The greatest profit is our people

W.E. "Bill" Russell, Lake Norman Chamber

The international pharmaceutical corporation, Merck and Company, has always stressed that it was not just another drug company looking at making a profit.  It has always impressed upon its workforce that service to humanity is the best work of life.  About three decades ago, in the 1980’s, Merck and Company developed a drug that could cure river blindness, a disease that infects and causes blindness in millions of people, particularly those in developing companies with diminished infrastructure.

While it was a great product, the targeted consumer was perhaps the least able to afford the drug.  The customer simply could not afford to by it.  So what did the pharmaceutical company do?  It developed and manufactured the drug anyway and in 1987 announced that it would give the medicine free to anyone who needed it.  By the following year, the company had given away more than 250 million tablets.

George W. Merck said, “We try never to forget that medicine is for people.  It is not for profits.  The profits follow, and if we have remembered that, they have never failed to appear.”

This past month the Chamber heard an outstanding presentation from Jim Stella, a retail development specialist from ElectriCities.  Recently the utility company studied demographics and buying trends from the North Mecklenburg Communities of Cornelius, Davidson, and Huntersville.

Jim Stella


A particular focus was what market segments do we have an over-supply, what segments could be targeted for retail growth, and what is the leakage to other communities.

The big take away from the session was how much we as a community and region support our fellow businesses.  The data strongly supported families who lived in Cornelius shopped in Huntersville and residents in Davidson bought goods and supplies in Mooresville as well as their own town.

As a Chamber of Commerce, the message of  “Buy Local” is extremely important.  Those dollars we spend in a local retail store or restaurant are turned several times in our community putting people to work and growing the local business community.

While no doubt the reason folks shop at stores and businesses in the lake is because of the deals they find and the service they receive.  But a big part of it is also the relationships we enjoy here.  We’re all one big family.

We also have some of the most compassionate and generous businesses owners, managers, and employees you would ever meet.  Our local charities: Ada Jenkins, United Way,  Big Day at the Lake, Habitat for Humanity, Angels and Sparrows and many countless others are testaments to the fact that local businesses at the lake are not just focused on being great businesses, they are part of being part of something bigger than their own business.

This holiday season, when you look at buying that gift for someone special – shop the lake and the many businesses that make our region so special.  When you see that volunteer asking for a contribution to help someone in need – consider giving just a little bit more.

Do something good in business – profits will follow.  Do something good for someone else – you change a life. Quite possibly – your own!

Happy Holidays!

Growing Together at Lake Norman

W.E. "Bill" Russell

Robert Copeland once said, “To get something done, a committee should consist of no more than three people, two of whom are absent.”  Mr. Copeland obviously has served on a committee and my guess, had a really bad experience.  All of us at one time or the other have served and will serve on committees – and all of us will have good and bad experiences.  A committee is no different than any other team with whom you have been affiliated.  Good leaders and good members yield positive results.  The opposite is also true.

Our Lake Norman Chamber is a little different than many of the businesses which are members.  In a growing region, with a diverse and growing association, we often have a number of programs and events going on at the same time.  It is typical that we might have an informative luncheon at noon with ribbon cuttings during the day followed by an afterhours that evening.  I suppose it is that challenge, with the variety of deadlines and the number of events and programs we accommodate which excites me and drives my performance.  If the pace were routine with the same projects and the same issues I would likely grow tired of it quickly.

A few years ago, two of my past chamber chairmen were charged with performing my annual evaluation as the chamber’s chief executive officer.  They were kind and appreciative of my work and spoke flatteringly about the number of balls I seemed to juggle in the air at the same time.  Then one of them said something I have never forgotten, “Introducing more balls does not increase your talent – it increases the likelihood of dropping one.”

In their subtle way, they were telling me I better learn to delegate a little more or one day there may be a problem.  In many respects, all four of our Chamber employees are trying to juggle a variety of balls and I’m certain you at your business are doing the same!  Fortunately, we have some outstanding Chamber volunteers helping us carry out our mission..

January’s Chamber Banquet coordinated by Angela Swett, this fall’s Golf Classic with Co-Chairmen Bryan Spach and Lu Rogers, and all of the volunteers who assist with our Annual Expo are just a few of the folks that make our success possible.

Robert Reed, 2011 Lake Norman Chamber Chairman

Chamber Chairman Robert Reed’s theme this year is “Let’s Grow Together.”  Robert has already shared some exciting news as we look at ways of improving our Chamber and delivering outstanding programming and events for you and your employees. In addition we will continue to focus on our Buy Local campaign, encouraging Chamber members to support each other and the public to Shop Lake Norman first!

Our success will be dependent on great leadership and your involvement.  Please consider volunteering this year in one of the exciting opportunities we have in the chamber.  President Lyndon Johnson perhaps said it best, “There are no problems we cannot solve together and very few that we can solve by ourselves.”

The Lake Norman Chamber encourages you to “Buy Local” – Shop Lake Norman!

Black Fridays”…”Cyber Mondays” – one would think the country is under siege, but it’s the latest lingo for describing the America consumer’s buying patterns.  Soon I suppose we’re likely to see Terrific Tuesdays and Super Saturdays join the mix.  One thing for certain is the consumer is looking for that special deal.     Black Friday is the day after Thanksgiving and traditionally marks the beginning of the Christmas Shopping Season as millions of Americans line up as early as 4:00 a.m. to catch the best deals of the year.  Cyber Monday is a marketing term for the Monday immediately following Black Friday in the United States, created by companies to persuade people to shop online. The term made its debut in 2005 and has become the biggest online shopping day of the year.

The last couple of years have seen Lake Norman residents cut back on their shopping and our retail stores have certainly felt the pinch.  Business and family budgets alike are under immense scrutiny, and are just now seeing improvement as signs of economic recovery are being felt.   The last few months have seen many paying down debt but there is optimism among our retailers who are expecting a modest but welcome bump in sales this year.

This year as you hang your stockings with care, the Lake Norman Chamber encourages you to think twice before buying your gifts on the Internet or traveling outside of our region for your shopping.  Do your part in helping our local economy!  Everyone is still looking at stretching their dollars and finding that special deal. We’re asking that you consider making an impact in your local community which will likely result in you finding that perfect gift while putting a neighbor, friend, or associate back to work. 

A consumer advocacy group study conducted by Civics Economics several years ago found that spending $100 at one of the community’s independent businesses created $68 in additional local economic activity, while spending $100 at a chain produced only $43 worth of local impact.  On-line purchases create virtually no local impact at all.  As you consider whether you should make your purchase online or out of the Lake Norman region consider four advantages to “Buying Local”:

Payroll—Our Lake Norman region owned businesses spend a larger share of their revenue employing our local workforce (29 vs. 23 percent), because they make management functions on-site, rather than at corporate headquarters.

Procurement—Local retailers spend more than twice as much buying goods and services from other local businesses. They bank locally, hire local accountants, attorneys, designers, and other professionals; advertise in local media; and in some cases, purchase inventory from local firms.

Profits—Because our local owners live in the Lake Norman region, a larger portion of the store’s profits stay within the local economy.

Charitable giving—Local retailers donate more on average to local charities and community organizations than box stores and national chains.

The Chamber is not telling you not to purchase from national chains or big box stores; however, consider the impact that shopping locally and with smaller independent stores make in the community.  The concept is a simple one – shop closer to home for more of your purchases, especially this time of year when discretionary spending comes into play.  In addition, when you find that local store that treats you right, consider how many purchases you can check off your list, saving you time and making an impact in your local community.

The Lake Norman Chamber encourages you to buy local and Shop Lake Norman.  The job that you save by shopping the lake region for goods and services may just be your own!

The Season of Light

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair…”   Anyone who has read the Charles Dickens’s Tale of Two Cities can relate that novel to what we have experienced as a business community and a nation these past couple of years.  It’s hard to believe, but according to our economists, the recession which we have been experiencing actually began in December 2007.  This month marks two years since we entered that winter of despair.  Certainly to many, it has seemed the worst of times.    However, just as the certainty that daybreak follows the night and the sun will emerge from the clouds, we find ourselves in the spring of hope.  Recovery is beginning to take hold and businesses are starting to improve.  It was not a recession in which we plunged overnight and it may take some time before we again see the full recovery we enjoyed in the summer of 2006.

While I am glad we are returning to some sense of normalcy, there is much we can learn from the mistakes of the past.  Poor economic policies regarding our mortgage and financial industry accelerated and significantly impacted our faltering economy.  Even now, Congress is wrestling with issues such as a national healthcare system, Cap and Trade, and employment legislation which could negatively impair our economy struggling to recover.     Here locally, our businesses that have made it through the economic storm are much leaner but have done so in large part because of sound business and marketing initiatives.  While the months have been tough, I am not sure I have ever seen Chamber of Commerce members as involved, supporting each other, and Buying Local.

The Chamber continues to work hard creating programs to help our businesses Survive and Thrive, strengthen their personal and business skills, and offering more networking events than ever before.     We have also been very successful in our efforts to represent our members on issues impacting labor, transportation, signage, and quality of life.  In many respects, even in the worst of times, it was the best of times for the Chamber.  Perhaps in no other year has the Chamber been more relevant to your business or appreciated by our members.

The moral of the Charles Dickens classic is that you reap what you sow.  In the end, the characters of the story realize that only through sacrifice and forgiveness can they truly escape the vicious cycle of despair.     Our winter of despair is behind us, along with the unwise and perhaps foolish decisions which plunged our markets into the brink of economic calamity in the first place.  But in the season of darkness, there emerged a spring of hope.  And let us trust in an age of foolishness, the age of wisdom prevails.

Lake Norman Chamber “Wakes the Lake” in Buy Local Campaign

Logo 1 buy localThe Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce is using print, cable, and the Internet to promote a Buy Local campaign aimed at getting local residents to shop for their retail and service needs here in the lake region before traveling elsewhere.  The Chamber has partnered with MI Connections, a regional video services provider, along with Buy Local Directories and to create an awareness of the goods and services available in this market at a competitive price. 

“The Lake Norman Chamber is a natural conduit to connect consumers and sellers in our region,” said Bill Russell, president of the Chamber. “The campaign is aimed at providing our members with affordable marketing strategies, while giving the consumer the opportunity to purchase their service or retail item from a neighbor you can trust – a business who offers convenience, good service and price, and someone who is providing jobs to local residents, contributing to the local tax base and stimulating the local economy. When that happens, we all win.”

Residents can go to for “hot deals” and additional savings on retail goods and services. There is also a Business to Business section which allows participating Lake Norman Chamber Members to enjoy further savings.  In addition, the Chamber has a cable ad campaign reaching 15,500 households, restaurants, and businesses with MI Connection which began this past January   In a partnership with the cable provider, for an investment of $1,100, Chamber members receive exposure on 39 cable networks which includes the production cost of the commercial.Logo 2 MI Connection logo

Most recently, the Chamber partnered with Buy Local Directories to offer a cooperative print ad magazine for locally owned businesses.  Buy Local Directories was formed in February and currently publishes the Buy Local Mooresville magazine in support of the Mooresville-South Iredell Chamber. The “Buy Local” Lake Norman ad magazine will be published monthly and mailed to 15,000 North Mecklenburg single family homeowners and businesses. Special reduced ad rates are offered to Chamber members.

Russell stated one of the benefits of this campaign is residents have the opportunity to learn more about local businesses or maybe even find a “hidden gem” located right in our region that you have never noticed before.   “Have you ever driven by a local store and wondered what it had to offer — but then never quite found the time to check it out? When you think of dining out do you forget to consider your hometown choices first?   The fact is we have some of the best retail shopping, restaurants, and business services in the Charlotte region right here in our lake community.  When you make that next purchase – “Buy Local” and support your neighbor!”