Saturday, March 2, 2024

Pope nominated to NCInnovation board, which he had assailed

Last month, Raleigh retailer and political activist Art Pope wrote an email to Republican members of the N.C. House of Representatives denouncing plans to fund the NC Innovation business promotion group.

The letter signaled dissension by Pope and other politically active conservatives and signatories, including CaptiveAire CEO Bob Luddy and former BB&T CEO John Allison. Then, House and Senate GOP leaders passed a two-year state budget that included $500 million to launch NCInnovation.

On Tuesday, Senate Rules Chair Bill Rabon filed an appointments bill that lists directors for a significant number of state boards and commissions. And Pope was nominated to the NCInnovation board. Lawmakers are expected to vote on the appointments this week.

Appointments bills typically draw limited debate, particularly with the GOP holding veto-proof majorities in both the House and Senate.

Former Truist Financial CEO Kelly King is the chair and key instigator of the NCInnovation project. The N.C. Senate initially favored spending $1.4 billion for NCInnovation before the amount was reduced.

In the September email that Pope sent to lawmakers, he noted that while NCInnovation’s goals of “supporting rural technology development, education, and workforce training are indeed noble, this approach does not align with the principles of free enterprise. Government intervention and support in the technology sector can create market distortions and stifle true innovation. We believe that fostering innovation should be the role of the private sector, and state resources would be better spent on initiatives that promote competition and minimal government involvement in the economy.”

Nominees to the NCInnovation board in Rabon’s bill include three other residents of Wake County: Beth Friedrich, Todd Kasper and Blannie Miller. Nominees from outside of Wake County are J. Canty Alexander of Watauga County and Jeffrey Turner of Lenoir County.

Pope is a longtime promoter of free-market conservative values. He’s served in the legislature, was state budget director during the McCrory Administration, and is a member of the UNC System Board of Governors.

His privately held company, Variety Wholesalers, operates hundreds of discount stores under brands including Rose’s and Maxway.





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