Critical Conversations with Golden LEAF’s Scott T. Hamilton featuring N.C. Department of Commerce Secretary Machelle Baker Sanders

Critical Conversations with Golden LEAF’s Scott T. Hamilton featuring N.C. Department of Commerce Secretary Machelle Baker Sanders

December 8, 2022

Recently, Golden LEAF President, Chief Executive Officer Scott T. Hamilton sat down with North Carolina Department of Commerce Secretary Machelle Baker Sanders, via Zoom and filmed the twentieth edition in a video series called Critical Conversations. In this series, Scott talks with professionals about economic development issues affecting the state.

Secretary Sanders has more than 30 years of industry leadership and management, including as former Secretary of Administration. Sanders was appointed Secretary of Commerce in February 2021 by Governor Roy Cooper.

The North Carolina Department of Commerce works closely with local, regional, national, and international organizations to propel economic, community, and workforce development for the state to help carry out its mission to improve the economic well-being and quality of life for all North Carolinians.

Secretary Sanders explained that the Department of Commerce focuses on programs to locate business to or expand businesses in the state and provides services to help the workforce be job ready by offering programs to obtain new or additional skills for available jobs.

North Carolina had a record year in job announcements. Some of the biggest announcements this year were the result of years of strategic planning to build megasites across the state, said Secretary Sanders. The long-term approach to economic development has paid off in more than 10,000 jobs being announced by just three new businesses locating in the state: Toyota, Vinfast, and Wolfspeed. One of the priorities of the state includes providing more shovel-ready megasites. Secretary Sanders said these shovel-ready sites are critically important to the state’s continued economic growth. The state established a fund that will help identify megasites across the state, said Secretary Sanders. Golden LEAF has a parallel  SITE Program that is working on providing economic developers – especially in rural, economically distressed areas – with industrial sites. While these sites are smaller in scale, it will help level the field for economic developers to have the land ready for companies to consider locating in their area.

Collaboration is a differentiator for North Carolina, said Secretary Sanders. North Carolina collaborates with multiple entities to get the best possible outcomes for the economy. The Department of Commerce works with the Governor, the General Assembly, workforce partners, other elected officials, and funders like Golden LEAF to provide the policies, funding, and programs to bring in new jobs and skills for the workforce. We collaborate to stay aligned on the strategies and implementation of those strategies for long-term job creation and economic investment for the state, said Secretary Sanders.

The Department of Commerce has tools in place to help grow the economy, said Secretary Sanders. The Job Development Investment Grant (JDIG) is a performance-based, discretionary incentive program that provides cash grants directly to new and expanding companies to help offset the cost of locating or expanding a facility in the state. The One North Carolina Fund (OneNC) is a discretionary cash-grant program that allows the Governor to respond quickly to competitive job-creation projects. Secretary Sanders also mentioned several Public Infrastructure Funds and Programs, Technology Funds, and Building or Site Funds available through state and federal funds as well as other funders, such as the Golden LEAF Foundation.

The First in Talent: Strategic Economic Development Plan for the State of North Carolina helps North Carolina be prepared for existing and new industry growth. The state’s strategic economic development plan is a road map for recommendations of strategies to implement and execute the plan, said Secretary Sanders. The plan focuses on strategies to remove barriers for underrepresented or under-resourced individuals, such as childcare, flexible work schedules, access to healthcare, and the justice involved, to grow the state’s labor supply. The plan focuses on engaging all residents and all populations with workforce opportunities to grow North Carolina’s talent availability. This plan engages businesses, communities, and policymakers in strategies that will work to fill the talent gap.

Secretary Sanders said that the Department of Commerce is also laser focused on talent development. She said North Carolina was named the “Best State for Business” in large part because of the people. North Carolina has policies and strategies focused on building the workforce. The workforce programs the Department of Commerce highlights on its website include focuses on customized training, on-the-job training, incumbent worker training, high-risk employees, tax credits, and trade adjustment assistance. The Department of Commerce highlights partners such as the North Carolina Community College System, NCWorks, and Golden LEAF. North Carolina is a collaborator on building the economy through training, retraining, and upskilling its workforce, said Secretary Sanders.

Learn more about the Department of Commerce funding strategies in this Golden LEAF Funder Spotlight or visit their website at

Critical Conversations is a feature in the Golden LEAF newsletter every month. The next edition will be in our January 12th edition of LEAF Lines.

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