McCrory Commerce secretary joins Nexsen Pruet

John Skvarla, who led Department of Environmental Quality, Department of Commerce under McCrory, join the Carolinas law firms Raleigh office as senior government relations adviser

Madeline Gray—North State Journal
FILE PHOTO: Secretary of the North Carolina Department of Commerce John Skvarla speaks in Edgecombe County on Tuesday

RALEIGH — It was announced Wednesday that former McCrory administration fixture, John Skvarla, will be joining law firm Nexsen Pruet as senior government relations adviser. Skvarla first served the Old North State as secretary of the Department of Environmental Quality under McCrory starting in 2013, and then was tapped to lead the N.C. Department of Commerce for the final two years of the Republican governor’s term.The law firm also announced the addition of attorney and publisher of the North State Journal, Neal Robbins. Robbins, who served as director of legislative affairs for DEQ before founding North Carolina’s first statewide newspaper, will join his mentor Skvarla at the firm. Robbins’s legal background is in corporate and finance transactions.Nexsen Pruet, a business law firm that operates in North Carolina and South Carolina, aims to tap Skvarla’s combination of business and government experience to aid clients navigating the inherent complexities of business investment and economic development opportunities in the state.Founded in 1945, Nexsen Pruet provides a broad range of legal services to the business community and represents companies and other entities in local, state, national, and international venues.”The ability to bring together all of those experiences – from practicing law, to running an airline, to running an environmental mitigation company, to being in the healthcare business — I have had the greatest rocket ride and this is sort of the culmination of all those years of experiences,” said Skvarla in an interview.Robbins is excited to offer additional value to the growing firm, but emphasizes where his first priority lies.”I will remain publisher of the North State Journal,” said Robbins. “We have an outstanding staff of writers, editors, photographers and designers who do the heavy lifting of getting the most accurate and thorough information to readers in an innovative and beautiful package. My primary focus will be to make sure the North State Journal gets out to our growing subscriber base across the state.” “As any lawyer knows you are always practicing law, regardless of what your business card says. So I am excited to have that renewed opportunity, and to work with one of my mentors, John Skvarla,” added Robbins.The chair of Nexsen Pruet’s Economic Development Group in North Carolina is looking forward to the experience the two men bring to the firm.”Today there is unprecedented competition for economic development projects between states and local governments. And, the agreements are more complex than ever,” said Pearson. “John and Neal know how it fits together better than almost everyone, so they will be valuable assets to clients looking to move operations into North Carolina or to expand here.”Skvarla was effervescent as he described the opportunities for growth that exist in the state, particularly relating to unfinished business from his days as Commerce Secretary. One initiative would seek to maximize the utility of the some 12,000 buildings and 660,000 acres of vacant land owned by the state. The other, an effort to provide early-stage equity funding to small business start-ups to catalyze economic and job growth across North Carolina.”We are going to create economic vitality from Murphy to Manteo in this state,” declared Skvarla. “It is truly my mission, they were both my babies and I am not going to let go of that, and I am going to make sure that I do everything I humanly can to bring those projects to utter fruition because they are game changers for the state of North Carolina. We can restore our white picket-fence communities to grandeur because what they’re all missing is that first layer of early-stage equity, because we can overlay on that the dozens and dozens of grant funds that are out there that nobody knows about because they’re like a shotgun blast, they’re just all over the place.”That expertise in economic development funding programs the state offers, as well as the needs and considerations of growing businesses forms the crux of Skvarla’s value, according to the firm.However, he cautioned that economic development efforts should not fall prey to partisan politics amid a newly divided state government.”At the end of the day everybody wants economic growth and jobs. If, in fact, the new administration at the governor’s office makes it political, it’s going to be very, very sad because North Carolina is at a high point, is on an upward trajectory. We’re the ninth largest economy in the United States, we’re the 23rd largest economy in the world. We should not do anything that interrupts that upward trajectory and if they do stuff to interrupt that it’s going to be for political reasons, not for the good of the citizens of North Carolina. I guess that remains to be seen.”