Lake Norman Citizen Newspaper – Letter to the Editor

Letter to the editor written to the Lake Norman Citizen by Bill Russell, President & CEO of the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce.

The following Letter to the Editor was written and appeared in the April 16th issue of the Lake Norman Citizen in regards to an article which appeared April 9, 2010 “Rebranding talk: Is the ‘lake’ history.”

Dear Editor,

Bill Russell

Last week’s article in The Lake Norman Citizen cited discussion among some community leaders about the most appropriate regional brand for the Cornelius, Davidson, Huntersville and Mooresville communities.  These community leaders cited the ULI’s recent recommendations to revise our use of “The North Corridor,” to be more inclusive of Charlotte, as a mandate to revise our regional brand.  As a member of the Lake Norman Transportation Commission, I believe the most compelling recommendation of the committee was to continue our collaboration, inclusiveness and regional cooperation.
I have been fortunate to serve as the president of the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce since 1996.  During my tenure, I have witnessed our evolution as a dynamic and diverse region. I believe there are three significant catalysts for our unprecedented growth and prosperity:
• Our proximity to Charlotte provides us with the arts and cultural resources that are the foundation for our excellent quality of life, and the Queen City’s corporate and business district is the heart of our economic engine.

• Our transportation resources such as Interstates 77 and 85, along with Charlotte-Douglas International Airport, serve as the arteries which are critical to sustain our economic health and quality of life.  Other Charlotte neighboring communities have the aforementioned resources, yet they have not quite enjoyed our economic vitality.  So what’s the missing ingredient? The lake!

• Lake Norman is Charlotte’s lake.  It is our lake.  It is more than the 520 miles of majestic shoreline on 32,510 acres. It is a region recognized as the best in business by Site Selection Magazine (Mooresville).  It has received accolades from Business Week as one of the Best Affordable Suburbs in the Country (Cornelius and Huntersville).  It is home to one of the nation’s finest liberal arts colleges.  Our lake is recognized by sports and recreation enthusiasts as among the best lakes in the country.  However, to many of us, it is simply the place we call home.

The Park Huntersville Aerial

I am reminded of the words of President John F. Kennedy, and I paraphrase — Those who look only to the past, or present, are sure to miss the opportunities of the future. —  Lake Norman is that future.   The article also cited Davidson residents who questioned whether an association with the lake was prudent in a proposed branding for the Town of Davidson.  I attended that meeting and was astounded when another resident questioned whether Davidson College should also be deleted from the new campaign.  The Town of Davidson distancing itself from Davidson College is as absurd as claiming residents of Huntersville do not recreate or benefit from Lake Norman.

Lake Norman is the common bond that ties our communities together. It is a great place to live, visit and grow your business.  The real strength of our community is the ability to see past the municipal and county boundaries that can become limitations for some.  However, the only real limitations are those we impose upon ourselves.

We will continue to grow and prosper because we understand that by working hard, working smart, and working together, there is simply no limit to what we can accomplish as a region!

— Bill Russell, CCE

Bill Russell is the President and CEO of the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce with 1,100 members in the Cornelius, Davidson, Huntersville, and greater Lake Norman region.


Lake Norman – Rebranding a Legend

One of my favorite films is “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence” with John Wayne and Jimmy Stewart.  It is a western I have seen so many times that I often repeat my favorite lines as they are being said.  Among them is a real gem.   At the end of the movie, the individual credited with actually shooting Liberty Valence, the scourge of the town, states it was really the Duke that did it.  Jimmy Stewart who plays Lance Stoddard, or “Pilgrim”, as Wayne refers to him, has gone on to be Governor, Ambassador, and Senator.  The reporter on hearing the confession, rips up the story, turns to Stoddard and say’s, “This is the West Senator.  When the fact becomes legend, print the legend.”

Last month, consultants were turned loose on the Lake Norman region.   A firm from South Carolina met with business owners, elected officials, and community leaders to create a new branding strategy for the Town of Davidson.  Ironically, national consultants from all over the United States, representing the Urban Land Institute met with regional leaders to discus strategies to implement transportation and land use planning for the four lake towns.  Those recommendations also centered on a regional brand.  In both instances there was debate, or at least discussion, on what our region should be called.  Are we North Mecklenburg?  But that leaves out Mooresville.  Are we the North Charlotte region?  Again, same issue.

Davidson College

In Davidson, there was even one local citizen who questioned whether the town should be identified with the college and a few who questioned any tie to the lake.  This particular resident questioned, “We don’t have any real shoreline or access to the water… do we?”  Actually, yes you do and one of our nicest lakefront restaurants – North Harbor Club.  However, it is a question I’ve heard a time or two from Huntersville as well.  Are the businesses in Huntersville part of the lake region?  For me, that question was settled resoundingly enough when the marketing firm and developers who built one of the Charlotte region’s largest malls at exit 18 interestingly enough named it the “NorthLake Mall.” They knew then, what many of us are just discovering, is our greatest liquid asset – Lake Norman.

Lake Norman

I attended the town meeting in Davidson when that discussion took place questioning the importance of the lake to Davidson.  I shared with the folks who attended that night, how many new residents of Lake Norman have stopped into our Visitors Center and recounted the reason they moved to the lake was the awe inspiring view they had of Lake Norman from I-77 going through Davidson on the bridge overpass.  Some located to Mooresville and Cornelius, while others made their new home in Huntersville and Davidson.  However, their first vision of Lake Norman came from their windshield looking out on the sparkling and inviting waters of our great lake from Davidson.  The lake ties our four lake communities of Cornelius, Davidson, Huntersville, and Mooresville together as a region. While each community, like siblings in a family have their own unique character, it is the blood that bonds us as a family – a regional community. Lake Norman has been called the Great Inland Sea.  There are those who would consider it the Carolina’s “Great Lake.”  As a Huntersville resident living here since 1995, I simply call it home.

Birkdale Village

Our region has been recognized as both a great place to live and a great place to do business by leading national magazines.  Sports enthusiasts recognize both the lake and our recreational facilities as among the country’s best.  No longer a secret, Lake Norman has moved from the undiscovered country, to legendary status as a great place to live, work and visit.   And when the legend becomes fact, print the legend.