Around the region: Study: N.C. second most innovative state in nation

Published 6:53 pm Thursday, October 20, 2011

Research Triangle Park’s reputation as a leading center of innovation was supported by a recent study by The Daily Beast.
Raleigh, Durham and Cary, the three cities surrounding the Triangle, came in fifth, 16th and 19th, respectively, on the list of the most inventive cities in America. The rankings, based on the number of patent applications filed by businesses in the respective cities, made North Carolina the second most inventive state in the country. Only California had more cities in the top 25 ranking.
According to the N.C. Department of Commerce, Research Triangle Park is home to more than 170 global companies that “foster a culture of scientific advancement.” The area is also home to some of the country’s leading research institutions, with Duke University in Durham, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill near Cary and North Carolina State University in Raleigh.
Cary had 930 awarded patents and 412 new patent applications in 2010, while Durham had 595 awarded patents and 398 applications. Raleigh had 1,032 awarded patents and 578 applications, but had lower per capita rates in those categories.
– source:, 10/3/11
Blue Ridge Savings Bank, based in Asheville, was one of four banks shuttered by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) this month. Blue Ridge had $161 million in assets and $158.7 million in deposits that are now held by the Bank of North Carolina in Thomasville.
Blue Ridge’s 10 branches in North Carolina and one in South Carolina were reopened under the Bank of North Carolina.
Blue Ridge Savings Bank, founded in 1978 by former U.S. Rep. Charles Taylor, was the second Asheville bank to close this year. The Bank of Asheville closed earlier this year and its assets were transferred to a Troy-based bank.
According to the FDIC, Blue Ridge Savings Bank suffered significant losses because of the weak real estate market, which left many developers unable to proceed with projects and repay their loans. Blue Ridge was declared insolvent after it was unable to raise capital holdings to meet a minimum capital requirement.
The three other banks closed this month, located in Georgia, New Jersey and Illinois, brought the total closed this year to 80. The total is well under the pace set last year when the country had 132 banks closed by this time.
– source:, 10/14/11
Carolina First lost about 35 percent of its deposits in South Carolina after it was sold last year and rebranded TD Bank, according to figures from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC). While TD Bank lost deposits, Wells Fargo, Bank of America and BB&T gained market share in the state, based on figures as of June 30.
FDIC figures show Carolina First lost $1.78 billion in deposits between June 30 of 2010 and the same time this year. Synovus Bank, operating as NBSC in South Carolina, also lost deposits, falling by $1.01 billion or about 27 percent. Meanwhile, deposits rose by $320 million at Wells Fargo, $468 million at BB&T and $737 million at Bank of America.
Wells Fargo is the largest bank in the state ($12.01 billion in deposits), followed by Bank of America ($9.04 billion), BB&T ($6.66 billion) and First Citizens ($6.08 billion).
– source:, 10/4/11
The N.C. Department of Insurance recently refuted claims by the WNC Community Healthcare Initiative that health insurance rates are higher in the Asheville area than other areas of the state.
The state said rates are “somewhat lower” in Asheville, although it did not provide specific figures. According to the healthcare website, Mission Health System has some of the cheaper costs for nonsurgical treatment of a heart attack, with a procedure cost ranging from $7,900 to $11,100, about 27 percent below the national average.
The same procedure is about 3 percent more expensive at Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte and 6 percent more at WakeMed in Raleigh, but it’s 16 percent less expensive at the hospital in Wilmington.
Other figures showed health insurance costs in Asheville are comparable or slightly higher than those available in Raleigh.
In 2004, the WNC Healthcare Initiative published a study of employer insurance costs that concluded insurance rates are too high in the Asheville area. The report noted that in 2002 an economic development task force said one company declined to locate a plant in the area because of the high healthcare costs.
The study also found that Blue Cross insurance rates for large and medium groups were 12 percent higher than in other parts of the state, and physician fees were about 8 percent higher compared to other areas of the country.
Mission completed a report of its own that found costs were higher in North Carolina overall compared to the rest of the nation, and WNC was 8 percent higher than the rest of the state. The hospital’s report attributed the higher costs to higher rates of smoking, disabilities and obesity, along with an older population.
– source: Asheville Citizen Times, 10/10/11
Henderson County plans to buy the 9-hole Highland Lake Golf Club in Flat Rock for $1.15 million. The county board voted 4-1 this week to buy the 65-acre golf club property and convert it to use as a soccer complex and public park.
Jimm Bunch, president and CEO of Park Ridge Health, pledged to contribute $100,000 toward the project, and Les Boyd of Boyd Automotive said he also plans to make a significant contribution to the project.
– source: Hendersonville Times News, 10/19/11
A group of 17 restaurants in Asheville is seeking an energy-efficient designation to help make Asheville a green dining destination.
The restaurants are using a state grant to retrofit their hot-water systems with solar panels, upgrade lighting and make other changes to meet qualifications set by the Green Restaurant Association.
So far, Posana Café on Pack Square is the only restaurant in Asheville with the official green status, but if the other 17 restaurants are approved, nearly 6 percent of Buncombe County’s 350 restaurants will have the green designation. That would make Asheville the nation’s capital for green dining, according to Kevin Westmoreland, who operates Corner Kitchen and serves as president of the Asheville Independent Restaurant association (AIR).
By comparison, only 78 restaurants in New York City, about 0.6 percent of the approximately 14,000 eateries in the city, have the green designation.
AIR worked with the Blue Ridge Sustainability Institute to obtain a $285,000 grant from the N.C. Green Business Fund, and the restaurants will put up an additional $100,000 for the upgrades. (source:, 9/21/11)
The S.C. Charter School Advisory Commitee rejected an application for a public charter school in Greenville that planned to focus on renewable energy and resource. The K-12 Greenville Renewable Energy school would have been the first energy-based school in the state.
However, the state advisory committee said the application did not meet standards under the Charter Schools Act relating to student-teacher ratio, measurable goals, grade level academic standards, a grading scale and more. The charter school organizers said they plan to reapply and hope to open the school for the 2012-13 year.
Akif Aydin, co-founder of the River City Science Academy in Jacksonville, Fla., said he originally applied to start a charter school in Greenville focused on math and science. But he changed the school’s focus after talking with Imtiaz Haque of the Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research. Together they came up with the idea of a hybrid charter school that would offer the same core subjects as any other school, but incorporate renewable energy throughout the curriculum.
Aydin and Haque said it will be important for students to begin studying renewable energy resources much earlier in school so the country will have a workforce educated for the future.
– source:
Clemson University will offer scholarships to help students who are training to become teachers in the STEM subjects: science, technology, engineering or math. The university plans to offer $10,000 scholarships to 30 undergraduate or graduate students.
“This program will allow us to actively recruit well-qualified students who otherwise often leave the STEM disciplines,” said Michael J. Padilla, co-director of the TigersTeach initiative. “We anticipate that our program will form the nucleus of a new cadre of teachers who are prepared for tomorrow’s classrooms.”
– source:, 10/18/11
N.C. Governor Bev Perdue and N.C. Secretary of Commerce Keith Crisco participated in a forum with business and education leaders about opportunities for Chinese students at North Carolina colleges and universities.
The forum was hosted by New Mind Education of Raleigh, which helps Chinese students succeed in American colleges.
“Today’s event was an opportunity both to help a great North Carolina company grow its business in China and to show off our colleges and universities to Chinese students and leaders,” said Gov. Perdue. “In addition to paying out-of-state tuition and bringing revenue to our state, international students increase campus diversity and help foster a greater understanding between our countries.”
China has passed India as the country with the most foreign students in the U.S. Last year, more than 40,000 undergraduate students from China entered U.S. colleges and universities.
New Mind Partners launched a pilot program in March to recruit well-prepared international students. As of September, the program had attracted more than 150 applicants and enrolled nearly 30 students at N.C. State.
– source: Office of N.C. Governor Bev Perdue
Approximately $4.67 million will be distributed to 300 charities across the Southeast through Bi-Lo Charities, which kicked off its “10 days of giving” this month.
The funds were raised through the Bi-Lo Charities Classic golf tournament in June. Approximately 50 of the charities that will receive awards are located in Upstate South Carolina. The other charities, all of whom focus on children’s needs, education or hunger relief, are spread out across South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia and Tennessee.
The Bi-Lo Charity Classic funds were raised through sponsorships by local businesses, its vendor community and customers.
– source:, 10/14/11

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