Lake Norman Chamber e-Brief for Friday, May 27, 2011

Chamber Members and Stakeholders:

Memorial Day Celebrations

As families gather in observance of Memorial Day, let us be focused on what we are honoring – the men and women who have sacrificed so much for the protections of our liberty.  We give thanks to the men and women, from generation to generation, who have served this country.  There are at least two local observances of that celebration:  this Saturday, May 28th at Cornelius Town Hall is the Veterans Memorial groundbreaking at 11 am and Monday at 7 pm at Birkdale Village in Huntersville. 

Local Small Business Recognized with Small Business of the Year Award

Shawn Brodof, founder of Clarity Coaching and author of The Termite Effect – 25 Common Business Mistakes and Their Hidden Consequences was recognized by the Chamber as the Small Business of the Year. Angela Swett with Image Promotions, Inc. and David Boraks with DavidsonNews.net and CorneliusNews.net were cited as Honorable Mentions.  Proclamations were issued by the Towns of Cornelius, Davidson, and Huntersville declaring May 16 – 20 Small Business Week. 

Workers’ Comp Bill Passes in House Select Committee on Tort Reform

The House Select Committee on Tort Reform voted yesterday to pass HB709: Protect and Put NC Back to Work. The North Carolina Chamber, along with key business allies, has spent countless hours this session seeking balanced legislation on workers’ comp reform to ensure our state’s business climate is competitive. After extensive negotiations between parties on both sides of the issue, a consensus bill has been approved by the committee that preserves the main objectives of the N.C. Chamber, and a broad business coalition, to create fair and balanced reform for the state’s workers’ compensation system.  HB709 will now be voted on by the full House as early as next week.

N.C. Senate Budget Panel Approves Spending Plan Which Cuts Area Transit

The Senate’s chief budget-writing panel on Wednesday approved the Republican-penned $19.4 billion state government spending plan, rejecting amendments to reduce the number of potential teacher assistant layoffs and to keep the state crime lab under Attorney General Roy Cooper.

The Senate Appropriations Committee addressed dozens of amendments over about four hours before passing the two-year budget on a voice vote. The bill, slated for a full Senate vote next week after it was approved by the Senate pensions committee later Wednesday, spends about $129 million more next year than the House plan does.  However, it still proposes spending $473 million less than what was recommended by Democratic Gov. Beverly Perdue, who wanted to keep three-quarters of a temporary penny sales tax. The Republican-controlled House and Senate let the full-penny temporary sales tax expire June 30, costing the state $1.1 billion in revenue. Without that extra money, the measure closes an estimated $2.5 billion projected bud get gap for the next fiscal year largely with spending cuts.

The budget contains no money for Charlotte’s light-rail extension.  House Speaker Thom Tillis said Wednesday he believes it will be in the General Assembly’s final spending plan.

The Senate budget eliminates money to extend the light rail to UNC Charlotte and bars Charlotte transit officials from obligating state money for a proposed commuter rail through North Mecklenburg.

Asked whether he expects both projects to be in a final budget, Tillis said, “I believe they will.”

HOT Lanes Would Allow Widening of I-77

Lake Norman Transportation Commission Executive Director Carroll Gray made a presentation to the Lake Norman Chamber Board of Directors this week outlining the use of HOT lanes to widen I-77, the Cornelius Diverging Diamond, and an update on the Red line.   HOT lanes would convert the current high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes in both directions between I-85 and Mile Marker 19 i nto high-occupancy toll (HOT) lanes, and extend those HOT lanes northward to Exit 28 at a cost of around $64 million.  The Lake Norman Chamber supports HOT lanes in the Chamber’s 2011 Legislative Agenda.

Recommended Reading

Many of you have commented you enjoyed my recommended reading list.  I just finished a great book “Leadership Secrets of Billy Graham” written in 2005.  It’s a Charlotte Mecklenburg County Library book, although I plan to order a copy for my personal library.  I enjoyed it that much!  The book was not a theology book in as much as it focused on how Graham built his organization on the cornerstone of 21 leadership principles.

I particularly liked the chapters on character and criticism as he built his team, established his vision, and carried out his mission.  One particular quote in the book spoke to critics:   “Get a friend to tell you your faults, or better still, welcome an enemy who will watch you keenly and sting you savagely.  What a blessing such an irritating critic will be to the wise man or woman!”

I hope everyone has a great weekend and if you are traveling or out on the lake – be safe!

“A Look Back” – Message from Chamber Chairman Scott Hinkle – 1999

Scott Hinkle served as Chairman of the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce in 1999.  Sadly we lost Scott December 11, 2009.  I recently came across his Chairman’s Message from February 1999 and was struck by how appropriate much of it is more than a decade later.  Here is the text of that message:

Scott Hinkle

If you were able to attend our annual banquet in January, you heard me say that 1999 awaits us with a year of hope and possibilities at Lake Norman.  That’s not to say that we don’t have our challenges, but it is my belief that the quality of our region, our robust economy, good schools and of course, Lake Norman itself, are strong arguments in our favor.  I look forward to the coming year, wishing for the continued growth of the area and each of our member businesses.

There are four key areas on which our Chamber will concentrate this year, vital areas if we are to continue to grow our numbers and better represent our members:  Identity, Marketing, Economic Development and Volunteerism.  Barely a month and a half into my term, we are already hard at work on these issues.  The identity we create for our area is no small matter.  In fact, it presents itself readily to every visitor among us.  Cornelius, Davidson and Huntersville are becoming synonymous with Lake Norman and its growing reputation and appeal.  All three towns have a growing number of  citizens who live on or near the lake and it’s the water that is responsible for a great deal of the residential and commercial growth each town enjoys. As a result of this growth, and of frugal management on the part of our town governments, property tax rates have remained incredibly stable, if not fallen, in recent years.

As our citizenry increases and our workforce, so does the economic opportunity of Lake Norman. Our marketing efforts this year will capitalize on the greatest single asset our region has – Lake Norman. It is an incredibly strong product to sell.   Now, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention at least one of our challenges.  Last fall voters in Mecklenburg County passed a half-cent sales tax to fund alternatives to conventional automobile transit.  Taxpayers recognized that transit is about clean air, reducing our reliance on cars and asphalt, creating jobs and moving workers throughout the county and improving our quality of life.  Our Chamber has supported transit all the way and we will continue to do so.

Chairman Scott Hinkle and President Bill Russell

On February 8th and 9th, President Bill Russell and myself went to Charlotte to reiterate our support of transit. We told both the Charlotte City Council and the Mecklenburg County Board of Commissioners that we believe the public’s interest in the $1 billion- plus transit puzzle must be protected by having elected officials, not an appointed board, govern tomorrow’s system. We argued that the same voter initiative that will fund transit will be an asset in removing elected officials who deviate from the public’s plan.  We loudly stressed our feeling that the three towns of North Mecklenburg – Davidson, Cornelius and Huntersville – must remain at the decision table.  After all, the General Assembly believed this as well, insisting in the original referendum legislation that town interests be preserved.  And most importantly, we told both elected bodies that transit planning and implementation must-proceed immediately.

As I have mentioned, we believe transit is a matter of job creation and job growth.  At the Chamber’s PowerLuncheon on Thursday, February 11, we heard this very case.  Bill Coxe, the transportation planner for the Town of Huntersville, and Craig Lewis, the assistant town manager for the Town of Cornelius, briefed Chamber members on the immediate impact that bus transit is having on North Mecklenburg.  Lewis told of the expansion happening to our Express Bus service to Charlotte. The expanded service will make a huge difference for many of our employers in North Mecklenburg, most notably those in the hotel and restaurant industries.  Workers at Lake Norman can catch the Express Bus at the Food Lion in Cornelius, Target at NorthCross or Food Lion at Huntersville’s Exit 23 to Charlotte. When the bus returns to the lake, workers from the center city are already riding to jobs in North Meck.  That is great news for employers here at the lake with plenty of job openings to fill.

Lake Norman Chamber Legislative e-Brief for May 12, 2011

Salute to National Travel and Tourism Week May 8 – 14

Creating the Amateur Sports Capital of the South

PowerLuncheon – Friday, May 13th at Havana Banquet and Ballroom

Wrapping up our week long salute to “Travel and Tourism Week”  the Chamber will host a luncheon Friday on the subject of amateur sports and the impact it will have on our business community.

Charlotte Travel and Tourism leaders, including Mecklenburg County Parks and Recreation Department have a goal to make the Charlotte Region the Amateur Sports Capital of the South.  Plans to build the largest youth baseball facility in Mooresville may make that dream a reality.  The Chamber has asked Mecklenburg County, Cooperstown Dreams Park, and Visit Lake Norman to present the latest developments on this dynamic vision for our region!

Join us Friday May 13, 2011 at 11:45 am Havana Banquet & Ballroom 8325 Copley Drive—Kenton Place, Cornelius, NCfor this informative PowerLuncheon sponsored by SREE Hotels.  Make your reservation now by registering on the Lake Norman Chamber Website or by calling the Chamber at 704-892-1922.

Focus Friday – Focus on Hospitality Taxes
Friday, May 13 at the Courtyard by Marriott

Earlier in the day Friday (May 13th) from 8:00 to 9:30 a.m. at the Courtyard by Marriott, 16700 Northcross Drive in Huntersville the Lake Norman Chamber examines the collection and distribution of accommodation and prepared meals taxes and how those dollars are authorized to be spent.  The Focus Friday will look at the use of hospitality taxes which are imposed on hotels and restaurants. Those taxes from hotels are generated by visitor’s spending, and per legislation must be spent on travel and tourism.

Mike Crum, the Chief Operating Officer of the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority will share his insight on the history of the tax and its uses.  Mr. Crum oversees the operation of the sports, entertainment and convention facilities managed by the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority and is responsible for the performance of the CRVA’s administrative departments.

Joining Mr. Crum is Vinay Patel senior vice president of operations and sales for SREE Hotels.  Mr. Patel will discuss hospitality industry needs and trends as well as current House Bill 508 which would dedicate funding for Visit Lake Norman and remove travel and tourism as a source of political debate during the town’s annual budget cycles.  This legislation is supported by the accommodations industry.

Focus Friday is open to all members and is designed to show multiple views to a regional issue.  Participation by those who attend is encouraged.  Focus Friday is presented by DavidsonNews.Net and CorneliusNews.Net

Small Business Week May 16-20

The Lake Norman Chamber will salute our small businesses with seminars and networking events throughout the week of May 16th though the 20th.  Seminars will include: Social Media & Internet Marketing; What is your Entrepreneur Quotient; Results Driven Customer Service; and Leadership and Communication.  Networking events will include LEADS Networking, the May Business AfterHours at Duke Energy’s McGuire Energy Explorium with the Mooresville South Iredell, Lincolnton-Lincoln County, and Lake Norman Chambers, and a special Open House Wednesday, May 18th at the Chamber 1-6:00 pm.

At the Open House, the Lake Norman Chamber Board of Directors will honor a Small Business of the Year.  All three North Mecklenburgtowns will proclaim the week Small Business Week in resolutions by their respective town boards.  The Chamber will be working closely with the Small Business Administration, SCORE, and City of Charlotte-Neighborhood & Business Services Department. The Chamber’s Annual Spring Open House is sponsored by The Lake Norman Citizen, Sign Innovations, Park Avenue Properties and Visit Lake Norman.

We hope that you will join us in this weeklong series of events and activities honoring our small businesses!

We ask that you consider nominating (you may nominate your own business) a Small Business of the Year which will be recognized at a special reception Wednesday, May 18th at the Chamber.  To nominate the business, visit the  Small Business of the Year Survey on the Chamber website.

Census Numbers detail changing community landscape

Dr. Wilhelmenia Rembert representing the US Department of Commerce met with business leaders of the Chamber on Tuesday to get a first hand look at the data collected from the 2010 Census. NC’s population is now 9,535,484 with a growth rate of 18.5% over the last census with 4,327,528 housing units.

Town populations are:  Cornelius with 24,866 (17.8% growth): Davidson 10,944 (53.3%); and Huntersville 46,773 (87.4%).  Mecklenburg County’s population was 919,628 with a 32.2% growth.

Detailed Census data for 2010 will be released for North Carolina next week.

Town’s email list now off limits for commercial use

This past January, the Lake Norman Chamber joined Mecklenburg County towns and the City of Charlotte opposing the use of citizen’s emails for commercial gain.  On behalf of the Chamber and our 2010 Legislative Agenda, we wrote an editorial which was published by the area media and spoke to members of the Mecklenburg County delegation in Raleigh.

Last week, Governor Beverly Perdue signed into law a bill that puts local government email address lists off limits to businesses and the public.

North Carolina House Budget Bill Passed

The $19.3 billion spending plan received final approval from the House last Wednesday with a 72-47 vote. Republicans received the support of five Democrats potentially providing a veto-proof majority. The bill will now go to the Senate where changes are likely.  One likely change will be to the funding for public schools and universities outlined in the House bill. Sen. Pete Brunstetter (D-Forsyth), a co-chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said that the 15 percent cuts to the UNC System will likely be decreased shifting more of the cuts to public schools. Senate leaders have indicated that they are hoping to reduce cuts to the university system to 10 or 11 percent in their version of the budget. In addition, the House bill would eliminate $35 million from the pot of grant money used for public university students in need of financial aid, while Gov. Perdue’s budget kept funding at $162 million, which is the current spending level.

Republicans insist that balancing the state’s budget is dependent on reduced levels of spending, which includes terminating the temporary taxes that are worth about $1.3 billion in revenues. The current plan spends $650 million less than Perdue proposed for the coming year in education and 11 percent less than what was required to keep services running at current levels. Republicans argue that the overall cut is less than half of that percentage when compared to projected annual spending for the current fiscal year.

House Approves Senate Changes to Broadband Bill

The House voted to approve the Senate changes made to H129: Level Playing Field/Local Gov’t. Competition by an 82-34 vote. The bill establishes guidelines for state municipalities that want to compete with private industry and run their own broadband internet systems. Sen. Tom Apodaca (R-Buncombe) stated that the intent of the bill was to keep towns and cities from using tax dollars to subsidize operations and compete against private internet providers. Specifically, the bill would prevent the use of general taxes or fees from other services to subsidize cable rates and it would require municipal systems to pay fees in lieu of the state and county taxes that private systems would otherwise be paying. The bill was presented to Gov. Perdue for approval May 10th.

The bill has strong implications to the local cable provider MI-Connection and local officials in  Davidson, along with the North Carolina League of Municipalities objected to the legislation. The Lake Norman Chamber took no position on the legislation.

Final Thoughts

As we head into Small Business Week, recognizing the accomplishments and success of our small business community, we need to be ever mindful to incentives, risks, entrepreneurship, and perseverance. While the legislature continues to tackle difficult and challenging issues in Raleigh and our nation continues to recover from the worst recession in our lifetime, we pay tribute to the men and women who make up the backbone of our national economy – our small business owner.

There is an anonymous saying, “our greatest fear should not be of failure, but of succeeding at something that truly does not matter.”

Lessons I’ve Learned Along the Way #3 – “Putting others first”

The following is the third in a ten part series of “Lessons I’ve Learned Along the Way…”

Putting others first

In 1994, I joined the Santee Rotary Club while I was Executive Director of the Tri County Regional Chamber of Commerce. It was there I was exposed to the club’s motto “Service above Self,” the underlying premise behind one of the world’s largest service organization with 31,000 clubs in 166 countries. Today, I am a member of the North Mecklenburg Rotary Club which has a profound impact on our region.

However, long before my membership in Rotary, my Grandmother Feemster taught me to put others first through her limitless compassion and service. Grandmamma was the oldest of six kids and spent her days looking after her brothers, sisters, and later her children and grandchildren.

Early in her life a family member nicknamed her “Tillie the Toiler” and the name Tillie stuck. Toiled she did, working in a textile mill like many in rural South Carolina. Later in life she spent countless hours behind a sewing machine creating dresses and garments for her daughters, close family members, and friends.

Rarely did she ever sew anything for herself. It was a pretty safe bet that pretty little dress or sleek pants suit was for someone other than herself.

As a child, I spent most of my weekends with Grandmamma Tillie while my grandfather went fishing with his buddies. On Saturday mornings, we would go into town, as she referred to it, where she would always buy me a little “pretty.” Then we spent the rest of the day with her looking at the latest designs and styles so she could buy the pattern and sew someone a “pretty” of their own.

Regardless of how well she felt, Grandmother would be the first by the bedside of a sick relative and the last to leave. She took to heart the verse in Philippians (Chapter 2 Verse 3): “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.”

Too often when we meet folks for the first time, our thoughts are what do they think of us rather than what we can do for them. Many often seek out the credit rather than sharing the credit with others. Some of us learn too late that when we put others first, that is when we truly get ahead ourselves.

Grandmamma Feemster Mother's Day 2009

In February we lost Grandmamma Tillie. She was with us for 93 glorious years and taught me a great deal about life. My mother asked that I speak at the funeral and I shared a conversation I had with grandmamma when I asked what was her favorite hymn? Without hesitation, she replied, “In the garden.”

I can still hear her starting to softly sing the lyrics on our way to church that morning. “I come to the garden alone, while the dew is still on the roses. And the voice I hear falling on my ear, the son of God discloses, and He walks with me…”

I know that my Grandmother Feemster stands in the garden today. Surrounded by the brothers and sisters she cared for so much in life. This time though, she’s wearing a new dress of her own…. stitched in love and sewn by the hand of God.

Her lesson of compassion, putting others first, is one more lesson, I learned along the way.

Lake Norman Chamber Legislative e-Brief May 5, 2011

Chamber Members and Stakeholders:

Salute to National Travel and Tourism Week May 8 – 14

Focus Friday – Focus on Hospitality Taxes
Friday, May 13 at the Courtyard by Marriott

Join us Friday, May 13th at 8:00 to 9:30 a.m. at the Courtyard by Marriott 16700 Northcross Drive in Huntersville as the Lake Norman Chamber examines the collection and distribution of accommodation and prepared meals taxes and how those dollars are authorized to be spent.   A great deal has been written in the media over the last few months regarding the funding of Visit Lake Norman, the region’s travel and tourism authority, and the use of hospitality taxes which are imposed on hotels and restaurants.  Those taxes from hotels, are generated by visitor’s spending, and per legislation must be spent on travel and tourism. 

Mike Crum, the Chief Operating Officer of the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority will share his insight on the history of the tax and its uses.  Mr. Crum oversees the operation of the sports, entertainment and convention facilities managed by the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority and is responsible for the performance of the CRVA’s administrative departments.

Joining Mr. Crum is Vinay Patel senior vice president of operations and sales for SREE Hotels.  Mr. Patel will discuss hospitality industry needs and trends as well as current House Bill 508 which would dedicate funding for Visit Lake Norman and remove travel and tourism as a source of political debate during the town’s annual budget cycles.  This legislation is supported by the accommodations industry.

Focus Friday is open to all members and is designed to show multiple views to a regional issue.  Participation by those who attend is encouraged.  Focus Friday is presented by DavidsonNews.Net and CorneliusNews.Net

Creating Charlotte as the Sports Capital of the South

PowerLuncheon – Sports Capital of the South
Friday, May 13th atHavana Banquet and  Ballroom

Charlotte Travel and Tourism leaders, including Mecklenburg County Parks and Recreation Department have a goal to make the Charlotte Region the Amateur Sports Capital of the South.  Plans to build the largest youth baseball facility in Mooresville may make that dream a reality.  The Chamber has asked Mecklenburg County, Cooperstown Dreams Park, and Visit Lake Norman to present the latest developments on this dynamic vision for our region!

Join us Friday May 13, 2011 at 11:45 am Havana Banquet & Ballroom 8325 Copley Drive—Kenton Place, Cornelius, NCfor this informative PowerLuncheon sponsored by SREE Hotels.  Make your reservation now by registering on the Lake Norman Chamber Website or by calling the Chamber at 704-892-1922.

Chamber Examines Impact of Growth from U.S. Census Numbers

On Tuesday May 10th from 10:00 to 11:30 p.m. Dr. Wilhelmenia Rembert with the U.S. Department of Commerce / U.S. Census Bureau will review “Accessing and Using Census Data for Business & Economic Development.” The presentation will focus on the recently released 2010 Census Redistricting Data, including changes in the ethnic and racial make-up of our local, state and national populations.  It also will include a brief overview of other census products, such as. the American FactFinder, American Community Survey, and Economic Census & Surveys.  These tools are used by local governments, businesses, industries, and nonprofit organizations to conduct assessments, develop business plans and grant proposals, plan and develop communities, evaluate programs and  make community decisions that may rely on some federal allocations in part or full.

Small Business Week May 16-20

The Lake Norman Chamber will salute our small businesses with seminars and networking events throughout the week of May 16th though the 20th.  Seminars will include: Social Media & Internet Marketing; What is your Entrepreneur Quotient; Results Driven Customer Service; and Leadership and Communication.  Networking events will include LEADS Networking, the May Business AfterHours at Duke Energy’s McGuire Energy Explorium with the Mooresville South Iredell, Lincolnton-Lincoln County, and Lake Norman Chambers, and a special Open House Wednesday, May 18th at the Chamber 1-6:00 pm.

At the Open House, the Lake Norman Chamber Board of Directors will honor a Small Business of the Year.  All three North Mecklenburgtowns will proclaim the week Small Business Week in resolutions by their respective town boards.  The Chamber will be working closely with the Small Business Administration, SCORE, and City of Charlotte-Neighborhood & Business Services Department. The Chamber’s Annual Spring Open House is sponsored by The Lake Norman Citizen, Sign Innovations, Park Avenue Properties and Visit Lake Norman.

We hope that you will join us in this weeklong series of events and activities honoring our small businesses!

We ask that you consider nominating (you may nominate your own business) a Small Business of the Year which will be recognized at a special reception Wednesday, May 18th at the Chamber.  To nominate the business, visit the  Small Business of the Year Survey on the Chamber website.

Recommended Reading

Many of you commented on the recommended reading information I posted to last week’s e-Brief on Twitterville.  I have also had quite a few of you request to follow my Twitter postings, link in with me on Linkedin, and join the Chamber’s Linkedin Group. 

I just finished reading another book this week that I believe may just be the very best book I have ever read on networking.  Networking Like a Pro: Turning Contacts into Connections was written by Ivan Misner.   Misner is the founder and chairman of BNI, the world’s largest business networking organization.  If you ever purchase just one book on networking – it should be this one as he details the strategies of effective networking and creating a blueprint on how to be much more effective in your business relationships.