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Aetna says state gave Blue Cross an edge in Medicaid contract award

Insurance giant Aetna is alleging that the state of North Carolina unfairly favored Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina during the selection of five companies that will manage the state’s new Medicaid insurance program for low-income recipients. It marks the biggest state contract in history, totaling $30 billion over five years. In a court filing, Aetna says a state employee who helped award the contract lives with a top Blue Cross executive. The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services says the process was fair.

Duke Energy to extend lives of Carolinas nuclear power plants

Duke Energy is applying for 20-year license renewals for all six of its nuclear power plants in North and South Carolina. The announcement follows Duke’s earlier pledge this week to cut its carbon dioxide emissions in half by 2030 and reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050. The license renewal potentially extends the plants’ working lives to 80 years. Duke Energy cited the carbon-free aspect of the plants, economic benefits and cost effectiveness of continuing operations at existing plants rather than building expensive new ones as reasons for the license renewal.

Custom printing company to open warehouse, bring 100+ jobs to Charlotte

Printful, a custom, on-demand printing and warehousing company, is opening a new, 53,000-square-foot facility in Charlotte that will bring more than 100 jobs to the area. The company, which has fulfilled more than 12 million orders since launching in 2013, will host a grand opening ceremony on Oct. 8 to break in the new operation. Led by founder Davis Siksnans, Printful was recently ranked on Inc. 5000’s fastest-growing companies list, placing 564.

Report: Ex-state senator barred from securities business is running financial education company

Former N.C. State Sen. Thom Goolsby of Wilmington runs an “online financial education” company that may run afoul of a state order barring him from the financial services industry, according to a report by N.C. Policy Watch. Two securities law experts said Goolsby could be violating the spirit of the order, issued in April 2014 by the North Carolina Secretary of State. Goolsby, who serves on the UNC System Board of Governors, declined to discuss the matter.

Atlantic Coast Pipeline clears legal challenge in Lumberton

A Robeson County tower and metering station for servicing the planned Atlantic Coast Pipeline has been given the green light. Legal challenges regarding the 350-foot tower and metering station came to an end in July, and there haven’t been any appeals, according to the interim Robeson County attorney. Construction on the pipeline, which is being built by partners Duke Energy, Dominion Energy, Piedmont Natural Gas and Southern Co. Gas, is still on hold until two other legal challenges can be resolved in court.

UNC System seeks to boost recruiting, retain talent

The UNC System is looking for new tools to boost its recruiting efforts for securing talent. The UNC Board of Governors will be asked to approve a new financial incentive program that would allow high-performing chancellors to receive bonuses of up to 20% of their annual base salary and a provision to give up to eight weeks of parental leave to all benefit-eligible UNC employees. UNC System leadership says chancellors at its public universities are constantly being recruited from private colleges in the state and other systems trying to lure them away.

Charlotte’s Memorial Stadium to get $35M upgrade

Mecklenburg County is starting a $35 million renovation of American Legion Memorial Stadium, the 17,000 seat arena adjacent to the Grady Cole Center near Central Piedmont Community College. Demolition for the project should be completed by the end of this year or early 2020, after which work will begin on new concourses, seating and other features. County taxpayers will cover $32 million of the renovation cost, and the remaining expenses will be paid from a portion of existing city tourism tax revenue. Once completed, the upgraded stadium will house the Charlotte Independence, the area’s USL soccer team who currently plays at a sports complex in Matthews.

Durham to pick Boston firm for police headquarters redevelopment

Durham city staff recommended choosing Boston-based Fallon Co. to redevelop the old Durham Police Department headquarters  on West Chapel Hill Street. Fallon’s plans call for the 4.5-acre site to be turned into a mixed-use development with 300 apartments and 80 affordable units. It includes about 350,000 square feet of office and commercial space with 276,500 square feet in the new office building and 73,500 square feet in the old headquarters for retail space.

Watchdog group files complaint over Duke Energy political contributions

Watchdog Bob Hall has filed a complaint with state elections officials over political donations made by Charlotte-based Duke Energy. Earlier this year, the energy giant donated more than $40,000 to eight leaders of the N.C. General Assembly, including Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger, House Speaker Tim Moore, and Senate Minority Leader Dan Blue. Duke Energy, which favors a pending bill that would significantly change how it is regulated by the state, asked the legislators to return the money because it was exceeding how much the company’s political action committee could donate in 2018. Hall says the company should be penalized by the State Board of Elections.

Wilmington approves $27M funding to rebuild affordable housing damaged by Hurricane Florence

Wilmington City Council approved $27 million in bonds for the Wilmington Housing Authority to help rebuild affordable housing complex Market North Apartments. The apartments were forced to shut down after damage from Hurricane Florence. Construction is underway, and residents can begin moving in Oct. 14. More than 200 families were displaced when the apartments closed last year.

N.C. Blue Cross CEO faces impaired driving charges

Patrick Conway, CEO of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina, the state’s dominant health insurer, faces charges of driving while impaired related to a June accident while driving on Interstate 85 in Randolph County. Conway collided with a Harris Teeter LLC semi-trailer on June 22, according to reports filed by the Archdale Police Department. Conway’s daughters, both under age 10, were in the car with him, prompting two “misdemeanor child abuse” charges that are customary in driving while impaired cases. A District Court session on the charges is scheduled for Oct. 8 at the Randolph County Courthouse in Asheboro.

Duke Energy pledges to reach ‘net zero’ carbon emissions by 2050, may speed coal plant exits

Duke Energy Corp. established more ambitious goals to reduce carbon emissions from its electric power operations by 50% by 2030 and to reach “net zero” carbon in its system by 2050. In an effort to combat climate change, North Carolina proposed goals for power utilities to reduce carbon emissions by at least 60% of 2005 levels by 2030 and achieve zero emissions by 2050. Duke’s plan will put them more on track with the state goal and probably prompt more rapid closure of the company’s remaining coal-fired power plants.

Investing company calls for Billy Prim’s ouster at Primo Water

California-based asset management firm Legion Partners LLC, which owns a 9.1% stake in Winston-Salem’s Primo Water Corp., released a letter to shareholders asking for changes in the company’s board of directors. Legion called for the removal of Billy Prim as executive chairman and to appoint an independent chairman to replace him, citing poor results and underperformance of the company’s stock over the past few years. Legion criticized Prim’s and Primo CEO Matt Sheehan’s compensation — they have received total compensation of $38 million since 2010. They also called for the replacement of board members Malcolm McQuilkin, Richard Brenner and David Warnock, saying the members have “alarming conflicts of interest.”

High Point University announces 10-year growth plan, $1B investment

High Point University announced a $1 billion, decade-long growth plan as President Nido Qubein, 71, committed to work another 10 years at the institution. The growth plan includes $700 million in scholarships focused on first-generation students, diversifying the school’s student body and improving academic excellence. About $300 million in new construction is planned including a new library, academic building, admissions center and Division I ice hockey facility. The university also wants to start a think tank to improve collaboration and promote development with High Point.

Lobbying group aims to restart projects suspended by NCDOT cash crunch

The North Carolina arm of the American Council of Engineering Companies is teaming up with a North Carolina Chamber of Commerce-led effort to create a coalition aimed at fixing the North Carolina Department of Transportation’s cash reserve problem. The issue has caused about 900 project suspensions. A potential bill to address DOT’s short-term cash issue and reinstate those projects could be filed this week.

New American Hebrew Academy to reopen with $26M in financing

Months after Greensboro’s American Hebrew Academy closed for financial reasons, officials said it will reopen next year with a new name and start accepting students of all religious backgrounds for grades nine through 11. The academy secured financing after borrowing $26 million from Chinese company Puxin Ltd., which specializes in K-12 after-school care and tutoring.

Speedway Motorsports completing plan to go private

Speedway Motorsports Inc. and Sonic Financial Corp. are finalizing an $800 million merger that will take the race track operator private this week. Company founder Bruton Smith owns Sonic Financial, and with other family members, a 70% stake of Speedway. The Smith family announced their intentions to take Speedway private in April. According to filings, 65% of shareholders owning stock not controlled by the Smith family and Sonic agreed to terms of $19.75 per share.

Mecklenburg tax collector may seize wages over delinquent Medic bills

Patients of the Mecklenburg Emergency Medical Services Agency, Medic, may have their wages or bank accounts seized to pay for overdue bills plus extra fees. Bills for Medic that are more than 120 days overdue will be turned over to the Mecklenburg County Tax Collector’s Office starting in October. Delinquent debts were previously sent to a private collection agency after 120 days. Medic has 35,177 accounts that are past due with total  debt of $28.7 million.

Charlotte’s Humane Society launches $15M campaign for new shelter

The Humane Society of Charlotte launched the final phase of its $15 million fundraising campaign for a new center that will have room to share with other nonprofit groups. The existing shelter, built in the 1970s as the city’s animal control facility, is packed, cramped, outdated and originally intended for euthanization. Campaign funding will place the Humane Society in a new 46,000-square-foot facility nearly five times larger than the old one. It will sit on 17 acres and unlike the current space, will have indoor kennels and separate spaces to medically screen animals, treat new arrivals and evaluate behavior, well as room for prospective owners to meet the animals before adoption.

Online mortgage company bringing 1,000 jobs to Charlotte

New York digital mortgage lender Better.com plans to add 1,000 jobs in Charlotte over the next five years. Last month, the company moved into a WeWork coworking space at the RailYard building in South End, where Better will hire 100 new employees by the end of the year. Better is looking to fill sales, business development, partnership, operations and other positions; salaries may range from $60,000 to $115,000 based on Glassdoor reviews. There were no incentives involved with the expansion, which will mark Better’s second East Coast hub.

India’s Kalyani Group plans hundreds of jobs in Lee County

Indian manufacturing giant Kalyani Group has selected Lee County for a massive expansion project. The company will bring 460 new jobs with average salaries of nearly $52,000 to Sanford over the next decade. The initial investment worth more than $170 million could eventually reach $1.5 billion. The exact figure of state and local incentives are still being discussed; the city of Sanford may contribute nearly $4.4 million.

N.C. Senate passes new voting maps

The North Carolina Senate approved its new political maps ahead of the deadline Wednesday, following the House vote Friday, and after a panel of judges ruled that man of the districts were unconstitutionally gerrymandered. Now passed, the House and Senate will review the other chamber’s work and potentially make minor changes. The Senate maps received bipartisan support, but eight of the 21 Democratic senators voted against them claiming the maps should be drawn independently.

Atrium Health reports first-half net income of $764M

Atrium Health, the Charlotte-based health care system that is the largest in North Carolina, said it had total enterprise net income of $764 million in the first half of 2019, versus a budgeted number of $238 million. Most of the net income related to investment gains rather than health care operations.

Operating income totaled $137 million versus a budget of $97 million, for a margin of 2.6%.

Operating revenue was $5.3 billion, about 1% more than budgeted.

Atrium credited the strong net income results on higher-than-expected returns on investments.

The system said it invested $397 million, or 7.5% of revenue, on capital investments. That included projects involving the Levine Cancer Institute building in Charlotte and projects in Concord and Pineville.

Atrium CEO Gene Woods said the pending partnership with Wake Baptist Health in Winston-Salem is “on track” with plans to “decide on how our partnerships will come together” by the end of the year. He was speaking at Atrium’s quarterly board meeting in Charlotte.

Atrium Health is a not-for-profit authority. It has operations across North Carolina and parts of South Carolina and Georgia.

 

UNC School of the Arts rolls out $65M capital campaign

The UNC School of the Arts announced a $65 million capital campaign called “Powering Creativity: The Campaign for UNCSA.” The first capital campaign in 20 years, and largest in school history, has earmarked funds for five main initiatives. It’s setting aside $25 million for scholarships, $18 million for innovation, $12 million for facility improvements, $8 million for faculty support and $2 million for community engagement. The school hopes by taking the campaign public, they’ll draw more donations from alumni.

New Hanover to explore sale of county hospital

The board of commissioners voted 3-2 to explore the potential sale of New Hanover Regional Medical Center, which is the largest employer in New Hanover County and the prominent health care provider for the seven-county region. The goal of a sale would be to prevent the now-profitable system from becoming a financial burden on taxpayers down the road. The “Resolution of Intent to Sell” will create an advisory group that will work with a consulting firm to gauge interest from potential buyers. A final decision will be made by the commissioners after reviewing proposals, listening to community input and assessing the impact on quality of health care services in the area.

NN Inc.’s CEO resigns

Richard Holder, CEO of Charlotte-based diversified industrial company NN Inc., has stepped down from his position as president and CEO. Warren Veltman, who has served as executive vice president of the company’s Mobile Solutions group since 2014, has been named interim president and CEO, effective immediately. Holder led NN since 2013, after serving as the president of electrical components for Dublin, Ireland’s Eaton Corporation’s electronics sector.

Nucor expects earnings to decline in third quarter

Charlotte’s steel company Nucor Corp. expects third quarter earnings to range from 75 cents to 80 cents per diluted share, down 65% from the $2.13 per share it reported this time last year. The anticipated EPS also falls short of the $1.26 earnings per diluted share it reported last quarter, caused by lower prices for sheet and plate steel. The company is predicting a decline in its steel mills and raw materials segment compared with last quarter.

VisionQuest founder sentenced to 40 years

Triangle investment adviser Stephen Peters was sentenced to 40 years in prison by U.S. District Court Judge James Devers after being convicted in what prosecutors described as a Ponzi scheme. During his Friday sentencing, Peters was found guilty of 20 counts of fraud related to the $15 million scheme. He is in his mid-40s. His Vision Quest investment firm misdirected client funds for Peters’ personal use, Devers said.

Appalachian reports record enrollment

Appalachian State University in Boone enrolled 19,280 students this fall, which school officials called the largest and most diverse class in university history. Appalachian said it enrolled 5,831 rural students, 300 more than the UNC System benchmark. It also has 4,977 first-generation undergraduate students, about 28% of the total undergraduate population.

Duke Health gets approval for $12M Triangle expansion

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services approved four projects in the Triangle totaling more than $12 million for Duke Health. Duke Health is set to develop two new ambulatory surgical centers, a diagnostic center and a new gastrointestinal center with four endoscopy rooms. Duke Health, WakeMed Health and Hospitals and UNC Health are the region’s dominant health care providers.

North Carolina among the 25 states to reject Purdue Pharma settlement

North Carolina is expected to be among the 25 states rejecting OxyCotin maker Purdue Pharma’s multibillion settlement for its role in the opioid crisis. Purdue has proposed a tentative $12 billion settlement, which has gained support from most Republican attorney generals, while their Democratic counterparts have decried it as inadequate. N.C. Democratic Attorney General Josh Stein, one of the lead negotiators of the settlement, is opposing the Purdue offer.

Big solar farm pitched in Rowan County

China Grove Solar is proposing a 428-acre solar farm in western Rowan County to would include a 65-megawatt system. The county’s 12 previous solar system proposals have ranged in size from about 1 megawatt to 7 megawatts. The Solar Energy Industries Association says one megawatt of electricity in North Carolina is enough to power 100 to 150 homes. The Rowan County Commission is expected to discuss the plan today. It has received opposition from local property owners.

Triangle tobacco CEO calls e-cigarette ban “misguided”

Pieter Sikkel, CEO of Morrisville-based tobacco processing company Pyxus International called President Donald Trump’s plans for a flavored e-cigarette ban, “misguided and not based on scientific research.” Sikkel says his company recognizes the seriousness of youth access to the vaping products, but he criticized the decision to ban most non-tobacco flavors. He says the focus should be on education and prevention of underage access to e-liquids, rather than restricting access to responsible adults.

Michigan textile-maker acquires Cliffside’s Abercrombie Textiles

Bloomfield Hills, Mich.-based Crypton Cos., a performance textile manufacturer, has expanded its footprint in North Carolina by acquiring Cliffside’s Abercrombie Textiles. Abercrombie Textiles operates a 150,000-square-foot facility in Cliffside, which is about 30 miles west of Crypton’s current N.C. facility in Kings Mountain. Lance Keziah, CEO of Crypton Inc., will oversee Abercrombie and has tapped Ernest Benbassat as executive vice president of operations.

UNC faculty delays vote on controversial public discourse program

The UNC-Chapel Hill Faculty Council delayed a vote Friday that would “put on hold” the proposed controversial academic program for public discourse. The program in the College of Arts and Sciences has drawn criticism from over 100 faculty members who say its being developed behind closed doors by conservatives outside the university faculty and is being funded by undisclosed donors. University faculty now have the opportunity to get more clarity on the program, which is set to launch in fall 2021.

NASCAR has started banning some gun industry ads

NASCAR has begun rejecting gun industry ads depicting “assault-style rifles” and some other arms, as part of its gradual shift in its position on guns. The advertising ban started in mid-August, and requires certain ads be edited or changed, particularly those depicting assault-style rifles and sniper rifles. Some national online firearms sellers are criticizing the move, while NASCAR has yet to make a comment.

Medline to invest $65M, bring hundreds of jobs to Mebane

Illinois-based Medline Industries is investing $65 million to build a new distribution center in Mebane and will bring 250 jobs to the area, which will increase to 726 jobs by 2029. The family-owned medical supply company expects to break ground on the project as early as October and will be located on 173 acres in the Buckhorn Road Economic Development Zone. Completion is set for late next year. New positions include warehouse workers, drivers and management positions and, excluding management, will have an average salary of $35,486. Medline received about $4.4 million in incentives for the investment.

 

Fort Bragg gets new $45M aerial gunnery range for training

Fort Bragg has a new $45 million aerial gunnery range to help train troops on Apache helicopters and other similar aircraft. The range, located south of Sicily, Normandy, Salerno and Holland drop zones, encompasses more than 1,100 acres and features more than 460 automated targets. Previously, Fort Bragg soldiers had to travel to train at places like Georgia’s Fort Stewart, but the N.C. base is receiving requests from other installations to use the range.

ECU eyes construction of Millennial Campus, downtown hotel

East Carolina University is in active discussions to bring more development to its downtown areas, including a new hotel and the long-awaited Millennial Campus. The project would involve the Warehouse District, and the unnamed company involved is focusing on the Export Leaf Warehouse and two other buildings that qualify for federal and North Carolina Mill Tax credits. The university is working on a potential memorandum of understanding to lay out the details of the partnership, which includes leasing the property because it doesn’t want to sell the land.

Doctors split from medical group to join Tryon Medical Partners

Seven doctors will split from CaroMont Medical Group in Gaston County to join Tryon Medical Partners, which is made up of nearly 100 doctors that left Atrium Health to form their own practice last year. Tryon Medical and the newly-joined Gaston County doctors plan to open a new 20,000-square-foot clinic called Tryon Medical Partners – Gaston on Dec. 2. The seven physicians represent nearly half of CaroMont’s South Point Family Practice and serve more than 20,000 patients in the county. First, the new doctors are suing their old hospital system, echoing Tryon Medical’s lawsuit against Atrium Health last year, which accused the hospital system of monopolistic and anti-competitive behavior.

14 new charter schools could open in N.C. in 2021

Fourteen new charter schools want to open in North Carolina in August 2021, following the booming trend of publicly funded but privately run schools in the state. The deadline to apply for the 2021-22 school year was Aug. 26; the Office of Charter Schools will review applications before sending them to the N.C. Charter Schools Advisory Board, which will review them and make recommendations to the State Board of Education about which of the proposed schools should open. N.C. has more than 100,000 students enrolled at 196 charter schools across the state, with 12 opening this year and 10 opening next year.

Charlotte business group names upcoming chairs

The Charlotte Regional Business Alliance, which assists with economic and business development in Mecklenburg County, announced its chairs for the coming years at the group’s fall planning meeting. Jennifer Weber, Lowe’s Cos.’ executive vice president of human resources, will chair the board in 2020, followed by Atrium Health’s Executive Vice President and Chief Integration Officer Carol Lovin in 2021. Malcomb Coley, Ernst & Young’s US-Central growth market leader and Charlotte managing partner, will take the helm in 2022.

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