100 company and a Publix grocery store but will have to wait “until economic conditions normalize.” Armada Hoffler purchased the site for $10.5 million in January, and Publix signed a lease for the project in December. 

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