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Saturday, December 3, 2022
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NC trend: What you missed from the N.C. Tribune

Our paid daily newsletter launched in February, providing detailed interviews with key lawmakers, Q&As of other political leaders, and stories on redistricting and candidate filings for the 2022 elections. Plus lots of stories tracking daily happenings at the state legislature.

Here’s some of what you missed. Sign up today at nctribune.com.


Electric bus charger plant hosts infrastructure talks

Gov. Roy Cooper, U.S. Rep. Deborah Ross and other business and political leaders stopped by the Siemens manufacturing facility in Wendell for an infrastructure event in April. One of the products Siemens produces there is charging equipment for electric buses — obviously a huge growth industry as the transportation sector shifts away from diesel and gas. The plant has quietly added 100 jobs in the past year and expects “hundreds more” in the coming years, an executive told the crowd.

Siemens, a multinational company headquartered in Germany, has had the Wendell plant for decades, but it has scaled up its operations there and changed product lines in recent years.

gov roy cooper
Governor Roy Cooper, center, tours the Siemens manufacturing facility.

Electric vehicle charging infrastructure will be a key piece of meeting Cooper’s goals to get more zero-emissions vehicles on the road. GoTriangle CEO Charles Lattuca offered a prime example: Its fleet recently added two electric buses, but the buses can run the system’s regional routes for only half a day before they have to return to their chargers.

 

Among the other highlights from the Accelerating America’s Electric Future event, which was hosted by the Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group United for Infrastructure:

  • Federal money coming: Ross highlighted the billions of dollars coming from Washington through the recent infrastructure bill, and she said a challenge is making sure local governments and organizations understand how to get their projects funded. “It is up to members of Congress to continue to have these (grant) workshops to explain to people how they might access these funds,” she said, adding that the money will be released over the course of several years, giving more time to apply. Ross is also optimistic that North Carolina will see additional resources from the Innovation and Competition Act. She expects the House and Senate will reach an agreement soon, and the bill will be signed into law by this summer.
  • Duke’s plan coming soon: Duke Energy Executive Vice President Brian Savoy said the utility company is nearing the next required step from last year’s House Bill 951. He said the carbon reduction plan will be submitted to the N.C. Utilities Commission in mid-May. “The plan is aggressive and it’s the right one for North Carolina,” he said. “We’re going to provide many options for the Utilities Commission to consider.”

$203.5 million still left unspent as business grants offer another shot

With $203.5 million still left unspent, the state’s Business Recovery Grant program will reopen its application process on May 2 with a June 1 deadline. 

Lawmakers adjusted the requirements for the program in the recently approved technical corrections bill. In the first round of grants, about 3,100 approved recipients were hospitality businesses, totaling $257.4 million. 

But the other part of the program got less interest. Only 282 non-hospitality businesses received “reimbursement” grants, totaling $22.3 million. That’s likely because those businesses were eligible to apply only if they hadn’t already benefited from another COVID-19 relief program, such as the Paycheck Protection Program and Job Retention Grants.

Once the program restarts in May, non-hospitality businesses will be eligible even if they got other assistance. But the awards will be capped at 10% of COVID-19 economic losses, rather than 20% for businesses that didn’t receive previous assistance.


UNC construction over budget

Like anyone else trying to build right now, the UNC System is facing labor shortages and supply-chain issues driving up costs. It’s coming at a time when the latest state budget kickstarts a large number of university building projects across the state.

Katherine Lynn, senior associate vice president for finance and capital planning, told a legislative oversight committee that UNC’s smaller projects are running 40% over budget and larger projects are 20% over budget. She’s also having trouble filling staff positions to oversee construction projects. 

“The surge in capital projects is being shouldered by the remaining staff,” Lynn said.

She asked lawmakers to take action in the short session that could reduce some of the hurdles the construction projects face. 

The UNC System wants to increase the number of smaller projects that don’t require an informal bidding process by raising the cap that triggers the process. And it wants to shift oversight of projects valued between $2 million and $4 million from the State Construction
Office to the UNC Board of Governors, which could speed up approvals.

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