(upbeat tone) - [Announcer] his is "Carolina Business Review."
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- There are so many good opportunities that we face here in the Carolinas, and not just seasonally and optimistically, but the wind is at our backs.
These are first world problems we face, so to speak.
Welcome again to the most widely watched and longest running program on Carolina business policy and public affairs seen each and every week across North and South Carolina, and thank you for supporting that dialogue.
Happy spring, and we will unpack some of these issues directly in front of us.
And later on, we are joined by the secretary of North Carolina's Department of Natural and Cultural Resources.
Reid Wilson joins us.
Stay with us.
(uplifting music) - [Announcer] Major funding also by BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina, an independent licensee of the BlueCross and BlueShield Association, and Martin Marietta, a leading provider of natural resource-based building materials, providing the foundation on which our communities improve and grow.
This edition of "Carolina Business Review," Janet LaBar from the Charlotte Regional Business Alliance, Carlos Phillips of the Greenville Chamber of Commerce, and special guest Reid Wilson, secretary of the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources.
(uplifting music continues) - Hello and welcome again to our program.
Happy spring to you both.
Thanks for making the trip.
- Thank you.
- Thank you.
- Carlos, thanks for making the the time.
Janet, nice to you.
- Good to see you.
- Let's start.
Gosh, so many things we wanna unpack.
Let's start with workforce housing, used to be called affordable housing.
Now for a lot of reasons, been expanded into this workforce housing descriptor.
Janet, are we... You know, you know the region more than most.
I would think that's probably a fair assumption.
How do we need to be thinking about workforce housing now, and does anyone have an idea that is exciting in getting the ball kind of moving?
- Well, thank you.
That's a great question, and I think that workforce housing is one of those critical factors that's keeping us up at night in terms of what we do at the Charlotte Regional Business Alliance in trying to attract companies, trying to retain our talent, trying to attract new talent, and trying to grow our companies.
Everybody is talking about the shortage of workforce housing and housing generally speaking, but I think all of the categories that involve housing are in short supply.
And so we just recently had a regional insights forum on this very topic to elevate the awareness among the region's business community about this shortfall, and then what are the solutions that are out there and how are different organizations trying to tackle it?
I do wanna point out that Mark Boyce from True Homes, which is a private residential home builder, is doing some really exciting creative things all in the vein of public-private partnerships, working with local governments, working with non-profits, working with others in private industry to just get more supply into the community.
And so we are trying to just advocate and elevate, lift the awareness up about the importance of this because that will be an Achilles heel to our market being able to grow, to businesses being able to stay and be successful.
So we are advocating at local levels, at the state's levels, and hopefully we'll have some more good news for you soon.
- You know, Carlos, as Janet describes this, are we close to a tipping point of workforce housing and how it'll be a liability for expansion?
- I think there are a lot of, you know, great ideas about how to address the challenge or the opportunity, but I think it's opportunity that's also the challenge here.
Both the Charlotte region and the Greenville region and the upstate of South Carolina are both experiencing explosive growth.
While we're trying to develop solutions for today's shortage, that's only gonna grow larger if we don't figure it out as more people move to our respective regions.
So a lot of great thinking, a lot of great conversation.
We consider housing, particularly workforce housing, a form of infrastructure just like sewers or runway or other forms of infrastructure and a priority for us to figure out.
- Janet, you know, you highlighted True Homes and Mark Boyce.
Is that sustainable for a for-profit company to be able to do that, or does that become almost an NGO, or, as you said, a public-private partnership and something we have to do and ends up not being a profitable, but, yeah, we gotta do it?
- It's definitely unique, I think, to the private developers, and that's what I learned when we hosted him over at our shop.
This is not something that the National Home Builders are yet building momentum on.
And so I'm not sure it's a model that they want to entertain, but I do think we have to tackle this in a public-private partnership kind of way.
And the fact that Mark and others are leading in that way is a great thing.
And I will say, I just wanna piggyback on what Carlos said, this is an advocacy issue.
We do similarly in the Charlotte region, we treat this as part of our infrastructure.
It's a must have.
So I think, you know, the more that we as chambers and that we as the voices of business for our respective regions can do to just simply talk about this, hopefully that'll catch more fire and people will want to bring more solutions to the table.
- Is it... Go ahead, Carlos.
- Just to piggyback on what on Janet said about the public-private partnerships, most big challenges or opportunities in communities are resolved through those P3s, those public-private partnerships.
And I think housing is certainly one.
We can't rely on government to figure it out.
It will take more of a partnership.
- You know, given that both states, both the State House, both Jones Street and North Carolina have, I would say, more than a little bit of a budget surplus again for another year.
Is that dialogue easier in the State House when you go to Columbia or when you have advocacy discussions about getting more funds for public-private partnerships, workforce housing, et cetera?
- I think it is, and I know in South Carolina, the legislature and the governor, governor McMaster, making great decisions on how to allocate those funds, even how to put more of those funds in reserve for rainy day.
So, I think a lot of great discussions are taking place, but those are non-recurring funds we have to be mindful of.
And so you gotta be careful how you allocate those.
- You feel like you can get the same kind of from the budget surplus in North Carolina?
- You know, I probably can't answer specifically from the budget surplus, but we were just in Raleigh recently, and the legislators there know this is very top of mind for them as well.
I think there's some good efforts by partner organizations like RBIC who are advocating for things like homestead exemption and making sure that we have programs and tools and resources to keep people in place as they age in place.
So I do think, and we appreciate that in North Carolina and in South Carolina that legislators know that this is top of mind for constituents in their communities.
So I'm very encouraged that we will get to a solution.
I think the challenges, as Carlos mentioned, we are regions that are growing by the day.
And so how do we make sure we're staying on top of this, ahead of it?
Because we don't want this to be a squeeze of a market pressure that is unnecessary if we can help, you know, support it somehow.
- A couple of one-offs for both of you.
Carlos, North Carolina now looks like they're a hair's breath away from accepting Medicaid dollars.
You could say it's a done deal.
I guess nothing's done until it's done, but it looks pretty promising in North Carolina.
Is that a domino to fall that will encourage the State House in Columbia to also go down that road?
- Many folks in South Carolina hope that it's a domino that falls.
We'll see how that works out.
One thing is very clear, health outcomes in South Carolina need to be improved, and we need to explore every option to ensure that folks are healthier and they're living better lives.
- Do you think there's more sympathy for healthcare dollars?
- I don't think it's a sympathy issue more than it is just a policy matter, but the data says that health outcomes need to be addressed.
North Carolina and about 40 other states have decided that Medicaid expansion is the way to address those health outcomes.
We'll see what happens in South Carolina.
- Janet, does the Medicaid or the acceptance of Medicaid dollars, is that wind at your back as an economic developer with that hat on?
Absolutely, I think that it's an incredible opportunity for North Carolina, and we're gonna cheer on South Carolina as well since we're bistate at the Alliance, but this is gonna be a tremendous amount of opportunity for our healthcare systems, for jobs, for people in the industry.
And so this is gonna be a great thing, and we're very excited.
We've been very proud to support Medicaid expansion at the Alliance.
- Okay, guys, stay with us.
We're gonna bring our guests on just a moment.
Coming up on this program, he's been here before, he's coming back.
Chairman and chief executive officer, or rather the chief executive officer of Colonial Life, Tim Arnold will be here from Columbia, and then also coming up on our program, these are always interesting conversations because the number one industry in the Carolinas in both states is tourism, but what does that mean?
Well, it means good, that's for sure.
And we have the head of tourism in North Carolina.
Wit Tuttle is back along with his counterpart and seems to be good friend, they always do well together, Duane Parrish from what's called Parks, Recreation, and Tourism in South Carolina will be joining us.
It is the year of the trail according to the North Carolina General Assembly.
That certainly is a feelgood moniker, and it falls squarely on the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources.
Joining us now is maybe someone we might even call the climate social czar for the Tarheel State.
He is the secretary of DNCR.
Reid Wilson, your Honor, welcome to the program.
- Thank you, Chris, good to be with you.
- Could we call you the czar of social?
- I don't know.
Secretary's a good title, but, yeah, I mean, I get to work on things in terms of arts, culture, history, natural areas, all the things that people love about the state.
- Yeah, so explain that a little bit.
DNCR used to be called DNR, and had some other acronyms going on for a while.
What is Job one for you?
- Job one is connecting to as many North Carolinians as possible in as many communities as possible, and we do that a variety of ways.
We have about 100 sites in the state, including state parks, and we can talk more about year of the trail.
State parks, the state symphony, the zoo, aquariums, historic sites, history museums, science museums, art museums, historic preservation, the state library, the state archives.
I know I'm leaving somebody out, but you get the idea that we are connected to what people really enjoy about North Carolina throughout the state.
- You know, it almost sounds like there was an advertising slogan going on in the 1990s from a German company called BASF.
And the advertising slogan was very successful.
And they say, "We don't make the products you use.
"We make the products you use better."
Is that what...
I almost said DNR.
Is that what DNCR does in North Carolina?
- What we try and do is... Well, we have 100 sites to manage and enhance and promote and present to the people in North Carolina and folks coming in from other states.
But we want to not only do this in person, but online as well, and certainly during the pandemic, we had to switch everything when all of our places were closed.
And so, just this past year, we had 28 million in-person visitors to all of these sites and 61 million clicks on our various internet sites.
And I did the math, and that's about 170,000 clicks a day.
So, really, what we want to do is keep connecting to more and more people because, you know, there's 10 and a half million people in the state, and we want all of them to feel connected to the wonderful things that we have in North Carolina.
- Janet, question?
- Absolutely, Secretary, I know one of your department's priorities is boosting local economic development.
And so as economic development organizations and folks who are very vested in that, what is a recent project that you're most excited about and and where was it, what community?
- Well, there's so many to choose from.
I mean, we make grants to local arts councils and science museums and parks programs and libraries.
I would just pick one.
It's a tough task, but recently our Parks and Recreation Trust Fund made grants to more than 20 local governments around the state in a competitive grant process.
And I don't know if I can just pick out one of those.
They're all amazing, but what this allows those communities to do is to build a new trail or a new community recreation center or ball fields or parks, and people want those things.
From kids who want to play baseball or soccer to folks who want to, you know, ride their bike on a greenway.
And we know in terms of economic development that people want live in places that have those amenities, and businesses wanna bring their jobs to places that have those things.
And so, if I had to pick one, it would be this recent array of parks projects that went out to local governments across the state.
- And, if I could, I just wanna thank you for that.
Placemaking is so important when it comes to how you position region, and so it's whatever makes that sticky for talent.
So thank you for that.
- [Chris] Carlos.
- Yep, Secretary, if you could expand a little bit on the impact of arts and culture on growing communities and economies, how significant is that?
- I think a thriving arts scene is critical to having a thriving community where people want to live.
And we see it all around the state.
Our Arts Council makes grants in all 100 counties to arts organizations and to individual artists.
We also support arts festivals and concerts and things like that, and people love that.
And people missed it so much at the beginning of the pandemic when all that stuff was shut off.
And just this morning I visited ImaginOn here in Charlotte.
What an amazing place.
And I mean, it's part library for kids, but also a children's theater for kids.
And the place was busy on, what is this, a Friday morning.
And so you see just, I see, traveling around the state how much people value the arts, and it really makes a difference in keeping folks wanting to live where they are.
- You know, as you're answering the questions, and back to something Janet said about placemaking, it almost sounds like you should be in the room for transportation discussions, for economic development discussions, for some of these very critical dialogues that happen even in city councils.
What's the dotted line, and how do you plug into things like DOT and Economic Development or EDPNC in North Carolina?
- That's a lot of things, and we are involved with all of them.
And, you know, when Governor Cooper and the Economic Development Partnership and the Commerce Department are recruiting jobs, trying to lure industries to North Carolina or to expand, quality of life and parks and local economic development and arts scenes are part of those discussions.
So, our state's leaders are able to talk about all of these arts and culture and history and spectacular natural areas that we have in the state, and it is a real draw.
I mean, I've heard from so many people who have moved to North Carolina that they said, "Well, I flew there once, "and I couldn't believe how green it was, "and I decided someday I wanted to live there."
You know, that happens a lot.
So, I think we're at the table, but on a daily basis, we are connected to local communities.
I mean, whether it's a park or an aquarium or a historic site, that serves as a community hub.
And when visitors come and they go to that historic site, they're able to go have dinner in the nearby town.
And so, that happens all the time.
And just one example, the Transportation Museum, which isn't too far from here in Spencer.
Town of 3,000.
Last year, the museum had 144,000 visitors, $24 million economic impact.
And hat same kind of story is happening all across the state, whether it's a park or a museum.
- [Chris] Right, Janet?
- Well, we are on "Carolina Business Review," and we have my very good partner here from South Carolina.
So what is one asset that you manage as a department that every Carolinian must see?
- That's an unfair question.
- Making you pick.
(both laugh) - I love them all, but if I was to pick one place that's geographically accessible, I would say it's a North Carolina Zoo.
It is the largest natural habitat zoo in the world.
Currently, we have an Africa continent, North American continent.
Construction is underway to build Asia.
It will probably open in 2026, but is a phenomenal zoo.
There's even a Nat Geo Wild series about it, "Secrets of the Zoo: North Carolina."
Yeah, so check it out.
- Cool, I will.
- But if you've been to the zoo, or if you can't get to the zoo, I would say go to our website, ndcr.gov if you want to go to a park or an aquarium or a history museum or a science museum or whatever else.
- You made me pick one, (Janet laughs) but I want people to go to all of 'em.
- That's a good one.
- I'm gonna ask you to pick another one.
So, what's new and exciting on your radar that really get Carolinians juiced up?
- All right, well, okay, another one I gotta pick.
I would mention this one, in Raleigh at the Natural Sciences Museum, probably later this year, we will unveil what I guarantee will be the most fascinating dinosaur exhibit in the whole world.
- Oh my God.
- It's pretty tall.
- It is.
(Janet laughs) - But we'll back it up.
- And I don't mean just physically tall, obviously.
- Construction's underway to push the front of the museum out to house the Dino Lab.
There's two things about it that separate it from all other dinosaur things.
One is we have two fully intact specimens that were found together on the side of a hill in what is now Montana, it wasn't Montana 67 million years ago when they died, that we now own.
One is a T-Rex.
One is a triceratops.
Those are like the two most popular types of dinosaurs.
We have both of them intact, and that is rare.
And in the lab, it's being built, so that there is not a barrier between the guests and the paleontologists.
So, as our paleontologists are uncovering these... they're partially exposed, they're still in the rock, but as they're working on 'em, people can come up and talk to them.
And I don't think you can do that anywhere in the world.
And so we've got two things no one else has, and we're gonna be swamped with dinosaur lovers, and we're gonna sell a lot of dinosaur t-shirts.
And it's called Dueling Dinosaurs as well.
- This is not another sequel for the "Jurassic Park?"
- Nope, nope, nope.
This was Cretaceous, not Jurassic, so.
- Well said.
I wouldn't have known the difference.
(Janet laughs) Let's talk about some of the policy and the politics, civil rights.
There's a bipartisan group in the general assembly that proposed civil rights monuments.
As the lead of that, how do you go down the track of the Southern legacy as it's been, confederate?
We've all heard the debates going in South Carolina about the flag, but as you move forward, how do we remember our history and embrace what the new monuments we should have in addition?
- Right, great question.
I mean, actually this bill that would fund Civil Rights Trail in North Carolina is actually following on a program we have begun.
It is to provide more funding to something that is underway.
Our African American Heritage Commission, another part of our department, created a Civil Rights Trail program to mark and remember and tell history of people who have done amazing things to advance the cause of civil rights.
And we have 10 of the markers up already around the state.
But to get to 50, which is our goal, we need additional funding, and that's why they introduced that bill.
But it's a phenomenal thing to go to one of these ceremonies where it is unveiled.
For instance, in Kinston, I forget the year, but 900 high school students walked out to protest their inferior educational situation at their black high school compared to the white one.
And when decades later we unveiled that marker, a number of those students came back, and there were tears and hugging, and it was just powerful.
And that marker's there forever.
In addition, I would say that the governor's budget proposal calls for an African American monument on the state capital square, which is really important because that is the highest place of honor in the state, and we don't have an African American monument there now.
- And this is a little bit broader of a question, Mr. Secretary, but the idea that these things can now happen because they've been in place and been planned, but also because of the historic level of budget surpluses in North Carolina, is that a wind at your back?
- Yeah, I mean, it's been very helpful the last two years with, you know, all the COVID money and then Inflation Reduction Act money and infrastructure money.
And we haven't even seen all of that yet.
There's more opportunities to pull down some of that that we, you know, still have a chance to get, but in the last two years, for instance, our state parks got an additional roughly $200 million to build trails, to build new parks.
- [Chris] That federal flow-through dollars?
- A lot of it was.
Some of it was state, and a lot of that flowed to local governments as well, so they could do more in terms of parks and trails and greenways.
- We have about two minutes, Janet, question?
- Well, thank you for the sharing that.
I didn't know about that trail and the legislation that's moving through.
And thank you for the work that your department's doing in that.
I mean, broadly, what's been the reception of the community as, I mean, you gave us that example.
- The Civil Rights Trail?
- I have not been to all 10 unveilings.
I think I've been to four or five.
Just the enthusiasm and the appreciation and the recognition that this information will be there forever.
I mean, you know the highway markers history on a stick?
These markers are like that, but they look different, and they say Civil Rights Trail Marker, and there's just a little bit of information you can get on one of those signs, but there's also our website will tell you the whole story.
- That's great.
- But the local communities...
I should point out, we select these markers based on applications from communities.
So these are things that bubble up from the ground up.
- That's great.
And so when we're able to actually unveil the marker, have it in the ground permanently, people are so excited about it.
It's just a wonderful thing.
- We have about a minute left.
Do you have a quick question, Carlos?
No, you don't?
Oh, okay, well, I can keep going (indistinct) (Janet laughs) Very quickly, and I know you don't like to be pinned down on this, but where do you like to go?
Where do you like to vacation?
What do you like... - You guys asking me - Let's one of them.
To pick among my grandchildren.
- [Chris] You're gonna know the DNA of this stuff.
So where do you go?
- You know, I like to go to places where you can do more than one thing.
For instance, if you go to Carteret County, you can go to the Maritime Museum in Beaufort.
You can go to Fort Macon State Park.
You can go to Pine Knoll Shores Aquarium, and on the way down, you can stop at Tyron palace in New Bern, so that you get to do the whole art, nature, culture, history all in one fell swoop.
- Okay, well said, under the gun, very democratic.
Thank you, sir.
And thanks for joining us, Mr. Secretary.
Nice to see you.
- My pleasure.
- Good to see you.
- Thank you very much.
- Carlos, always good to have you.
- Thank you.
- Thanks for making the trip.
Janet, nice to see you.
Thanks for coming.
- You as well, Chris.
- Thank you.
- Thank you for joining us.
We certainly hope your spring and your weekend are good.
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