History of the Conservation and Development Department
In 1924 Governor Cameron Morrison had given support to legislation for restructuring of the North Carolina Geological and Economic Survey, placing “the duty of a modern Department of Commerce” upon its board. This legislation failed, but Morrison’s successor, Governor Angus W, McLean also supported the restructure and enlargement of the North Carolina Geological and Economic Survey to advertise the states advantages and to promote the proper conservation of the state’s natural resources.
The 1925 General Assembly replaced the survey with the Department of Conservation and Development. The department's statutory duties included the active promotion and development of the state's commerce and industry, as well as the protection of its resources. In 1927 the department established a Division of Commerce and Industry to collect and tabulate information relevant to the state's resources and potential development.
In 1930 the Division of Commerce and Industry merged with the Division of Public Relations this office had previously functioned within the Department of Conservation and Development. The Division of Commerce and Industry continued to promote the state through public relations until 1937, when the department was granted an appropriation that enabled it to create a separate Division of State Advertising.
In 1937 the Division of Commerce and Industry was enlarged to allow it to take a more active approach in recruiting new and diversified industry. Activities of the division during this time included programs to encourage home industries and rural industries, both of which became the foundation of efforts that continued into the next decade and beyond. In 1945 Governor Gregg Cherry appointed a Committee on Rural Industries to support the division's activities. Composed of one hundred businessmen, the committee held meetings in eleven cities, seeking to stimulate interest in the possibilities of small rural industries that would utilize local labor and raw materials.
In 1953 the U.S. Congress established the Small Business Administration to provide counsel and financial assistance to small businesses throughout the country. In response, the Division of Commerce and Industry converted its home industries program into a Small Industries Section to promote the growth of locally owned and operated industries and the creation of new enterprises. In 1962 the Division of Commerce and Industry added a Food Processing Section to encourage the development of modern processing operations.
During the late 1950s and early 1960s, the Division of Travel Information (previously named the Division of State Advertising) worked in cooperation with the Division of Commerce and Industry, conducting "Get acquainted with North Carolina" events for newcomers to the state. The two divisions also worked on a project locating welcome centers at interstate highway exits near the state's borders. The Division of Commerce and Industry subsequently established a Travel and Tourism Section that continued into the next decade.
During the mid-1960s, the Small Industries Section merged with the newly formed Community and Industrial Services Section. The section subsequently became the main arm of the Division of Commerce and Industry for the collection of community data to be stored in a computerized data bank for use by the division and various local development groups throughout the state. Another major function of the section involved determining the expansion requirements of various manufacturers within the state and their needs for materials, suppliers, and markets.
Under the Executive Organization Act of 1971, the Department of Conservation and Development was placed under the newly formed Department of Natural and Economic Resources, headed by a cabinet- level secretary appointed by the governor. The old Department of Conservation and Development and its board retained their previous statutory powers. During the initial phase of reorganization there was little structural change. However, the division was placed under an Office of Industrial, Tourist, and Community Resources, an administrative arm of the new department. During 1973 the Governor's Efficiency Study Commission recommended that the office be restructured to include only the Division of Commerce and Industry and a Division of Science and Technology. According to the commission, the Board of Science and Technology should be altered to emphasize the commercial and industrial value of research and to aid the state's economic growth.
Subsequently, the Department of Natural and Economic Resources was re-created and reorganized under the Executive Organization Act of 1973 and charged with promoting the state's economic development. The functions and powers previously vested in the Department of Conservation and Development and its board were formally assigned to the new department, and the Department of Conservation and Development and its board ceased to exist.