Commerce Secretary Outlines Strategy for Economic Growth
Sharon Allred Decker was having surgery on her left foot when then Gov.-elect Pat McCrory called last December to explore her interest in becoming secretary of commerce.
"Subsequently, we had a great conversation," said Decker, a former executive at Duke Energy. "The position was nowhere on my radar. It came out of the blue at an interesting time. But the decision was easy. This is exactly where I need to be.
"I saw this as an answer to a prayer, that I could somehow turn success into significance."
Decker's keynote address Thursday at the Moore County Chamber of Commerce annual meeting and banquet focused on what she believes are the five tenets of economic growth: health care; education; economic development; arts, culture and tourism; and quality of life and the environment.
"Significance in this role will be brought to bear as we can get more North Carolinians back to meaningful work," she said. "We've got a lot of people hurting in this state. We've got really, really important work to do."
Decker, who has served on the boards of three Fortune 500 companies, said her top priorities are job creation, tax reform, creating a new branding campaign, and developing an economic development strategic plan.
"We've got a lot of hard work to do, but we have great days ahead of us," she said. "We will put North Carolina on a better road to recovery and prosperity. Our state has a bright future. I believe that with all my heart."
Decker cited K2 Solutions of Southern Pines and Home Choice Network of Aberdeen as examples of success stories that can be replicated across the state.
"North Carolina's greatest strength and asset remains its people," she said. "It's in areas like Moore County, where all of you are what makes the difference in our success. You're self-starters. You're hard workers. What you're doing at the community level is critically important.
"I look forward to our shared success in the years to come."
Patrick Coughlin, president and CEO of the Chamber, noted that Decker was the youngest and first female vice president at Duke Energy and developed a 24-hour customer service center there that remains a model in the industry.
"She has built her career on making decisions differently," Coughlin said. "We have to think our way out of where we are today."
Coughlin added that economic uncertainty remains because "no real trends have emerged."
"Success is always going to be a moving target," he said. "The economic recovery is, at best, struggling. But we can't kick the can down the road any longer. We have to take action right now."
Chamber Board Chair Dick Higginbotham, chief financial officer at Pinehurst Resort, passed the gavel to Jeff Hutchins, CEO of Penick Village, and then turned to Decker, a former chair of the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce.
"She is one person who knows how excited I am tonight," Higginbotham said with a smile.
Higginbotham was presented with the customary plaque for his year of service, but also received surprise gifts from the Chamber and Hutchins.
Coughlin handed Higginbotham a kayak paddle, saying, "There's a kayak that goes with this. You can pick it up tomorrow."
Hutchins then gave Higginbotham a set of colorful pens.
"But notice that I took all the red out," Hutchins said.
Higginbotham took it all in stride, noting that "everybody else gets Pinehurst stuff."
Contact Ted M. Natt Jr. at (910) 693-2474 or tnatt@the pilot.com.
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