Around the Region: Expansion of Cherokee casino to create 400 jobs

Published 8:00 pm Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians plans to expand its Cherokee casino operations and create 400 new jobs as a result of a new gaming agreement reached with N.C. Governor Bev Perdue.
The governor approved a 30-year deal that allows the tribe to expand to full gaming operations, including live table gaming. The tribe, in turn, has agreed to provide a portion of the revenue from expanded operations to the state, which will allocate the funds to schools.
“This agreement will provide substantial economic benefit to tribal members and throughout Western North Carolina,” said Michell Hicks, principal chief of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. “This agreement further demonstrates the Cherokees’ commitment to educating our young people through the education funding initiative.”
Kit Cramer, president and CEO of the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce, applauded the agreement, which will create 400 jobs without the use of state incentives. Cramer added the casino expansion “creates good synergy for travel and tourism in the Asheville area.”
The casino currently draws about 3.6 million visitors annually and generates about $380 million in economic benefits for the region, according to a UNC-Chapel Hill study.
The governor’s administration worked for months with Cherokee leaders on the agreement, which gives the Cherokee exclusive live table gaming rights west of I-26. The agreement opens up the possibility of resort casinos in Western North Carolina and provides millions in educating funding at a time when the state is facing budget cuts for education.
The Cherokee agreed to give four percent of gross receipts from live table gaming to the state for the first five years, and the portion rises over the remainder of the agreement. The money allocated to the state is required to be spent on educating students in the classrooms. The administration has asked the General Assembly to promptly pass technical modifications needed for the agreement relating to dealer card games.
– source: N.C. Governor’s Office, 11/19/11
Asheville was voted one of the Top 10 Best Food & Wine Destinations by TripAdvisor. The city joined Chicago, New York, San Francisco and New Orleans in the ranking.
The Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority touted the city’s well-established farm-to-table movement and the world’s first Foodtopian society. The authority notes that Asheville has 17 active farmers’ markets and nearly 250 independent restaurants and seven microbreweries.
– source:, 11/29/11
The N.C. Legislature approved a bill that’s expected to make it easier for large craft brewers to come to the state. The legislation, specifically designed to attract Sierra Nevada and New Belgium to Western North Carolina, would allow breweries to offer tastings and sales on site, even for beers produced outside North Carolina.
The change to the state’s alcohol laws, attached to House Bill 796 regarding community colleges and school funding, will go to Governor Bev Perdue for her signature.
– source:, 11/30/11
North Carolina’s Small Business Taxpayer Recovery Program is helping small businesses in the state that have fallen behind in paying sales, withholding and other trust taxes.
The program, launched by the N.C. Department of Revenue and the N.C. Small Business Commissioners Office, waives penalties and fees and offers longer-term payment plans, saving companies an estimated total of $6.8 million. The state said 1,009 businesses are now participating in the program.
“Our top priority is creating and sustaining jobs in North Carolina, and we all know that small businesses are the primary engine of job growth,” said N.C. Gov. Bev Perdue. “More than 1,000 small businesses are now able to keep their doors open and their employees working.”
Businesses must have no more than 200 employees to qualify for the program and they must agree to use the state’s small business counseling services. Any business interested in participating in the program, which runs through June 2013, can call 877-252-3052 or visit  for more information.
– source:, 11/30/11
The Charlotte area was able to land the global corporate headquarters of Chiquita Brands International Inc., thanks to a state incentives package that may be worth nearly $20 million.
Chiquita, an international marketer and distributor of produce, has agreed to create more than 400 jobs and invest $14.1 million over the next three years at its new headquarters in Mecklenburg County.
“Charlotte provided the most compelling economic offer and the region is an attractive community for our employees,” said Fernando Aguirre, chairman and chief executive officer of Chiquita.
The company, which employs more than 21,000 people in its operations in nearly 70 countries, plans to establish its new global headquarters at the NASCAR plaza in Charlotte and offer an average wage of more than $106,000, plus benefits. The wage is more than double the Mecklenburg County average of $51,584.
Chiquita was awarded a $2.5 million grant from the state’s One North Carolina Fund for economic development. The company could also receive as much as $16.13 million from the state’s Economic Investment Committee if it meets job creation and investment targets. Up to $5.377 million could be added to the state’s Utility Fund for infrastructure improvements as a result of the deal.
When a Job Development Investment Grant is awarded to a more economically prosperous county in the state, 25 percent of the funding is allocated to the Utility Fund to encourage economic development in less prosperous counties.
– source:, 11/29/11
Three metro areas in the Carolinas are on a list of the top 10 cities in the country for new construction, based on an analysis by Trulia of data in the third quarter of 2011. Raleigh-Cary (third), Charleston-North Charleston-Summerville (seventh), and Charlotte-Gastonia-Rock Hill (eighth) are among metro areas with the highest number of new construction permits per 1,000 existing housing units.
The Raleigh-Cary metro area had 3.04 new units permitted per thousand existing units in the quarter, while the Charleston-North Charleston-Summerville area came in at 2.59 units and Charlotte-Gastonia-Rock Hill was just behind at 2.53.
The Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown metro area, which has nearly returned to pre-recession construction levels, topped the list with a rate of 3.68 new units per thousand existing units.
While much of the new construction in the fast-growing large cities was for multi-family units, most of the permits issued in the metro areas in the Carolinas were for single family units. Only five percent of the new construction in Raleigh was for multi-family units.
Columbia, S.C. made the list of the top 20 metro areas for new permitted construction, coming in 16th with a rate of 2.16. Permits issued in Q3 were also near the average rate for 1990-2010 in Dallas, Omaha and San Antonio.
The metro areas are exceptions in a construction industry that remains largely stagnant in many areas. Overall permitting for new construction in the U.S. in the third quarter was about half the average rate for 1990-2010.
– source:, 11/4/11
A federal judge has temporarily blocked the use of a “Choose Life” license plate in North Carolina. U.S. District Court Judge James C. Fox approved a request for a preliminary injunction until a final decision is reached in court on the new plate.
N.C. Gov. Bev Perdue signed a law on June 30 allowing the plate for motorists who choose to pay $25 extra for a plate other than the standard plate. The ACLU has opposed the “Choose Life” plate in North Carolina, saying the state is preventing individual speech by not allowing a plate representing views on the other side of the abortion debate.
“The state should not be allowed to use its authority to promote one side of a debate while denying the same opportunity to the other side,” said Katy Parker, spokeswoman for the ACLU of North Carolina Legal Foundation. “We look forward to continuing our arguments in this case, and hope the court agrees that the First Amendment prohibits the blatant type of viewpoint discrimination the state has proposed through this one-sided license plate scheme.”
Half of the states in the country currently offer “Choose Life” plates, and some of them had to withstand legal challenges. The constitutionality of the plates in Tennessee, Missouri and Arizona was upheld by the U.S. Courts of Appeals for the Sixth, Eight and Ninth Circuits. The plate in Illinois was struck down by the Seventh Circuit.
– source:,, 11/30/11
Duke Energy has agreed to reduce its proposed rate increase in South Carolina to 7.1 percent for residential customers. Duke had been seeking an increase of 15 percent for all customers in the state to help pay for approximately $6.5 billion it spent to modernize its electrical system and upgrade plants to comply with regulations.
The utility agreed to lower the rate increases after Spartanburg Water opposed the hike. Sue Schneider, general manager of Spartanburg Water, said the initial proposal would have had a significant impact on the water provider. She said Spartanburg Water is pleased with the compromise, which still must be approved by the state. The Public Service Commission of South Carolina plans a hearing on the proposed rate increase, beginning Dec. 7.
Based on the compromise agreement, rates would go up about $6.25 per month for an average customer using about 1,000 kilowatt-hours per month. The new rates, which would take effect in February 2012, would go up 5.2 percent for commercial customers, 5.1 percent for industrial customers and 5.8 percent for lighting customers.
– source:, 12/1/11
The North Carolina Arboretum recently held a planting ceremony for a blight-resistant American chestnut tree. The tree was planted in the arboretum’s canopy garden with the hope that it will mark the return of the American chestnut to the Southern Appalachians after it was decimated by an epic blight in the last century.
“It was once one of the most prominent trees,” said Paul Franklin of the American Chestnut Foundation. “It constituted one in four trees in the Eastern forests.”
The tree can grow up to 100 feet tall with a trunk about 15 feet in diameter. Franklin said the tree could produce 1,500 pounds of seeds a year, compared to 500 pounds from oaks, so it was an important food source for turkey, deer and bear. The trees also were an important source of lumber.
The blight, imported from Asia, began killing the American chestnut in 1904 and, by 1950, it had killed nearly all of the mature trees from Maine to Georgia all the way west to Ohio.
– source:, 11/16/11

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