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Best for business list ranks Raleigh No. 15

As the old year draws to a close, how about one more "best of" list? This one is probably best left behind in 2009.

MarketWatch's third annual ranking of the best cities for business puts Raleigh at No. 15, tied with Nashville, Tenn. That's a lowly showing for a region that routinely ranks near the top on such lists, which economic boosters tout to attract new businesses.

Charlotte came in at No. 18 and Greensboro was No. 80.

The list ranks the nation's biggest 101 metropolitan areas by 10 factors, including the concentration of companies, unemployment rate, economic stability and population growth.

Topping the list: Des Moines, left, followed by Washington, D.C., Omaha, Neb., and Minneapolis-St. Paul. The rankers cited Des Moines' "slow and steady" growth and low unemployment rate -- 6 percent in September, well below the national average of 9.8 percent for that month.

Read the full list here.

Electrolux to move headquarters to Charlotte, add 738 jobs

Another day, another announcement about new jobs in North Carolina. Despite the down economy, there has been a flurry of economic development projects unveiled in recent months.

Today's installment: Swedish appliance maker Electrolux picked Charlotte for its new North American headquarters. The company plans to create 738 jobs over the next five years.

Electrolux will receive state and local tax breaks and incentives worth as much as $27 million if it meets its hiring and investment targets.

The company already employs about 650 people in North Carolina, mostly at a dishwasher manufacturing plant in Kinston. Electrolux is consolidating corporate offices from around the country into the new Charlotte headquarters.

One minor complaint from job seekers and economic boosters in the Triangle: It's another example of a corporation choosing Charlotte for its headquarters. Kevin Scott, chief executive of Electrolux North America, said he was impressed with the area's transportation network and the professionalism of economic development efforts by the city, county and state.

“I am convinced we have made a fantastic choice," he said.

State and local leaders celebrate 'lucky' day in Clayton

Government and corporate officials like to keep tight control of when they release news about economic development and new jobs. That's at least partly so they can make a show of it and take turns congratulating each other and themselves.

This morning's press conference in downtown Clayton about Talecris Biotherapeutics' planned expansion was a perfect example.

Clayton Mayor Jody McLeod, who introduced Gov. Bev Perdue, noted that it's Friday the 13th. But it was "a lucky day" for Clayton, he said.

Rep. Bob Etheridge was there too. He said the deal is a good example of government working well with the private sector. "It'll send a positive message across this state and across America that it's good to invest in Johnston County and in Clayton," he said.

Talecris CEO Lawrence Stern called N.C. the "jewel of the south."

Stern said after the company's recent IPO, Perdue called the company and asked what she could do to support its growth.

Perdue said Talecris told her about the expansion two weeks ago. "We were willing to invest to keep them here," she said.

Golden LEAF's oversight criticized

The Golden LEAF Foundation has failed to effectively oversee the more than $300 million in economic development grants it has made since it was formed a decade ago, according to the state auditor's office.

Although Golden Leaf does monitor its grant recipients, the nonprofit foundation doesn't do enough to verify the data it receives from grantees or to review their financial condition, asserts the performance audit released today by the office of State Auditor Beth Wood.

"Consequently, state funds could be wasted on grantees that are not achieving desired results or lack the capacity to sustain operations," the audit concludes.

The audit, which also criticizes the foundation's compliance with the state's open meeting laws and questions its exemption from laws that apply to state funds, recommends that the nonprofit beef up its policies for monitoring and reporting its economic development activities.

Dan Gerlach, who joined Golden Leaf as its president in October 2008, disputes the criticism of the foundation's oversight of grant recipients.

"I think we have strong grant oversight," Gerlach said. "I think our grantees are amazed at how much oversight there is."

North Carolina ranked No. 1 for business climate, again

North Carolina kept the top spot in Site Selection magazine's ranking of states with the best business climate.

It was the fifth year in a row the magazine ranked North Carolina No. 1. Texas was No. 2, followed by Virginia, Ohio, Tennessee and South Carolina.

The ranking comes as North Carolina is about to lose a major economic development project: Dell announced it plans to close its Winston-Salem factory in January and lay off 900 workers.

Such lists, while routine for the Tar Heel state, are still helpful in luring new business and jobs by painting North Carolina in a positive light, economic development officials say.

Boeing won't build 787 Dreamliner in North Carolina

Boeing has blown off North Carolina, again. South Carolina still has a chance.

CEO Jim McNerney told Wall Street analysts on an earnings conference call today that the company has narrowed its choices for a second 787 Dreamliner assembly plant to Charleston, S.C., and Everett, Wash. He expects to announce a decision in the next couple of weeks.

The N.C. Global TransPark in Kinston was cited as a competitor for the new plant in a report that Washington state officials used to lobby Boeing.

The Kinston park, about 90 miles southeast of Raleigh, also was in the running for a Boeing assembly plant earlier this decade, but lost to Washington.

It's not clear whether North Carolina was a legitimate contender this time, since state and local officials have kept quiet about any efforts to lure Boeing here, despite vocal lobbying in Washington state. But Gov. Bev Perdue and others repeatedly have said they want to expand this state's aerospace and aviation industries and attract new jobs.

Also today, Boeing reported a $1.56 billion third-quarter loss, one of the biggest in its history. The loss was partly because of delays in the 787 Dreamliner program.

N.C. officials remain quiet on Boeing as Washington wooing intensifies

Washington officials are bringing in some big business guns in their efforts to convince Boeing to build a new assembly plant in that state.

On Tuesday, the day that N.C. Gov. Bev Perdue visited Kinston's Global TransPark, more than two dozen executives from Costco, Alaska Airlines and other large employers in Washington released a letter to Jim Albaugh. In the letter, they practically begged the head of Boeing's commercial aircraft unit not to abandon their state.

"We pledge our support to you and your entire company in working to ensure Washington remains the single best place for you to design, build and market commercial airplanes," they wrote.

Meanwhile, officials in North Carolina, which is reported to be a competitor for a new Boeing factory, remain mum. Unlike their vocal counterparts in Washington, Tar Heel leaders, economic development officials and others still won't even confirm that they are actively wooing Boeing.

Washington governor cites North Carolina as competitor for Boeing plant

Washington's governor is increasing public efforts to woo Boeing and lure a new manufacturing line for the company's long-delayed 787 jetliner, the Associated Press reported.

In a report released today, Gov. Chris Gregoire laid out his case for building the 787 in Washington. The report includes a comparison of tax burdens in Washington and five other states seen as competitors: North Carolina, South Carolina, Kansas, Texas and California.

Officials with North Carolina's Department of Commerce have not publicly confirmed they are trying to attract Boeing, but winning such a plum economic development prize would be a major coup. A project that size would likely involve a large package of state and local tax breaks and other financial incentives.

EMC to add 397 jobs in the Triangle

EMC Corp., the maker of data-storage computers, plans to expand its Triangle operations and add nearly 400 high-paying jobs.

EMC will build a new data center in Durham County, and expand its research facility in Research Triangle Park and a manufacturing plant in Apex, officials with the N.C. Commerce Department announced this afternoon.

The Massachusetts company already employs 914 in North Carolina, mostly in the Triangle.

EMC was considering expansion in New York, Washington, Canada and Virginia, but was lured to North Carolina partly by a state grant worth up to $7.4 million over nine years. The company will have to meet hiring goals and keep its existing jobs to receive the full value of the grant.

The 397 new jobs will pay average annual salaries of $73,325.

Raleigh chamber names new board members

The Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce's new board of directors includes executives from across the Triangle representing a wide range of industries.

Their one-year terms start Oct. 1. The board is elected from chamber members and helps set policies and priorities.

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