Richard Lindenmuth, a former executive with ITT in Raleigh and currently a partner in private equity firm Vetro Partners, is the choice of Gov. Pat McCrory to lead the new Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina. The group is the newly formed private side of the states public-private economic recruiting partnership.

McCrory and Commerce Secretary Sharon Decker announced Lindenmuth’s appointment early Tuesday. The two say the new organization will help North Carolina both recruit and retain businesses.

The position of CEO is listed as “interim.”

In a conference call, Decker said Lindemmuth will be paid $120,000 plus expenses related to the job under terms of a personal services contract.

“The opportunity is huge,” Lindenmuth said of the new organization. “We have to come up with something that makes sense.”

Lindenmuth has more than 30 years of experience in business as a CEO and as an executive working in a number of different roles such as turnarounds. He is a U.S. navy veteran, a licensed commercial pilot, and holds an MBA from the Wharton School of Business. He has lived in North Carolina since 1981.

“Absolutely Confident with Change Management”

In a conference call, Lindenmuth said the new organization was still in the process of being created. “Changing a system is one of the hardest things ever to be accomplished,” he explained. “We don’t know what [the organization] will look like exactly a year from now.

“If we had all the answers,” he added, “it would be real simple.”

According to Decker, Lindenmuth’s job includes “defining the organization” and “supporting legislative action” at the General Assembly. Decker said she is continuing to consult with legislative leaders about the privatization effort, which so far has been permitted under a budget resolution that allows the Governor to spend some $1 million.

Decker said Lindenmuth’s work at Vetro influenced her decision to hire him.

“He is absolutely confident in dealing with change management,” Decker said in the conference call. She said she had reviewed “20 to 25 candidates” for the job and interviewed “a dozen.”

McCrory was asked by reporters after the Council of State meeting today if Lindenmuth is the right person for the job.

“Incredible international and manufacturing experience, which fits into our future Commerce and job creation goals,” McCroyr replied. “One thing we’re learning is that almost every new job creation project that we’re working on has some sort of international component, and he brings both the international component and the operations and manufacturing component to a skill set that is needed in the future.”

As many as 67 current state workers could be affected by the changes under way at Commerce, Decker noted. Lindenmuth will have a role recruiting and hiring for positions in the Economic Development Partnership and some current workers could be hired, she said.

“North Carolina is starting to see signs of economic recovery, and this new partnership will strengthen our state’s recruiting efforts and increase efficiency,” McCrory said in a statement. “Richard Lindenmuth’s leadership and job expertise in business operations will play a critical role in directing this new organization.”

Business Background

Lindenmuth has a varied background as a corporate executive, having served as a CEO of more than 10 companies, according to the Commerce Department. He led some 12,000 workers while serving as president of ITT’s Business and Consumer Communications Group in Raleigh/

“Richard’s experience makes him an ideal candidate to lead the new partnership,” Decker said in the announcement. “He is known as a change agent and for successfully helping organizations through transition. Richard will be instrumental in helping us increase customer focus, as well as speed and efficiency in all economic development initiatives.”

Backstory for New Effort

Incorporation papers for the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina Inc. were filed with the Secretary of State’s Office last September. The new group will be a 501(c)3 nonprofit that will handle business recruiting functions for the state.

According to Decker and other administration officials, the new nonprofit will be able to react faster than government officials to inquiries from businesses hoping to relocate or expand in North Carolina.

Progress on the nonprofit is proceeding despite the lack of a full-throated endorsement from the General Assembly.

Lawmakers failed to pass a bill detailing how the new nonprofit should operate, mainly because it was attached to a controversial measure dealing with energy production in the state. However, a smaller provision in the state budget gives the Commerce Department authority to move ahead with the changes.

That budget provision is much less detailed than the standalone bill and gives the department wide latitude in how to construct the new nonprofit. But in a prior interview, Decker has said she plans to follow the more detailed outline laid out in the bill that fell short of legislative approval.

According to its incorporation papers, the new nonprofit will be “collaborating with the North Carolina Department of Commerce to assist, promote, and enhance economic opportunities, particularly in the State of North Carolina’s rural and urban communities; and involving the private sector in a meaningful and material way in economic development efforts previously undertaken by the State of North Carolina and its instrumentalities and political subdivisions, and thereby lessening the burdens on, and of, government.”

[Note: Mark Binker of contributed to this report.]