Statewide: Eastern region, April 2015

 In 2015-04

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Clinical depression

East Carolina University officials are lobbying for more state money for doctor training this year, saying the Brody School of Medicine’s finances have reached a critical point. Chancellor Steve Ballard requested $8 million more for the 2016 fiscal year and $30 million more annually after that. Gov. Pat McCrory partially agreed, including $8 million each of the next two years in his proposed budget, which North Carolina lawmakers will act on later this year. State support has declined to 20% of the medical school’s budget during the 2013-14 fiscal year, from 53% in 1989-90, says Rick Niswander, ECU’s vice chancellor for administration and finance. Adjusting for inflation, it receives about $25 million less per year, he says. “Over many years, and over many administrations and many legislatures, we have gotten to the point where we have to start turning it around.”

Last year, the medical school reported revenue of $267 million, losing more than $14 million. The Greenville-based institution is one of two public medical schools in North Carolina, but differs from UNC Chapel Hill’s because Brody doesn’t own its teaching hospital. Instead, it partners with Greenville-based Vidant Health. That limits its financial options. UNC’s hospital operations can transfer money to its medical school freely, but Vidant can only pay for services rendered, such as doctors who staff emergency rooms and for medical-education costs.

ECU’s mission to serve eastern North Carolina patients comes at a cost, with the medical school providing $37 million in uncompensated care annually. “We live in a part of the state that is not as prosperous as other parts. Our patient population is generally sicker than other parts of the state and have less ability to pay,” Niswander says. Critics have said the school should become more efficient, but Niswander points to staff cuts in recent years, including 95 this year, down to 1,240 — and about eight doctors, who now total 340. The school will bump up enrollment slightly to 315 this fall to increase tuition revenue. The fee is $18,953 for the current academic year.


Briefs

WILMINGTONnCino raised $29 million in a financing led by New York-based Insight Venture Partners. Spun off by Wilmington-based Live Oak Banking in 2012, the company sells software that helps banks reduce loan paperwork. nCino plans to use the funds for product development and to expand in the United States and internationally. nCino expects to add as many as 75 jobs to its existing 100 by year-end.

RAEFORDButterball will invest $66.8 million in a turkey-processing plant previously occupied by House of Raeford. The Garner-based company will create 367 jobs over three years with an annual salary of  $28,883, lower than Hoke County’s $34,141. Butterball employs more than 6,000 people in four states, including 3,500 in North Carolina. The city of Raeford will receive $1.5 million in state grants for improvements to support the plant.

EDENTON — Jimbo’s Jumbos, a subsidiary of locally based Hampton Farms of North Carolina, will invest $30 million in its plant here, where it makes roasted peanuts, peanut butter and other peanut products. The company will add 78 jobs to its existing 208 with an average annual salary of $30,769, lower than Chowan County’s $35,094. The company will receive a state grant of up to $156,000 if it meets hiring and investment goals.

KINSTONPactiv will add 59 jobs to its 259 and invest $24 million in its plant here, where it makes packaging products for foodservice retailers. Average annual wage for the new jobs will be $30,508, lower than Lenoir County’s $35,126. Lake Forest, Ill.-based Pactiv has more than 50 manufacturing and distribution centers worldwide, including six in North Carolina.

WILSON — The Federal Communications Commission overturned a state law that prevented town-owned broadband systems from offering service beyond city limits. The move allows the city to expand its Greenlight Internet service to neighboring counties (Statewide, March). U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis and U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, both Republicans, have filed a bill seeking to overturn the FCC ruling.

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