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NC legislature finalizes commerce reorganization

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RALEIGH, N.C. -

Requirements for a new private nonprofit corporation that will take over the state government's business recruiting and marketing and tourism functions were finalized Wednesday by North Carolina lawmakers.

The Senate unanimously approved the House bill that lays out the terms of the state Commerce Department's contract with the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina. The measure now goes to Gov. Pat McCrory, whose signature is likely.

McCrory has sought to transfer the functions from the government to the nonprofit for more than a year. Lawmakers authorized him last summer to develop a privatization strategy.

The Commerce Department "is well prepared to make this important transition for the continued growth of North Carolina's economy," state Commerce Secretary Sharon Decker said in a release after the final vote.

The Senate approved a competing version of the measure earlier this month but decided to accept the House version without any changes. That also meant setting aside a provision in the Senate plan that would have established a new grant program to replace an expiring tax credit program for TV and movie production companies that film in North Carolina. The film incentive extension is still alive in other legislation.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Brown, R-Onslow, said it was time to pass the partnership legislation even though some senators don't like some of the finer details. They may be re-addressed in the 2015 legislative session.

"We beat this thing back and forth and it just gets to a point I think that you've got to move forward," Brown said.

The department will enter a contract with the partnership, which is already formed and has hired a chief executive. Once the mandatory contract requirements are met, the partnership will take over department functions such as business recruitment and development, international trade and travel and tourism.

The partnership will have to raise $5.75 million in private money over five years, including $250,000 initially, to tap into state operating funds, which Decker estimated this week at $17.5 million a year.

A 17-member partnership board will be formed. Brown said he's concerned it may be difficult to recruit good board members due to reporting requirements in the bill. Board members also would not receive compensation except for meals and travel allowances.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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