“North Carolina’s entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well,” North Carolina Secretary of State Elaine Marshall told Council of State members at their monthly meeting on Tuesday.

She said the state set a record with more than 30,000 new businesses created during the period of July and August 2023, higher than any other July or August on record. The number for August was 16,133, while July’s number was 14,324. As of August 31, there are more than 121,000 (or 720 per business day) new business creations for the year, leaving the state to be on pace to have the second-highest year on record for job creation. For context, Marshall said it translates to a 76% growth for new businesses compared to 2019.

The state has also seen historic levels of annual report filings with more than 550,000 between January 1 and August 31, 70,000 more than the same period last year. 

Marshall reiterated the need for more funding and an increase in staffing, as she previously mentioned at last month’s meeting.

“The newest numbers (job creation) also clearly reflect what I was discussing with the council last month,” she said. “That the funding and staffing levels approved by the General Assembly are not coming anywhere close to keeping pace with the current intense demand for our agency. Our businesses pay for these services and deserve better. We are doing what we’re doing, but not at the rate the business community has become accustomed to.”

Lieutenant Gov. Mark Robinson told the council that he has been concerned over the number of job losses that have been mounting in the state, especially in large manufacturing firms like the Canton paper mill, furniture maker Mitchell Gold+Bob Williams, and others, including thousands of well-paid skilled positions. 

“I would also contrast that with what Secretary Marshall said, and what I’m also seeing is there are an inordinate amount of new businesses starting that are reaching out to those folks who employ them,” he said. “So, I think all of us have a role in this. We need to continue to do what we need to do to continue to help businesses succeed in this state so those folks who are losing those jobs in those manufacturing facilities can transfer over into new workplaces. I think it’s working quite well right now and hopefully will continue to do so in the future.”

North Carolina State Superintendent of Public Instruction Catherine Truitt said that students are making academic gains despite school closures from the pandemic, information first presented at last week’s State Board of Education meeting.

“Our strongest gains have been in middle grades math as well as in elementary reading, and I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that there has been $60 million in new money that has been invested in professional development for teachers that has led to these incredible gains in our elementary reading scores, but also when we look at the amount of money that’s been invested in this, all told we’re looking at over $100 million over the last couple of years just to remediate the learning loss that has recovered over the last couple of decades across this nation and in North Carolina,” she said.

“Because of the lack of understanding and awareness of the correct way to teach reading in our nation, which is a move away from a phonics-based approach to early literacy instruction in favor of something called whole language,” Truitt continued.

She went on to say that you cannot listen to an education podcast without hearing about both cognitive and considerable research that has gone into showing that what has been invested in teachers in the way of professional development for the past two years coming out of the pandemic is what works for all children. 

Truitt noted that there have been upwards of 50% gains in early reading skills for the state’s youngest readers in some of the most economically distressed counties, which, in turn, is paying off in older grades as well.

“We will be coming to the legislature and to you, governor, in this short session for a solution for middle-grade teachers because we need to continue down this trajectory of investing in professional development for our teachers as we have in the past couple of years for reading,” she told Gov. Roy Cooper. “We need to do the same thing in math and the same thing for middle grades reading. It may seem premature to be talking about the short session when we don’t have a budget yet for this session, but my team and I are working on a solution that will again empower and equip our teachers to meet the needs of all learners.”