Lake Norman Chamber President’s e-Brief for July 20, 2102


Bill Russell, President & CEO Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce

Focus Friday examines Huntersville Bond Package July 27th

Join us next Friday, July 27th at 8:00 to 9:30 a.m. for the Chamber Focus Friday which examines the $29.5 million bond referendum on the ballot in November for Huntersville voters. The bonds would appear as three separate items on the November ballot. The first and largest is $17.35 million of bonds for transportation projects. Assistant Town Manager Gerry Vincent and Finance Director Janet Stoner will speak to the specifics of the package with Huntersville Commissioner Charlie Jeter speaking in support of the bonds. The Focus Friday is open to all members and participation by those who attend is encouraged.  Focus Friday is sponsored by and


Leadership Lake Norman now accepting applications

The Chamber is now accepting applications for the 2012-2013 Leadership Lake Norman program.  Now entering its 16th year, 287 business leaders have graduated from the program which examines the quality of life, history, governance, business and commerce, and infrastructure of the Lake Norman region.  Whether you are new to the area, a native of North Mecklenburg, a young employee, or a seasoned business professional – The Leadership Lake Norman program gives you a unique look into our community and region. Tuition for Chamber members is $425.  Individuals or small businesses absorbing the cost can contact the Chamber for payment options.  All applications must be received by August 24th.  Visit the Leadership Lake Norman page on the website for more information and the application.

Revaluation reviewers plan public meetings

Pearson’s Appraisal Service, Inc., the firm selected by Mecklenburg county to conduct a review of the 2011 Revaluation, plans public meetings to receive feedback from citizens. Five meetings have been scheduled.  Locally, a meeting will be held Tuesday, July 31, 7-9 p.m. at Cornelius Town Hall, 21445 Catawba Ave.  The Mecklenburg County Board of Commissioners in May voted in favor of an independent review of the county’s 2011 property revaluation, after months of back-and-forth with county officials and complaints from citizen-led community groups and town leaders who believe the county violated state statutes and made assessment errors during the 2011 revaluation.

HFFA Needs volunteers for the AAU Diving National Championships

Visit Lake Norman is proud to announce that divers from across the US will be coming to Huntersville to compete for their chance at a National Championship at HFFA from July 25th to July 30th, 2012.  HFFA needs your help in making these National Championships one to remember for these hard-working athletes.  Hospitality workers, scoring table assistants, ticket takers and parking attendants and others are needed to help the event run smoothly.  When you volunteer, you receive an event T-Shirt and general admission tickets to the event(s) of your choice. Earn HFFA Membership CREDIT when you Volunteer.For more information on volunteering for this event email their AAU Volunteer Coordinator Teresa Bock at and sign-up online HERE.

Can’t Volunteer?  Join as a spectator.  Tickets are available online at   Simply click on the AAU logo to purchase your tickets.  Limited VIP seating is available.  Buy your tickets early. 

Final Thoughts

At the Chamber’s Education PowerLuncheon featuring new CMS Superintendent Dr. Heath

Adam Boatsman, Boatsman Gillmore, PLLC

Morrison, Chamber Board Member Adam Boatsman gave his time as a sponsor (Boatsman Gillmore PLLC) to Georgia Harris, Executive Director of the Ada Jenkins Center.  Georgia talked about the Ada LEARN Works program.  When Georgia stated the program needed business support in the form of contributions, Adam stated his CPA firm of Boatsman Gillmore PLLC would match whatever the room raised. North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis, also in attendance, asked how much was needed and made the first $1,000 pledge himself. In minutes, $8,000 was raised for LEARN Works.

Tomorrow (Saturday, July 21st), Big Day at the Lake 8 will allow 144 kids from largely single parent families with Big Brothers / Big Sisters to enjoy Lake Norman.  What started as a dream for Business Today founder and publisher Dave Yochum has become a lifetime memory that many Charlotte regional kids will never forget: an afternoon on the Carolina’s greatest lake – LakeNorman.  In the process, local businesses and individuals have contributed $62,000 blowing away this year’s goal of $50,000   

Just last month, our Chamber of Commerce raised $71,500 for a new Habitat home for a single mother and her two kids.  Every day I see the generosity of local business owners and citizens as they turn dreams into reality.  Allowing words to speak boldly of their intentions and actions to speak louder than the words.

When companies like MSC decide this is the new home for their operations, I’m sure it is influenced in part by the outstanding workforce we have in place and the ideal transportation corridor to move their product.  However, it is also because the Lake Norman and Charlotte region is home to business leaders who step up to the plate for those who need a helping hand, elected officials who understand leadership is taking a bold stand and setting the example, and a people who settle for nothing less than their very best.

Decline of America’s Service Organizations

U.S. Junior Chamber President Gary Tompkins, Junior Chamber International Executive Director Benny Ellerbe, and JCI Treasurer Bill Russell in Pusan Korea 1996

This past week, I was speaking to Benny Ellerbe,  Executive Director of Optimist International.  Ellerbe is the chief executive officer of that non-profit service organization with roughly 100,000 members worldwide.  Prior to assuming that role, he served Junior Chamber International as their Secretary General.  It is through the Junior Chamber that I met Benny about 30 years ago.    We were both lamenting a report from the Service Club Leaders Conference (consisting of many of the nation’s service and civic organizations) which continued to show a marked decline in membership among organizations such as Kiwanis, Elks, Rotary, Jaycees, Lions, and many of our other clubs.

Participation in civic organizations, service clubs, and political involvement has decreased dramatically over the last three decades.  According to a report I read a few years ago, the average age of someone participating in a community service organization is 47 and the leader of the club is typically 53.  The average new member joins at 33 with a gap of 20 years between the new member and the leader of the organization.     Why the decline in civic service?  Most service clubs were, generally speaking, very successful from 1910 to 1950 when: a) business was more local; b) people lived where they worked; c) and there were not many options for civic engagement.  

According to research on today’s “Generation Y or Millennial Generation,” most aspire to be self-employed and do not desire the leadership or personal interaction provided by clubs.  They demonstrate a neoliberalism approach with an increased use and familiarity with communications, media, and digital technologies.  Robert Putnam documented this phenomenon a decade ago in his book, “Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community.”  It is a fascinating look at the disengagement of our young population over the last few decades.

In 1992 – 1993, I had the opportunity to serve as the president of the United States Junior Chamber of Commerce (Jaycees), the largest young people’s organization in the country.  The membership of the association when I was president was approximately 140,000.  Today, it is less than 50,000.     I was taught by my parents that civic service was not a hobby but a responsibility we had and the debt we repay to those countless individuals who paved the way for the freedom and livelihood we enjoy today.

On a very positive note, this past summer the Chamber has employed a variety of Chamber Interns who are all active in their area high schools.  They are members of the  DECA Club, involved in Church activities, teach basketball in youth leagues, and a variety of other service projects.     Last month, I met with a group of young professionals who had re-chartered the Lake Norman Jaycees and we discussed a variety of projects they were implementing to make our region a better place to work and live.

Generation Y

America is facing challenging times.  While it is still up to many of us to serve as mentors and train our successors to lead this nation, America must feel the power of her young people.  I can see a sense of civic duty and responsibility in the faces of our young interns, the young professionals I met with weeks ago, and the countless young volunteers who recently helped out with Big Day at the Lake.     As the generation which will pass this torch of leadership to the next, we must instill in our young people that earth’s great treasure lies in human personality, and that service to humanity is the best work of life.

What have you done for me lately?



In 1986, Janet Jackson broke through on the Pop and R&B Charts with a little ditty, “What have you done for me lately?” and that refrain has become ingrained in our popular culture today. We’ve all heard it – perhaps some customer or client feels your performance doesn’t measure up today no matter what you might have done yesterday.  An employee is dissatisfied or feels unappreciated no matter what you might have done for them recently. Maybe it’s a family member who thinks you’re unreasonable despite the sacrifices you might have made on their behalf in the past.  As a Chamber of Commerce representing 1,100 members, you are going to hear that line occasionally. It’s the reason we work so hard to make our membership aware of the programming and opportunities available to them.

Last month, I was surprised when I attended a BusinessWorks program and at the conclusion, the co-chairmen announced they had come to the part of the program that was entitled, “What has my Chamber done for me lately?” It was led by Joe Carbon, who himself, was recently diagnosed with cancer. You might recall last month I wrote about Joe as the unidentified Chamber Member who compared this organization to a family. Joe talked about the outpouring of support in his battle to lick the “Big C”. There were few dry eyes in the room as we recognized how much he loved the folks in the room and how much they returned that feeling. Another member, Kevin Cole, spoke about how he saw first hand the seven touches of the Chamber. Nearly every client he had could be traced back to our Chamber. Members around the room talked about how the relationships they made in the Chamber paid off for their business and I left there feeling great!

Charlene and Zion at Big Day at the Lake 5

Charlene and Zion at Big Day at the Lake 5

But none of that could compare to the conclusion of my week. That Saturday, I joined several hundred volunteers and boat hosts in hosting kids at Big Day at the Lake 5. I was the guest of Huntersville Commissioner Brian Sisson and his family as we entertained Charlene Whitaker (Big) and Zion Black (Little) on Brian’s boat and Jet Ski. At first timid, Zion really opened up and you just about had to pry her off the Jet Ski. All of the kids and their Big Brother / Big Sisters were then treated, along with the hosts, to lunch at the Energy Explorium. I had to leave early to attend Bob & Louise Cashion’s 5oth Wedding Anniversary. There, as I moved from table to table, person to person, I was enthralled with stories about how Bob & Louise had impacted our community over their lifetime together. I wasn’t surprised at the stories. I’ve heard them many times before and witnessed their community leadership firsthand. Their generosity is renown throughout the lake region. The Cashion’s have spent a lifetime of sharing their success. They have used the gifts God has provided and left their community a much better place than they found it. They are truly a community treasure.

Bob & Louise Cashion

Bob & Louise Cashion

When I laid my head down on my pillow that night after a long but wonderful day, I couldn’t help but think how fortunate I am to work and live in the Lake Norman region. It was a day when kids, most from single parent families, walked on sunshine. Their laughter and splashes heard from the Energy Explorium to Cashion’s Cove. Where the love, charity, and compassion ran as deep as the lake itself.  And I witnessed a community return thanks to two very inspirational and special people.  It was a very good day.  It was my big day at the lake.

Access Denied – Letter to the Editor written in 2007

Big Day at the Lake

Big Day at the Lake

Once a year, a group of kids get to experience what many children experience summer round – access to Lake Norman. In June, Big Brothers and Big Sisters participate in the Big Day at the Lake that Business Today publisher Dave Yochum has poured his heart into. The project typically pairs 120 to 150 kids with a Big Brother or Sister for the day. Local lake businesses and community citizens have embraced this project providing a day of fun, food, and fellowship on the waters of Lake Norman. Simply put, it is a great event!

The shame is for the other 364 days of the year, the region’s greatest recreational asset is largely off limits to a huge segment of our population. Not since the civil rights struggles of the 1960’s has one demographic of the population been denied the privileges afforded others. Lake Norman, which covers more than 32,500 acres with 520 miles of shoreline, has only one public swimming area and NONE on the Mecklenburg County shoreline of the lake. Certainly people who have worked hard and earned their respective lakefront property deserve the fruits of their labor. Thousands more have boats and personal watercraft that give them access to our greatest liquid asset – Lake Norman. However, if you do not know someone with lakefront property or someone who has a boat or watercraft, you are one of the growing majority denied access to North Carolina’s largest man-made lake.

Residents of North Mecklenburg and South Iredell and our visitors have one alternative – Lake

Jetton Park

Jetton Park

Norman State Park located at exit 42 in Troutman. The park is a nice amenity with hiking trails, picnic shelters, and a public swimming area. But the point is that taxpaying residents of our region, the visiting public, and perhaps most importantly – our children – should not have to travel to Troutman to access the waters of Lake Norman. The real shame is Jetton Park in Cornelius, with its beachfront, was originally designed for public access but the threat of liability has led Mecklenburg County to enforce a strict “no public swimming” policy for its parks.

There is a great injustice to thousands of families and residents who are denied the privileges of swimming at Lake Norman because of one simple demographic – household income. The issue of public access at Lake Norman is not a racial issue but it is one of fairness and we should do something about it. One thing is for certain – nothing will change until the cry for change is heard so often and so loud that it cannot be ignored. As the civil rights leaders of a generation ago would admit – no great struggle is easily won. However, the struggle for fairness will always win the day if you believe and work hard enough for the outcome.