November President’s Message: Our American Right

Estonia Ambassador Marina Kaljurand and Ralph Daetwyler

One our chamber members and local business leaders has recently taken another step into the international business arena. Ralph Daetwyler, President of Max Daetwyler Corporation in Huntersville, was recently honored when he was named the Honorary Consul to Estonia for North Carolina. In this distinguished role, Ralph will assist Estonians in North Carolina as well as abroad in business and investment related recommendations and general informative work on topics such as society, education and culture in Estonia.

I had the honor of attending Ralph’s appointment for this role at an event at his home in Cornelius along with govt officials from Estonia, Switzerland and Huntersville. Ralph proudly told us all, “It is my privilege to be named honorary consul to Estonia. Daetwyler USA provides manufacturing expertise on various projects to our Estonian subsidiary, and this working relationship has given us a very good understanding of their culture. This insight will enable us to effectively assist any Estonian company that is exploring North Carolina as a potential base for their U.S. operations.”

While there I had the opportunity to chat with Marina Kaljurand, Ambassador of Estonia, Sten Schwede, consul general of Estonia and Heinz Roth, honorary consul of Switzerland, as well as Huntersville Mayor Jill Swain and board members Sarah McAulay and Melinda Bales. That evening reminded me about an experience I had in 1991 with the Estonia Junior Chamber that I shared with the Ambassador.

That year, I served as National Vice President of the US Junior Chamber and attended the Junior Chamber International (JCI) World Congress in Helsinki, Finland.  At that event, Junior Chamber Estonia was recognized as a fully affiliated national organization in JCI.  I will never forget watching Erlend Tammenurm from Rapla, Estonia as he took his place on stage in front of more than 4,000 International delegates waving his country’s flag with tears in his eyes.  At first I was taken back that this professional and reserved man would openly show such emotion on the occasion. 

Then I was reminded it had only been a few years since Estonia was a country of the Soviet Union and public assemblies and the right to freely associate would have not just been discouraged – many would have been imprisoned.

As President of the United States Junior Chamber (Jaycees) and later as an International officer, I had the chance to visit with delegations from throughout the world.  However, the single most powerful occasion was seeing the impact that moment had on Erlend.

This month, on November 6th, Americans will have the chance to exercise a right we often take for granted – the right to vote for our elected leadership.  As Americans, we have the freedom to choose who will represent us in Washington, Raleigh, and right here at home in Mecklenburg County. We should not forget that throughout this world many people do not have that right – their voice cannot be heard and the will of the majority does not prevail. 

Estonia Ambassador Kaljurand with Lake Norman Chamber President Bill Russell

Each of us has that right because generations of Americans have paid dearly though their sacrifice – young men and women who stand watch and in some cases pay with their lives, so that we may vote on Election Day.

It was a privilege meeting the Ambassador of Estonia and honoring Ralph in his new role. I regret though that one detail, small as it may have been, was omitted when I shared with Ambassador Kaljurand my story.  I neglected to tell her as I watched Erlend Tammenurm wave his country’s flag – his smile as big as the stage he was on – with the tears which streamed down his cheeks …  maybe it was the moment,  I’ll never know… but I cried too.

Lake Norman Chamber to focus on Langtree at the Lake

Steve Welly

Langtree at the Lake will be the subject this Friday of the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce’s Focus Friday business briefing at the Chamber located at 19900 W Catawba Avenue in Cornelius.  The program will be held Friday, Oct 26th 8-9:30 a.m.  Steve Welly, the President and Chief Operating Officer of RL West and Langtree Development will give an overview of the project.  Approximately 47,000 square feet of retail space is being built in the southwest quadrant of the I-77/Langtree Road interchange, bordering on the lake. Four of the first seven buildings to be constructed are currently under construction.

The project was the recent subject of a special “Newsmakers” breakfast in Cornelius two weeks ago when the developers unveiled plans to build an “EthoSphere,” a 14-story, 306,000 square foot building. According to Business Today, “The EthoSphere will be one of the tallest buildings in the area – the Hilton at University Place has only 12 stories—and will brand Langtree at the Lake as the “Gateway to Iredell,” a phrase the backers of the 400-acre Langtree project have used to describe Langtree.”

Joining Welly is Mooresville Mayor Miles Atkins who will share how the project will impact Mooresville and change the dynamics of that lake community.  Jerry Broadway, Executive Director of the Lake Norman Regional Economic Development Corporation will also speak to the regional economic impact of Langtree at the Lake on Cornelius, Davidson, and Huntersville and add an additional resource when regional EDCs market the lake to primary job creators and corporations.

Welly started his real estate career in Toledo, OH in 1983 in the brokerage business and soon became the head of a regional brokerage firm/investment sales department. In December of 1999 he became President and COO of Rudolph/Libbe Properties.  Rudolph/Libbe Properties merged with Park West Development in April 2009 and RL West Properties was formed, with Steve serving as President and COO of the new firm.   He has developed real estate throughout the Midwest as well as North and South Carolina. RL West is based in Sylvania, Ohio with an office in Mooresville, NC.

The Lake Norman Chamber’s Focus Friday is a program for Chamber members and their guest and is sponsored by  Breakfast is provided by Earth Fare of Huntersville.  For more information, contact the Lake Norman Chamber at 704-892-1922.

Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce Honors Local Public Safety Officers

2012 North Mecklenburg Public Safety Officers / Volunteers of the Year

The Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce saluted the men and women who work tirelessly to protect and serve the families and businesses of the Lake Norman region at a Public Safety Luncheon held at River Run Country Club in Davidson Thursday, October 18, 2012.  The seventh annual event was keynoted by Kathryn Firmin-Sellers, PhD, the Region Director for United Family Services.  Fermin-Sellers gave an update on the need for a North Mecklenburg Magistrate and the progress of a victim’s advocate which currently serves the three towns.  She also presented the first 2012 Champion for Victim’s Rights to Inge Garrison from Presbyterian Hospital.

Chamber president Bill Russell, emceed the event and spoke to the critical role the police, fire, and first responders play in making the community a great place to live and work.  The Chamber presented awards to the most outstanding officer from each North Mecklenburg department, selected by their respective chief.

The awards program was presented by Wells Fargo Bank and sponsored by Lake Norman Publications, Central Piedmont Community College, and Crime Stoppers. 

The Lake Norman Chamber Public Service Award recipients for 2012 included: Officer Matthew Sheppard- Cornelius Police Department, Officer Melvin Waller, Jr. –  Police Department, Detective Tim Lesser – Huntersville Police Department, Firefighter E.J. McCormick – Cornelius Lemley Fire Rescue, Firefighter Matthew Jovic – Davidson Fire Department, Firefighter Brent Irvin – Huntersville Fire Department, and John “Koppy” Williams – North Mecklenburg Rescue Squad, Inc.

The Crime Stopper of the Year was presented by Crime Stopper’s Chairman Tommy Davis who was also recognized by Cornelius Police Chief Bence Hoyle for his service to the region.  This year’s recipient was Nancy McGahey.

The Lake Norman Chamber represents approximately 900 businesses in the Cornelius, Davidson, Huntersville, and greater Lake Norman region.  For more information about the Chamber visit

Lake Norman Chamber President’s e-Brief Newsletter for Oct 15th



Chamber to recognize Regional Public Safety Officers – Thursday, October 18th

The Lake Norman Chamber will host the seventh annual salute to North Mecklenburg Public Safety officers and volunteers at a special luncheon Thursday, October 18th at the River Run Country Club in Davidson.  The event presented by Wells Fargo Bank is sponsored by CPCC – Merancas Campus, The Herald Weekly Newspaper, and Crime Stoppers.  An officer from the Cornelius, Davidson, Huntersville will be honored as well as members of the North Meck Rescue, the local fire departments, and Crime Stoppers.

In addition to honoring the officers, our Guest Speaker will be Kathryn Fermin-Sellers, PhD, Region Director of United Family Services, who will give an update on the work being done by the UFS victim advocate in her first year and how that relates to our local town’s ongoing efforts to bring a magistrate to the Lake Norman region.

Registration is $16 for Chamber of Commerce members and $20 for non-members.  Register online or call the Chamber at 704-892-1922.

Chamber makes plans for 2013 Business Expo – First Committee Meeting this Wednesday 3 pm

The Charlotte region’s largest business trade show is set to make its return to the Davidson College Belk Arena on Friday, March 8, 2013.  Regularly attended by approximately 2,500 people, the event has established itself as a great opportunity for local business to showcase their goods and services

This year’s event will be chaired by Sharon Simpson, Lynn Marshall, and Bill Russell but we are looking for volunteers who want to help plan and assist with the event.  If you have ideas on how to improve our Expo or just want to help on the event, email Bill Russell at  The first committee meeting will be held Wednesday, October 17 at 3 pm at the Chamber (Second Floor Board Room).

Focus Friday: Friday, October 26, 2012  – Focus on: “Langtree at the Lake – The Regional Reaction”

Join us Friday, October 26th at 8:00 to 9:30 a.m. for our Focus Friday which examines how Langtree at the Lake is expected to impact not only Mooresville and the Lake Norman region. The $2 billion Langtree at the Lake community, which held a recent formal groundbreaking a few weeks ago, has named 14 restaurants and other businesses that plan to locate in the massive, mixed-use development under construction off Interstate 77 in southern Iredell County (exit 31).  Steve Welly, president of Ohio-based RL West Properties, the majority owner of Langtree, will give an overview of the project.  Joining Welly will be Town of Mooresville Mayor Miles Atkins as well as the Lake Norman Regional EDC Chairman Mike Griffin.  The Focus Friday is open to all members and participation by those who attend is encouraged. Focus Friday is sponsored by and 

For what its worth – The Fiscal Cliff

Thursday, I attended an informative Economic Forecast breakfast hosted by the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce featuring Stuart Hoffman, Chief Economist for PNC Financial Services Group.  Hoffman gave an overview of a survey conducted which spoke to both the U.S. Business Owners Outlook for sales and that of North Carolina Business Owners as the November elections approach (Reports linked).

While Stuart spoke of the 2% growth our economy is enjoying at the moment, not robust but not flat, he added much of it was fueled by home and auto sales.  It mirrors closely what we are seeing at the lake.  I have had opportunities in the last two weeks to meet with agents from both Keller Williams and Allen Tate and both local agencies report strong sales and what appears to be a return to a “seller’s market.”

Automotive leaders Jack Salzman and Randy Marion also see strong sales with both the  auto and truck divisions.  That is welcome news as both real estate and automotive sales are key to our overall economic vitality.

What was concerning though was something else Hoffman cited. He told the assembled business leaders, “If you kick the can down the road long enough, sooner or later, you come to the end of the road.”  Specifically, $600 billion in tax cuts are set to expire January 1, 2013, and if members of congress do not come together we could be reaching a fiscal cliff. 

We raised that issue at the Chamber’s candidate forum at Davidson College with Jennifer Roberts and Curtis Campbell, both candidates for the U.S. House District #9 seat.  The candidates were asked what  cuts did they see as necessary to continue and what would they allow to expire? It was no easy question and not one you could address in two minutes which is the time we allotted.

Later that evening I watched the tail end of the Vice Presidential debate and it was still obvious our elected national leadership are miles apart on the solution  Hoffman reminded us all the words of the great statesman Winston Churchill who said, “You Americans will always do the right thing…After you have exhausted all the alternatives.”

After four years of debate and kicking the can down the road on tax cuts, business regulations, and healthcare – we have exhausted all the alternatives.  It’s beyond time for partisanship and politics – we stand at a precipice – and in our own hands lies the fate of a failed promise or a grand democracy.  It’s really that simple.

Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce to recognize Regional Public Safety Officers

Pictured are the recipients of the 2011 Public Safety Officers of the Year

The Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce will host the seventh annual salute to North Mecklenburg Public Safety officers and volunteers at a special luncheon Thursday, October 18th at the River Run Country Club in Davidson.  The event presented by Wells Fargo Bank is sponsored by CPCC – Merancas Campus (Formerly North Campus), The Herald Weekly Newspaper, and Crime Stoppers.  An officer from the Cornelius, Davidson, Huntersville Police Departments will be honored as well as members of the North Meck Rescue, the local fire departments, and Crime Stoppers.

In addition to honoring the officers, the Guest Speaker will be Kathryn Fermin-Sellers, PhD, Region Director of United Family Services, who will give an update on the work being done by the UFS victim advocate in her first year and how that relates to the local communities ongoing efforts to bring a magistrate to the Lake Norman region.

Kevin Pote, Business Banking Manager for Wells Fargo Bank stated that, “Wells Fargo Bank is again pleased to be the presenting sponsor of the North Mecklenburg Public Safety Luncheon.  Public Safety is a critical component of our community and we want to personally thank the men and women who make our communities a safer and better place to work, live, and visit.”

Registration is $16 for Chamber of Commerce members and $20 for non-members.  Call the Chamber at 704-892-1922 to RSVP.

Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce Announces 2012 – 2013 Leadership Class

Team Building at Bethelwoods

The Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce has accepted 22 local business leaders in the sixteenth class of Leadership Lake Norman.  The program, sponsored by technocom, develops a group of informed, committed, and qualified individuals capable of providing visionary and progressive leadership for the Lake Norman region.

Accepted in Leadership Lake Norman Class XVI are: Delta Adams – Huntersville Family Fitness & Aquatics, Brian M. Barone – Fulcrum Capital Partners, Michelle Boller – American General Life, Mary Colven – Camp Wagging Tails, Heather Edwards – BB&T, Raquel Crespo – Birkdale Village, Monifa Drayton – CMC – Huntersville, Dave Edwards  – Keller Williams Realty – Cornelius Sabrena Fernandez – Servpro Northwest Charlotte, Sylvia Gause – 5 Star Realty Group @ Keller Williams Realty LKN, Rondlyn Hawthorne –  Unique Events Management Group, Mallory Hedinger – Park Avenue Properties, Greg Hero – RE/MAX Executive at the Lake, Tim May – May Marketing, Mike Murphy –  OnLine Marketing and Consulting, Ashley Neal- CommunityOne Bank, Velvet Nelson – OnLine Marketing and Consulting, Brian Richards – Town of Huntersville, Benjamin Sheehan – Swim Club Management Group, Inc., Joyce Brooks – The Solomon House, Kathy Williams – Carolina Office Systems, Kyle Riggins – technocom.

Terri Bennett, Chairman of the leadership program, believes that this year’s group represents a diverse representation of the Lake Norman business community.  “I am extremely pleased we have such an array of businesses and organizations represented in this year’s program.  As a graduate of the program myself, I know the value of the leadership program and the impact it will have upon each one of you,” said Bennett at the recent leadership orientation.  “It has really made me much more aware of the resources available in the lake region and built significant relationships with leadership graduates from the other classes.” Bennett, along with other graduates of the prior year’s program, assisted in coordinating the leadership retreat.

The class held an overnight retreat, sponsored by Shared Resources, focusing on team building through a confidence course and leadership training.  It was facilitated by Bill Russell, president of the Chamber and Chip Scholz of Scholz and Associates.  The remaining sessions include Education & History, Government/Crime/Law, Health Care, Economic Development, Community Infrastructure, and Hospitality and Professional Sports.  For more information about the program see the Lake Norman Chamber’s webpage at

Leadership Lake Norman Class XVI

Pictured:  Leadership Lake Norman XVI at the overnight retreat at Bethelwoods. (Pictured left to right) Front Row:  Bill Russell,  Michelle Boller, Malory Hedinger, Sabrena Fernandez, Sylvia Gause, Raquel Crespo, Heather Edwards. Second Row: Monifa Drayton, Greg Hero, Delta Adams, Kathy Williams, Rondlyn Hawthorne, Mary Colven, Ashley Neal, Joyce Brooks, Mike Murphy. Back Row: Brian Richards, Kyle Riggins, Brian Barone, Benjamin Sheehan, Dave Edwards, Tim May, and Velvet Nelson.