Budget cuts force layoff at local N.C. Biotechnology division
September 5, 2013By J. Elias O'Neal
Budget cuts approved by the North Carolina General Assembly have forced the N.C. Biotechnology Center to make deep cuts to existing programs and slash grants and administrative jobs, including a position at its Southeast regional office in Wilmington.
Norris Tolson, president and CEO of the N.C. Biotechnology Center, confirmed Wednesday that the regional coordinator’s position at the agency’s Southeast division was one of seven jobs slashed from the center.
The N.C. Biotechnology Center supports state entrepreneurship through education and training, research grants, community and economic development programs and business development programs.
“We really hated to lose that young man,” Tolson said of the former regional coordinator that worked closely with Randall Johnson, executive director of the N.C. Biotechnology Center’s Southeast office in Wilmington. “He was an excellent young man.”
Tolson said a similar position was cut from the center’s Asheville office, and five other administrative slots were cut from the center’s main office in Raleigh – bringing the total number of employees at the center down from 76 to 69.
None of the cuts affected the center’s Charlotte, Greenville and Winston-Salem offices.
But that may only be the beginning.
Another wave of cuts are also planned for Sept. 30, because of the center’s “voluntary separation program” – where 20 Raleigh-based employees are eligible for a severance package in exchange for resigning their posts with the center.
Tolson said the administrative cuts were the result of legislators slashing the center’s budget from $17.2 million during fiscal year 2012-13, to $12.6 million during the FY 2013-14 budget – forcing the center to take a $4.6 million hit to its coffers.
He said funding for the Marine Biotechnology Center at the University of North Carolina Wilmington “is fully intact and will be fully funded under this budget FY 2013-14.”
Tolson said in order to protect its centers of innovation from any legislative cuts, the agency choose to lay off employees at its Wilmington, Asheville and Raleigh locations to help offset expenses.
He added the center has also ended its education and training program, which includes funding for its education enhancement grants, undergraduate research fellowships and summer workshops for educators. The center will also no longer fund the Industrial Fellowship Program, and has reduced its Small Business Research Loans.