North Carolina’s top job recruiter

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CARY, N.C. -- He’s young (not even 40-years-old), bright, energetic and the key person when it comes to bringing new jobs to North Carolina. What he and his team do over the next few years will have a direct link to the quality of your life and the lives of your children.

Christopher Chung’s parents came to the United States from Taiwan. He was born, raised and educated in Ohio. From 2010 to 2014, he helped recruit 78 new companies and more than 10,000 new jobs to the state of Missouri.

Today, he leads North Carolina’s first public-private economic development operation, the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina. It’s under contract with and gets more than $17 million a year from the state. But it also gets hundreds of thousands more from private investors.

“All of these companies benefit indirectly when the state’s economy is growing at a healthy clip,” he told me recently at his office in a sprawling complex in Cary, outside of Raleigh. “Whether it’s through tourism, business recruitment and the like.”

Those investors include Duke Energy, the software company Red Hat, Bank of America and Wells Fargo. Supporters of this concept believe it gives the state more money and resources to go out and attract companies -- among other things -- without spending more taxpayer money.

In addition to promoting tourism (which is now a $21 billion business in North Carolina), the Economic Development Partnership also promotes the state’s exports and works to attract film and television production -- something many feel has gotten a lot harder since the General Assembly eliminated the open-ended 25 percent tax credit the state gave film and TV producers.

Chung couldn’t discuss politics or policy with me. But he did say, “We still have incentives. That’s the important thing to know. We’ve got $10 million [a year]. It’s not a tax credit so much as it is a grant now. And that has helped us hook a few great productions. But again, make no mistake, [the 25 percent tax credit] is certainly a factor for some of these film and TV companies that we’re engaged in conversation with.”

One of the Partnership’s big priorities is recruiting companies that will bring jobs to the state. Much has been reported about North Carolina’s inability to attract an auto manufacturer when neighboring states (South Carolina, Georgia and Tennessee included) have.

“I think one of the things that may have held us back in the past is simply, as simple as it sounds, the lack of an available industrial site,” he said.

A 1,300-acre site near Liberty which is being touted by Greensboro and Randolph County is one of four sites within North Carolina that might be suitable for a car maker. The Piedmont Triad site has its advantages.

“Certainly some of the local investment that’s been made so far by the local community, that’s huge,” he said. “If you’re going to market this as a viable site, you want to make sure it’s actually under someone’s control and it can be delivered as a site. I think they (Greensboro and Randolph County) have done a lot of great work toward that end.”

Chung says a key to North Carolina recruiting jobs is not to get complacent. “We could have the best product in the world, but if we aren’t investing anything and going out and telling it to our audience, we can’t expect they’re going to find us.”

For more information on the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina, check out its website: edpnc.com.

To watch some videos of how the Partnership is marketing North Carolina, visit its YouTube channel:
youtube.com/user/VisitNCVideo.

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