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Triangle economy recovering faster than rest of state, Wells Fargo economists say

North Carolina's economy is recovering, but not at the rate that the state has become accustomed to following previous economic downturns.

That was one of the key points made by John Silvia, chief economist for Wells Fargo in Charlotte, during a conference call with reporters today.

Silvia and another Wells Fargo economist, Michael Brown, discussed North Carolina's recent economic performance and the outlook for 2012 and beyond.

"Yes, we have forward momentum, but just not at the pace we're used to and that we've become accustomed to," Silvia said.

Among the problems facing the state is that while economic output is growing, that increased output is not creating the same number of jobs that it has in the past. That is particularly the case in sectors such as manufacturing.

Silvia and Brown looked at the state economy as well as data from the metro areas of Charlotte, Raleigh, Greensboro and Asheville.

The Triangle is "improving far faster than any of the other metro areas across the state," Brown said.

White House officials, Jobs Council to tour Triangle

White House officials and big-name CEOs will take a whirlwind tour of the Triangle Monday morning as the region awaits the arrival of President Barack Obama.

Members of Obama's administration and Jobs Council will divide up to meet and greet at ad agency McKinney and N.C. Central in Durham, Biogen Idec's and DuPont's operations in Research Triangle Park, and N.C. State's Centennial Campus in Raleigh.

The five "listening and action" sessions are tied to hot economic topics for politicians eager to prove they're fighting to produce more jobs, including entrepreneurship, biotechnology, energy innovation, workforce training and manufacturing. They'll hear from local business leaders, such as Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers, Elster Solutions CEO Mark Munday and Geomagic CEO Ping Fu.

The group's local visit is scheduled to kick off with a reception at American Tobacco Historic District in Durham Sunday night, and will culminate with Obama's visit to Cree, the Durham-based LED lighting company.

RockTenn to expand in Marion, add 124 jobs

A packaging manufacturer plans to expand in McDowell County and add 124 jobs over the next 18 months, Gov. Bev Perdue's office announced today.

RockTenn makes packaging products for the cosmetics, pharmaceutical and other industries. The company will expand into a new facility in Marion, about 215 miles west of Raleigh.

The company will receive an incentives grant from the One North Carolina fund worth as much as $372,000 if it meets hiring and investment targets. The grant also requires matching local incentives.

RockTenn now employs 233 workers in McDowell County and more then 1,000 across North Carolina.

The new jobs will pay average annual salaries of $33,023. That higher than the McDowell County average of $29,224.

Obama will visit Cree in Durham during Triangle tour Monday

Cree, the LED lighting company based in Durham, will host President Barack Obama on Monday, the White House announced today.

Obama will tour the company and make remarks to workers at Cree, again. Obama made a similar stop at Cree in May 2008 when the Democratic presidential candidate was stumping for votes in North Carolina.

During his visit to the Triangle on Monday, he's also scheduled to meet with his new Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, which he appointed this winter. The council is made up of private-sector industry leaders, including General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt, Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly and Intel CEO Paul Otellini.

WUNC's State of Things to focus on economy

Today's "The State of Things" on WUNC radio will have some sharp minds discussing the economy and where it's headed.

Scheduled guests include Well Fargo senior economist Mark Vitner, N.C. State labor historian David Zonderman and Latino Community Credit Union executive Erika Bell.

Oh, and they're even considering letting me on, to offer some perspective of the Triangle's economy and business climate. The conversation will explore jobs, housing and other issues.

The broadcast starts at Noon on 91.5 FM, and will be available online here.

To participate, you can call 1.877.962.9862 or email comments to

Mitsubishi Nuclear to add 135 jobs in Charlotte

Mitsubishi Nuclear Energy Systems plans to open an engineering center in Charlotte and create 135 high-paying jobs over the next five years.

This morning, state officials approved giving the Japanese company up to $2.9 million in incentives if it meets hiring and investment targets.

The company will pay average annual salaries of $102,454. Mitsubishi also considered expansion in South Carolina.

The Charlotte center will help build nuclear plants in the United States.

Gov. Bev Perdue plans to make an announcement about new jobs in Charlotte this morning.

Charlotte is making a concerted effort to turn itself into a hub for energy-related companies.

Mitsubishi joins a number of other engineering and design firms that already have a presence in the ciy, including The Shaw Group, AREVA NP, Toshiba, Westinghouse, Fluor, Siemens and URS.

Syngenta picks RTP for $71 million expansion

Syngenta Biotechnology will invest $71 million constructing a new research complex at its Research Triangle Park campus.

The company, a division of Swiss agribusiness company Syngenta, chose RTP over sites in China, Singapore and Brazil. The expansion will add 15 employees to Syngenta’s existing RTP workforce of 400.

Officials announced the decision today during an industry symposium held at the N.C. Biotechnology Center in RTP.

Syngenta chose RTP because of North Carolina’s business climate and the support it received from local and state officials, said Michiel van Lookeren Campagne, the company’s president.

Last week, Durham County commissioners approved giving the company up to $225,000 in incentives to help win the expansion. The state provided no incentives, but Commerce Department officials were actively involved in recruiting the company.

NC unemployment holds steady at 9.7 percent

The state's unemployment rate held steady in April, remaining at 9.7 percent for the second month in a row.

New figures released today by the N.C. Employment Security Commission showed that the state added 2,900 nonfarm jobs during April.

"We continue to be encouraged by the job growth we have seen over the last few months," said ESC Chairman Lynn Holmes.

Since April 2010, the unemployment rate has dropped from 11.1 percent, and the number of unemployed workers has decreased by 70,471.

SciQuest adding staff as business expands

As it continues steady expansion of its business, SciQuest is slowly adding more staff.

The Cary company is hiring in the Triangle and in Houston, the base for a company it bought in December. It now employs about 240 people and expects to hire more in coming months.

"That means we're seeing more business to support our need for additional people," said CEO Stephen Wiehe.

While it's taking a bit longer to find "great talent" than it did during the economic downturn in 2009 and 2010, the fledgling recovery isn't forcing employers to pay more for top recruits yet, Wiehe said.

Late Thursday, the company reported that first-quarter revenue rose to $12.5 million, up 24 percent from a year earlier. Its profit of 6 cents per share exceeded analysts' expectations.

Oil industry: We put people to work

The oil and gas industry has launched a publicity campaign to remind Americans about the key role of fossil fuels in the nation's economy.

The American Petroleum Institute said this week the industry has about 44,000 jobs in North Carolina. The jobs span the gamut: gas station attendants, energy traders, truckers, manufacturing operations and more.

The message: Mess with those jobs and you'll wreak havoc with peoples' livelihoods. Or put another way: What's good for oil and gas is good for America.

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