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Guilford area leaders offer $3.6M to encourage Syngenta to stay

Greensboro and Guilford County officials approved an incentives package worth $3.6 million for Syngenta Crop Protection, hinged on the company’s pledge to retain its local staff of 650 workers and to invest $68 million into its local operation. The Swiss company hosts its North American operations at a 70-acre Greensboro site. It has said it is considering other areas in a realignment.

Independent power producer NTE says Duke Energy illegally blocked growth plan

Florida-based wholesale power producer NTE Energy filed an antitrust lawsuit contending Duke Energy used its monopoly power to damage NTE’s plans to win a supply contract with the city of Fayetteville. NTE says Duke broke a contract to connect its proposed Reidsville power plant to the electric grid as a way of blocking competition. A Duke spokesman called NTE’s lawsuit “unfounded allegations.” Fayetteville awarded a contract to Duke in November.


Record number of UNC System students graduating within five years

Seventy-one percent of UNC System students graduated within five years in 2018, a record level that continues a steady five year increase, officials said. The number exceeded the goal set in 2017 that was expected to be achieved in 2022, according to the system’s strategic plan. Officials have pressed to improve the rate as a way of reducing costs for students and make sure that transfer students receive credit for previous coursework.

Charlotte arts group seeks $5M to avoid grant cutbacks

Charlotte’s Arts & Science Council said it needs to raise $5 million by June to avoid a 50% reduction in grants it gives to 33 arts groups. The money makes up an average of 10% of the group’s budgets. The warning followed the November defeat of a referendum that would have led to $22.5 million in annual funding for the arts. Corporate and individual giving to the council has plummeted in the last decade as more donors have opted to give directly to organizations in some cases.

Activist investors at Primo Water sell shares after sale to Cott

Legion Partners LP, the California investor group that pressed for changes at Winston-Salem-based Primo Water, sold its shares quickly after Primo agreed to a $755 million sale to Cott Corp. Legion held 9.1% of Primo shares, making it the company’s second-biggest holder. Legion had criticized founder Billy Prim and former CEO Matt Sheehan for the company’s strategy and compensation policies.

Golden LEAF launches $5M skilled workforce-training grant program

Golden LEAF Foundation is launching a $5 million grant program to help train workers to meet “urgent industry needs.” The Golden LEAF Opportunities for Work program is intended to help “working-age adults with barriers to employment receive the skills needed to obtain high-demand jobs.” Nonprofit organizations and government entities with at least three years of experience helping the population achieve full-time work will be eligible to apply for grants in March.

Lowe’s hires Taco Bell’s former chief marketing officer

Lowe’s Cos. Inc. hired Marisa Thalberg as executive vice president, chief brand and marketing officer, continuing rapid executive-level changes under CEO Marvin Ellison. The 25-year marketing veteran joins the Mooresville-based home improvement retailer after serving as the global chief brand officer for Taco Bell for four years. She will replace chief marketing officer Jocelyn Wong, who joined in 2017. Thalberg will assume her new role on Feb. 10.

N.C. Council on Developmental Disabilities names executive director

Disability rights activist Talley Wells was hired to lead the North Carolina Council on Developmental Disabilities as executive director, effective Jan. 21. Wells previously led the Disability Integration Project at the Atlanta Legal Aid Society, taught disability rights at Georgia State University College of Law, and worked at the Institute on Human Development and Disabilities at the University of Georgia. In his new role, Wells will ensure those with disabilities in N.C. will have access to necessary community services, individual support systems and other forms of assistance to promote independence.

Fortive spinoff to be based in Raleigh with 8,400 global staffers

Washington-based Fortive Corp. is spinning off a business focused on transportation, logistics and mobility markets that will be based in Raleigh. The venture, known as Vontier Corp., will have 8,400 employees worldwide but specifics for the North Carolina workforce were not disclosed. Vontier’s portfolio is made up of retail and commercial fueling and fleet management brands, including Greensboro-based Gibarco Veeder-Root, a leading gas-pump manufacturer.

Morrisville’s TrialCard plots more acquisitions after record year

Morrisville-based medical platform TrialCard reported the company’s best financial year in its two-decade history, recording 42% organic revenue growth while making four acquisitions. CEO Mark Bouck says the company is aiming to top 20% organic growth this year and is eyeing “a couple big potential acquisitions.” New York-based Odyssey Investment Partners owns TriadCard.

Bell Partners founder transfers shares to top executives

Steve Bell, founder and chairman of Greensboro-based Bell Partners, moved a portion of his shares to top company managers. The Bell family maintains majority ownership of the apartment investment and management company. The shares transition will not impact the composition of Bell Partners’ executive and investment committees or the general partner structure for the company’s prior funds. Bell started the business in 1976.

N.C. ranks 21st for innovation, report says

North Carolina ranks 21st in the nation in terms of innovation – up two spots from last year – according to the annual Tracking Innovation report from the N.C. Department of Commerce. The state’s highest ranking was third for university-related research and development, which has grown three times faster than the national rate since 2003. The state’s lowest score was 49th in share of gross domestic product spent on elementary and secondary education.

Charlotte wants guarantee Tepper will stay before spending $110M on MLS

Charlotte officials say the city can afford to spend $110 million on a tourism-related project to help fund David Tepper’s pro soccer franchise, but are unsure of a timeline for payments or how the funds will be allocated. Officials say they need assurance that the billionaire investor won’t relocate the team to South Carolina before releasing tourism dollars. Tepper wants public funding to make Bank of America Stadium more amenable to soccer games.

Alamance-Burlington School System approves budget

Earlier this week the Alamance-Burlington Board of Education adopted a budget for 2019-2020 despite not having a state budget to base it on. The school board approved a budget anticipating it will receive about $144 million from the state, with $1 million coming from the district’s yearly savings fund balance. The school system can amend the budget once the Legislature gets a budget approved. In all, it receives $9.5 million less from the state than it did a decade ago.

BofA’s fourth-quarter earnings dip 4%, still beat estimates

Bank of America reported fourth-quarter profit of $6.99 billion, a 4% decline from a year earlier. But per-share earnings were 74 cents, topping analysts’ estimates of 68 cents, as profit from bond trading surged and the bank bought back its stock. Revenue was stronger than expected. BofA shares increased 43%in 2019, bolstered by improving profits due to higher interest rates and a strong U.S. economy. The second-largest U.S. bank employs about 20,000 people in the Charlotte area.

Wells Fargo officials hint at layoffs after disappointing earnings report

San Francisco-based bank Wells Fargo, which employs more than 25,000 people in the Charlotte area, says job cuts are likely after a disappointing earnings report on Tuesday. The company reported profit of $2.9 billion — 60 cents per diluted share — for the fourth quarter of 2019 versus $6.06 billion a year earlier, partly because of fines and legal expenses resulting from regulatory issues. Adjusted earnings of 93 cents per share missed Wall Street expectations of $1.12 per share.

Cherokees jockeying for gaming site in Bristol, Virginia

The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, which operates two casinos in western North Carolina, wants to build a gaming facility in Bristol, Virginia on ancestral land. The Virginia legislature hasn’t approved commercial gaming operations in the state, though a bill is pending. The Cherokees are lobbying against a years-old effort by South Carolina’s Catawba tribe to start a casino near Kings Mountain in Cleveland County.

State lawmakers fail to override governor’s budget veto

A one-day legislative session concluded without a vote on the state budget covering the fiscal year that is now more than half over. The Senate adjourned with no plans to meet until April, stalling a plan to raise N.C. teacher pay by an average 3.9%. Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed the Republican-backed measure, saying it wasn’t a sufficient pay increase and didn’t expand Medicaid to more state residents who lack health insurance.

Johnston County names new interim superintendent, warns of layoffs

The Johnston County school system tapped Ben Williams to serve as the new interim superintendent through June. Williams has worked as an assistant superintendent, principal and school teacher in Johnston County. He replaces Jim Causby, who resigned from the position last week due to “interference” from the school board. Williams will work to solve the $8.8 million budget shortfall facing the school system. School leaders warned layoffs may be necessary if the system doesn’t receive additional funding from county commissioners soon.

Truist opts for burgundy-blue tint for new logo

Truist Financial Corp. unveiled a color scheme and logo for the merger of BB&T Corp. and SunTrust Banks Inc. Truist said  that the color purple and the new logo represent “a bold new look and feel.” The Charlotte-based bank said the logo is a combination of BB&T burgundy and SunTrust blue and that the monogram is made up of two T’s that mirror the Truist name and represent Touch and Technology.

Sara Lee cooks up 108 new jobs at Tarboro bakery

Sara Lee Frozen Bakery, which makes baked desserts, treats and snacks, is investing $19.8 million to expand its food manufacturing center in Tarboro in Edgecombe County, It will add 108 jobs to an existing staff of 650. The plant recently had its 30th anniversary. New York-based private equity group Kohlberg & Co. acquired the business from Tyson Foods in 2018. Pay will average about $40,000 per year.

Charlotte hired ex-city attorney to rule in police chief pension dispute

The city of Charlotte hired former City Attorney Bob Hagemann’s law firm to provide an opinion on a dispute over pension law involving Police Chief Kerr Putney’s retirement plans, WSOC-TV reported. State Treasurer Dale Folwell contended Putney’s plan to retire, then be rehired in a temporary role, violated state law. That prompted the city to seek an opinion from Poyner & Spruill, which relied partly on Hagemann in concluding that the law allowed Putney to proceed with his plan. Putney has since said he would postpone his retirement until after the Republican National Convention.

Primo Water to be sold in $775M deal

Primo Water Corp. of Winston-Salem agreed to be sold to Canada-based beverage company Cott Corp. for $775 million. Primo is said to be part of Cott’s transformation into a pure-play water company as it plans to sell its Concord-based S&D Coffee and Tea business segments. The deal is expected to close in March and Primo founder and executive chairman Billy Prim will join Cott’s board of directors. Major Primo investors forced the November resignation of CEO Matt Sheehan after criticism of strategy and executive pay.

Big N.C. hospitals show interest in possible Wilmington hospital sale

Many of the state’s major hospital systems have asked for the “request for proposal” that New Hanover Regional Medical Center Partnership Advisory Group is issuing concerning a possible sale of the institution, officials said. Atrium Health, Duke Health, UNC Hospitals, Novant Health and Vidant Health are among those seeking information about a possible transaction. New Hanover is sending the document to more than two dozen institutions as part of a process looking at the hospital’s options.

Iredell County steel company wins $2.2M in lawsuit against co-founder

A judge in Iredell County ordered Leon Rives II and his Lexington-based CPA firm, Rives & Associates, to pay $2.2 million in damages to Statesville-based Steel Tube Inc. and its owner Avalon Potts, according to a report from The Lexington Dispatch. Rives co-founded Steel Tube in 1990 and was accused of using his position with the company to siphon funds away for personal gain, while Rives & Associates performed tax-prep services for Steel Tube. He was convicted of committing civil fraud and breach of duty — among other counts — in December.

Wilmington’s PPD expanding in China

Wilmington-based Pharmaceutical Product Development announced it’s expanding its operations in China. The contract-research organization is expanding clinical-development offices in Beijing and Shanghai, launching offices in Guangzhou and Shenyang, and planning a lab that would offer bioanalytical, biomarker and vaccine-science services. PPD says it will benefit from China’s massive population and booming pharmaceutical industry. The news comes after PPD filed preliminary paperwork to go public last week.

Dental rule change proposed to fill oral health gap

A proposed dental rule change could use dental hygienists to fill the state’s oral health gap. Currently 2.5 million North Carolinians live in areas with dental care shortages. The proposed change would allow dental hygienists in high-need areas to provide services in public health settings, such as schools and free clinics, but would not permit them to open their own practices.

Charlotte’s AvidXchange raises $130M in funding round

Charlotte-based payment processing software company AvidXchange raised $130 million in a new funding round, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The privately held company, with an estimated value of more than $1 billion, is in the process of doubling its headquarters staff. Officials in December told Reuters it is seeking to raise at least $300 million from investors.

Cary’s Altavant Sciences makes first acquisition as part of new conglomerate

Cary-based Altavant Sciences started off the year with the acquisition of Onspira Therapeutics, a Pennsylvania startup that also focuses on treating rare respiratory diseases. Under the agreement Onspira’s shareholders received an upfront payment and will receive additional milestone and royalty payments. Exact financial details were not disclosed. In December, Altavant became the subsidiary of Sumitovant Biopharma, a global biopharmaceutical drug conglomerate with offices in New York and London.

N.C. getting $56M for early childhood education

North Carolina will receive two grants worth up to $56 million to improve early childhood education and health outcomes for at-risk children. The $40.2 million Preschool Development Grant from the Department of Health and Human Services will fund professional-development programs for early childhood teachers and expand home-visitation programs for parents of newborns. A $16 million grant from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services will allow children to receive Medicaid coverage and other services as part of the “Integrated Care for Kids” program.

Tom Hendrickson tapped to lead Charlotte’s Brookhill Village redevelopment

Triangle developer Tom Hendrickson is leading the groups that have closed on development and leasehold rights for Charlotte’s Brookhill Village, a low-income neighborhood near the South End area that is slated to turn into a more appealing residential site. Plans call for a 324-unit multifamily community with two- and three-story buildings across 15.5 acres. The proposal includes 65 units for residents making less than 30% of the area’s median income, 97 for those earning up to 60% of the median income and two making 80% of the median income, while the other 160 will be leased at market rates.

PPD files for November IPO

Wilmington-based Pharmaceutical Product Development filed paperwork with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission with the intent to go public again in November. The company plans to trade under the ticker “PPD” on the Nasdaq. It will use the proceeds from the offering to pay off a pair of high-interest loans totaling $1.45 billion which are due in May 2022. The company was founded by Fred Eshelman and first went public in 1996 before it was acquired by a pair of private equity firms for $3.9 billion in 2011.

Crescent Communities names new COO, commercial business leader

Charlotte-based Crescent Communities named a new chief operating officer and a new commercial business leader. The real estate developer tapped Brian Natwick to serve as president and COO. Natwick first joined Crescent in 2006 and has worked as president of the company’s multifamily business since 2011. In February, Brendan Pierce will join as senior managing director of commercial development and as a member of Crescent’s investment committee. He previously worked for Charlotte-based commercial real estate firm, The Keith Corp. for 16 years.

Economic developer Chung says attracting talent is key N.C. challenge in 2020

Attracting talent is North Carolina’s key challenge, Chris Chung, chief executive officer with the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina, told 1,000 people gathered for Raleigh Chamber’s 2020 Launch. “Talent is trumping everything,” Chung said. “If you’re an employee with marketable skills, you can have your pick of the litter, pretty much, in terms of where you want to work.” Chung said his main challenge is convincing companies that North Carolina has the best talent pool.

Durham’s BioSkryb rakes in $11.5M in funding

Durham-based genetic-research startup BioSkryb has landed $11.5 million in an initial venture funding round. The company’s technology provides amplification and analysis of genetic material for gene sequencing, which can be used for research and clinical diagnostics. Washington, D.C.-based Anzu Partners, which has more than $350 million under management, led the round.

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