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Lawsuits against N.C. political donor, insurance tycoon, show lack of cooperation

Court documents show Greg Lindberg, a Durham insurance tycoon and the state’s largest political donor who has been indicted by the federal government on bribery charges, has been very uncooperative during previous lawsuits. Lindberg has shown a pattern of refusing to answer questions, appearing more than an hour late to court and failing to submit documents on time, at all, or in such volume it was difficult to decipher, according to court documents from a previous embezzlement case and a case about terminating employees without paying severance in contracts. Lindberg is involved in a number of lawsuits. Some attorneys have accused him of delay tactics, while others say they don’t recall problems with discovery or depositions.

Atrium Health says it’s combining with Wake Forest Baptist, not merging

Charlotte’s Atrium Health clarified its potential partnership with Winston-Salem’s Wake Forest Baptist Health and Wake Forest School of Medicine. Atrium calls the partnership a “strategic combination,” with both legal entities remaining intact and continuing to answer to their respective boards, but will operate as a unified enterprise by integrating their strategic and operational efforts. The proposal, which was announced in April, is under review by the Federal Trade Commission.

Friends Homes announces expansion project in Greensboro

Friends Homes, a continuing care retirement community, plans a major residential project on its Guilford College Road and Friendly Avenue campuses in Greensboro. Friends Homes West, on Friendly Avenue, will expand with 11 three-bedroom cottages, eight two-bedroom townhomes, three buildings containing 54 villa apartments, a new sports court and fitness options. The Friends Homes Guilford campus will add 20 townhomes.

Nash County egg producer sues over 200,000 hen deaths

Braswell Egg Co., an egg production firm in Nash County whose products are sold by Eggland’s Best, is suing Poultry Management Systems, claiming a system error killed 221,590 hens. Braswell claims to have purchased a production monitoring system from Poultry Management that was incorrectly installed, resulting in a “catastrophic loss” of hens. Braswell says losses exceeded $25,000 and that PMS tried to evade responsibility for the loss when it “abruptly stopped negotiating.” Poultry Management didn’t respond to a call seeking comment.

Ocracoke to reopen more than two months after Dorian

Ocracoke island will reopen to the public on Nov. 22, more than two months after Hurricane Dorian left record flooding and devastated the community. Officials are waiting to open the island until most of the debris is removed and repairs on N.C. 12, the coastal island’s main highway, are completed. The highway repairs are expected to be completed by the end of the month. Officials say food, gas and lodging are still limited.

N.C. State capital campaign raises $1.6 billion

N.C. State University reached its capital campaign goal of $1.6 billion with two years to spare. The “Think and Do the Extraordinary” campaign was launched in 2016 to add more need-based scholarships and financial support. Since the campaign started, the university has established 636 new scholarships and fellowships, created 83 new, endowed faculty positions and increased its endowment by 178%. N.C. State raised the funds from more than 88,000 donors.

Duke Energy objects to executives giving depositions in coal-ash suit

Duke Energy Corp. is fighting efforts from insurers to compel CEO Lynn Good and COO Dhiaa Jamil to testify in depositions as part of preparation for a coal-ash liability lawsuit. Duke is suing more than two dozen insurance companies in an attempt to recover $600 million in coal-ash liability costs. Seventeen insurers say Good and Jamil have “first-hand knowledge of Duke’s coal-ash-related actions and were personally involved in, and critical to, Duke’s plans.” Duke argues they don’t have any special knowledge.

Triangle’s Pyxus misses revenue estimates

Morrisville-based Pyxus International Inc., formerly known as Alliance One International, reported revenues of $383 million for the second quarter, less than analyst estimates of $430 million. The producer of tobacco, hemp and e-liquids posted a loss of $1.81 per diluted share, compared with a loss of $6.04 per share last year. The company says sales decreased due to an 11.2% drop in average sales prices. Shares closed at $10.33 yesterday and have traded between $9 and $32 in the last year.

GoTriangle lost public confidence after light rail failure

A new report finds that Triangle area public-transit leader GoTriangle is losing credibility with the community after spending $130 million on the Durham-Orange Light Rail Transit Project before shutting it down earlier this year. GoTriangle, which operates buses in Wake, Durham and Orange counties, led the project over the last two decades before pulling the plug in March. From Nov. 14-19, GoTriangle is hosting community workshops in Durham for the public to provide input on the agency’s future.

N.C. could receive $40M from feds for farm aid

The federal government announced $800 million in aid to farmers in Florida, Alabama and Georgia to assist with hurricane damage. But North Carolina could end up with more than $40 million of the remaining funds, which haven’t been allocated to the three Southern states. N.C. and federal officials are still negotiating over the terms of the aid package, U.S. Farm Service Agency Administrator Richard Fordyce told The Associated Press.

Investigation finds former ECU interim chancellor allegations “largely false”

A UNC System investigation into East Carolina University’s interim Chancellor Dan Gerlach found that while he did go drinking at several Greenville bars with students, allegations of inappropriate sexual behavior and comments, and buying drinks for underage students are “largely false.” The investigation, conducted by the Womble Bond Dickinson law firm, found Gerlach “probably consumed” between seven and 10 alcoholic drinks over six hours before driving home after 2 a.m.

New law increases standard deduction, adds sales tax

Gov. Roy Cooper signed a law that increases the standard deduction by $750 to $1,500 starting in 2020. For a single filer the deduction, or amount of income on which filers pay no income taxes, will now be $10,750. The law also directs companies to collect sales taxes on consumers buying products offered through third-party retailers as a way to collect more taxes from out-of-state retailers.

N.C. ranked 2nd in number of dangerous dams

North Carolina has the second-largest collection of poorly maintained dams built in places where failure could be deadly, according to a two-year investigation by The Associated Press. The state only trailed Georgia among 44 states and Puerto Rico that responded to AP‘s public records requests. North Carolina’s 168 hazardous dams that are in poor or unsatisfactory condition make up 10% of the dangerous dams AP found nationally.

Charlotte’s Ekos names new CFO

Charlotte-based Ekos, which provides workflow management software for breweries and other craft producers, named Chris Rosbrook chief financial officer. He joins the company from MapAnything, where he served as CFO and helped the company raise $75 million in equity capital. Ekos recently raised $8 million in a fundraising round, which will be used to help the company expand and add more software developers and engineers.

TransEnterix CEO steps down

Todd Pope, the longtime president and CEO of TransEnterix, a Research Triangle Park-based biotech firm, is stepping down amid the company’s financial struggles. In October, TransEnterix brought on J.P. Morgan Securities LLC to help with “considering strategic alternatives” as it looks for financial opportunities to keep the company afloat beyond the first fiscal quarter of 2020. The company named Anthony Fernando, TransEnterix’s chief operating officer and chief technology officer, as president and CEO.

Charlotte leads for next Major League Soccer expansion bid

Charlotte is the frontrunner for the next Major League Soccer expansion bid, and the newest team will be made in “the next number of months,” said MLS Commissioner Don Garber. “It’s fair to say that Charlotte has done a lot of work to move their bid to the front of the line,” he said, adding David Tepper, owner of the NFL’s Carolina Panthers, is a catalyst for the bid. If selected, Tepper is expected to pay between $300 million and $325 million for the 30th MLS team.

State Treasurer says views haven’t changed on Charlotte Police Chief retirement

North Carolina Treasurer Dale Folwell says he has “absolutely not” changed his opinion that Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney can’t retire in January and then return to oversee the 2020 Republican National Convention while continuing to collect his pension. Folwell says he’s relying on the opinion of tax attorneys in Washington and the treasurer’s office, and it would be “careless” to go against their advice.

Pender County still seeking FEMA funds for $7.5M of courthouse repairs

Pender County is still seeking funding to repair its historic courthouse nearly 13 months after Hurricane Florence first damaged the site. The building’s repairs have been delayed because the county is still unsure what renovations FEMA funds will help cover. Architects from LS3P Associates, who is leading the projects, expects most of the efforts, which will largely be paid through FEMA mitigation funds, to cost more than $7.5 million. The masonry repair work, expected to cost around $1 million, is scheduled to begin next week and continue through late March.

Wake Forest Baptist Health to use $6M grant studying non-opioid pain management

Wake Forest Baptist Health is planning to use $6 million in grant funding from the National Cancer Institute to test a web-based, pain-management system that will move patients away from opioids. The funding will be applied over five years and is in addition to the $25 million grant the health system received earlier this year from the NCI Community Oncology Research Program. The study will be geared toward cancer patients that have received treatment but still have lingering pain, a problem among 40% of those patients.

UNC Health Care board accused of inappropriately using state airplanes

An investigation by WBTV uncovered members of the UNC Health Care board, including Chairman Charles Owen III, have been inappropriately using state-funded airplanes through UNC Air Operations to avoid driving to meetings across North Carolina. Records show the hospital system spent $50,000 in the first nine months shuttling board members to meetings. Owens and former UNC Health Care CEO Bill Roper also failed to disclose conflicts of interest with certain companies for years, coming in conflict with the State Government Ethics Act.

Lt. Gov. Dan Forest wants to expand private school vouchers

As part of his education plan, Lt. Gov. Dan Forest wants every family in North Carolina to receive a state-funded voucher to attend a private school. Forest, a hopeful for the 2020 Republican nomination for governor, said he’d continue to give priority for low-income families to receive vouchers through a weighted selection lottery but would expand the eligibility criteria “to allow every family in North Carolina the chance to choose a school that works for them.”

CommScope stock up 27% on earnings beat

Hickory-based CommScope Holding Co. Inc. reported adjusted third quarter earnings of $126.9 million, or 55 cents per share, beating analyst estimates of $102.9 million and 44 cents per share. Net sales were $2.38 billion for the period, representing a 106.9% increase from last year. The network infrastructure provider’s stock jumped 27% following the news and closed trading yesterday at $14.94 per share.

Bandwidth shares fall 14% after earnings report

Raleigh’s Bandwidth Inc. shares declined 14% Thursday after the company predicted a bigger fourth quarter loss and lower revenue than expected. The communications platform-as-a-service company reported revenue of $60.5 million for the Sept. 30 quarter, compared with $50.5 million during the same quarter last year. Bandwidth lost $1 million, compared with a $2.5 million profit a year earlier. For the fourth quarter, Bandwidth expects a loss of 15 cents to 17 cents per share, with revenue of about $58.5 million. Analysts had predicted a 14 cent loss and revenue of $66 million.

myFutureNC names first president, CEO

The myFutureNC commission, which works to improve postsecondary education attainment in the state, has appointed Cecilia Holden its first-ever president and CEO. Holden previously served as the director of government and community relations for the North Carolina State Board of Education. She will begin her new position the first week of December with the goal of helping 2 million North Carolinians achieve a high-quality postsecondary degree by 2030.

Belmont greenlights historic property redevelopment

Belmont leaders approved a major redevelopment project of the historic Chronicle Mill near downtown. The decision creates a seven-acre conditional zoning ‘Downtown District’ for the Chronicle Mill to accommodate redevelopment plans. Mill owners John and Jennifer Church want to create 230 apartments with 12,000 square feet of retail and commercial space, adding a fourth story to the property and developing a new five-story building at the site.

Feds award $24M grant for faster internet in Clinton, other rural areas

North Carolina received a $23.7 million grant to build a high-speed fiber network to bring faster internet access to Clinton and other rural areas through the USDA’s ReConnect Program. The Star Telephone Membership Corp,, which offers internet, telephone and digital security services with offices in Clinton and Elizabethtown, will build the fiber-to-home network.

Gibbins Advisors pledges oversight for HCA-Mission deal

Nashville-based Gibbins Advisors, the independent monitoring firm hired to keep HCA Healthcare accountable for its promises during its acquisition of Mission Health, says it will provide oversight from within the health system and across the community. The health care consulting firm is scheduling site visits and meetings in Mission Health’s 18-county region and says it welcomes community dialogue.

Gov. Cooper asks businesses to choose education investments over tax cuts

Requesting assistance from business leaders to make teaching a more attractive profession, Governor Roy Cooper says he favors higher teacher salaries instead of further corporate tax cuts. “When business has a choice between further cuts in corporate taxes or investments in our teachers,” he said at the North Carolina CEO Forum, “I hope you will say investments in our teachers, because the CEOs I talk to aren’t complaining to me about our corporate tax structure. What they are complaining about is filling the jobs that they have with talented workers.”

Ex-Cisco CEO Chamber says automation impact on N.C. business will be brutal

Advances in artificial intelligence technology will be brutal for the tech industry, former Cisco Systems CEO John Chambers said at the annual NC CEO Forum in Raleigh. “50 percent of the companies in this room won’t exist in a decade,” he said. “For you startups, 70 percent of you will fail.” He predicted that 30% to 40% of jobs will be displaced through automation and artificial intelligence and urged North Carolina leaders to think long term.

 

Report: Fetzer worked with lawyer to disclose Gerlach videos

Former Raleigh Mayor Tom Fetzer, a  member of the University of North Carolina Board of Governors, hired Greenville lawyer Peter Romary to help obtain videos showing former East Carolina University interim chancellor Dan Gerlach walking unsteadily after a night of drinking, WBTV reported. Fetzer wanted the videos to help UNC officials decide if Gerlach should be reinstated at ECU, according to the report. Fetzer also asked N.C. House Majority Leader John Bell to intervene in the matter, but Bell says he didn’t respond. Gerlach resigned in late October after the street surveillance videos surfaced.

Primo dismisses CEO Sheehan after hedge-fund pressure

Primo Water Corp. fired CEO Matt Sheehan after a hedge fund had urged the Winston-Salem-based company to shake up its management team and board. Billy Prim, the company’s founder and executive chairman, is the new interim CEO  while the board seeks successor. Sheehan succeeded Prim as chief executive in May 2017. Legion Partners LP, of Beverly Hills, Calif., which owns a 9% stake, has slammed Sheehan, Prim and Primo for its strategies in the water-dispenser market.

Atrium Health to combine with Rome, Georgia health system

Atrium Health signed a letter of intent to combine with Rome, Ga.-based Floyd Health Systems by the end of 2020. Atrium will invest $650 million in Floyd over the next 11 years and invest $80 million in the Floyd Healthcare Foundation as part of the deal. Floyd, the largest employer in the Rome region, has an estimated economic impact of nearly $800 million annually. Atrium recently announced a strategic combination with Winston-Salem’s Wake Forest Baptist Health and Wake Forest University.

App State increases stadium construction budget by $5M

Appalachian State University increased the budget for its Kidd Brewer Stadium north end zone project by $5 million, bringing the total cost to $50 million. The project is expected to be complete by fall 2020. The addition will include 1,000 seats, offices for coaches and athletic staff, a team store, multiple dining options, a conference and continuing education space, and orthopedic and hydrotherapy clinics.

High Point approves incentives to lure 50-job manufacturing project

The High Point City Council approved $45,000 in performance-based incentives in an attempt to woo a 50-job manufacturing project to the area. LL Flex, a Louisville, Ky.-based company that makes laminated metal, paper and film products for a variety of industries, is eyeing a a facility on Gallimore Dairy Road for a manufacturing facility, as well as locations in Kentucky, Virginia and South Carolina. The jobs, which would include production workers, maintenance staff, team leaders and managers, would pay an average annual salary of $45,765.

UNC Health Care taps new execs

UNC Health Care named Gary Park, former president of UNC Hospitals, chief operating officer. He is succeeded by Janet Hadar, who previously served as senior vice president of operations. Former UNC Rex Healthcare President Steve Burris was named president of the Triangle region. He is succeeded by Ernie Bovio, who previously served as Rex’s chief operating officer, and will also oversee UNC’s new Holly Springs hospital.

Pending Atrium, Wake Forest Baptist partnership moves forward

Charlotte’s Atrium Health issued a press release giving updates on negotiations for its partnership with Winston-Salem’s Wake Forest Baptist Health and Wake Forest University as part of a deal unveiled in April. The plan includes a new tower in Winston-Salem to provide operating rooms and a emergency department at the main Wake Forest Baptist Campus; a new eye institute in downtown Winston-Salem and a second campus for Wake Forest’s medical school in Charlotte. No financial terms were disclosed.

Tarboro auto-parts plant part of Honda-Hitachi deal

Tarboro-based Keihin Carolina System Technology LLC, which has operated in the area since 1998 and employs more than 400 people, is being included along with three other Honda-owned businesses in a merger with Hitachi Automotive Systems to create a components and parts supplier with almost $17 billion in sales. Under the agreement, Honda Motor Co. will combine Keihin Corp., Showa Corp. and Nissin Kogyo Co. with Hitachi Automotive. Following the merger, Hitachi will own two-thirds of the new business and Honda will on the rest.

Family developers plan apartment, office project in Cary

Three families with a history of development projects in the region are planning a new mixed-use project in downtown Cary near the town’s new regional library. The Academy Park Cary will feature 153 multifamily units, 34,000 square-feet of retail and 102,000 square-feet of office space. The Knier, Stephenson and Zahn families are teaming up for the project. If approved, the town will sell the land around the library parking deck prior to development.

Investors Title Co.’s earnings dip

Chapel Hill’s Investors Title Co. reported earnings of $4.20 per diluted share for the third fiscal quarter, compared to $5.61 per diluted share from the same period last year. The insurance title company’s revenues fell to $47.9 million from $48.3 million a year a go, due to changes in the estimated fair value of equity security investments. Investors Title reported net income of $8 million, down from $10.6 million in the same quarter of 2018.

U.S. Rep. Foxx pushes to reinstate work at Winston-Salem’s IFB Solutions

U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx co-sponsored a bill to reinstate federal optical contracts at Winston-Salem’s IFB Solutions Inc., which provides prescription eyewear to the Department of Veterans Affairs and is the nation’s largest employer of the blind.  Optical work generates $15.4 million in annual revenue for the nonprofit, representing nearly 20% of its total revenue. About 137 of IFB’s 556 local employees are impacted by the loss of contracts. Foxx lives in Avery County and represents northwestern North Carolina.

Charlotte Mecklenburg Library plans $100M flagship

Charlotte Mecklenburg Library is unveiling design plans and a public fundraising campaign for a modernized main branch in downtown Charlotte. Plans call for an 80,000-square-foot building with community meeting rooms and interactive technology, roughly half the size of the current 157,000-square-foot building. The project is expect to cost more than $100 million and is part of a push to develop downtown’s North Tryon corridor.

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