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Meck County increases lobbying budget, hires Ferguson Group firm

Mecklenburg County has decided to join a growing list of North Carolina municipalities represented in Washington by the lobbying firm The Ferguson Group. WFAE's Lisa Miller reports. The Ferguson Group represents about a dozen local governments in North Carolina, including Gaston County, Concord, and Monroe. Six years ago, Charlotte decided to end its long-term contract with the firm and hire another lobbyist with no other clients in the state. But part of what motivated Charlotte to dismiss The Ferguson Group, helped drive Mecklenburg County to hire the firm. Brian Francis, assistant to the Mecklenburg County Manager, says members of Congress don't think in terms of local governments, but of congressional districts. "We really think there will be opportunities to partner regionally on a lot of the issues we're working on," says Francis. "We really feel having a firm working with us who has those kinds of relationships throughout the area, but also has an in depth understanding of county issues overall will really be able to benefit us." This isn't the first time The Ferguson Group has lobbied on behalf of Mecklenburg County. The county contracted the company between 1997 and 2003, before switching to law and lobbying firm Womble, Carlyle, Sandridge and Rice. Mecklenburg County's contract with The Ferguson Group is for $150,000 a year. That's about a $30,000 increase over what it paid lobbyists last year. The Ferguson Group is based in D.C. with an office in Forsyth County. It represents about 120 local governments across the country.