Our Community Journey – Celebrating the Tenth Anniversary of The Herald Newspaper (Lake Norman, NC)

The following column ran in the March 1, 2012 issue of The Herald Weekly celebrating the paper’s tenth anniversary.

Our Community Journey     

Bill Russell speaking to Tucker Mitchell at the 2007 Business Expo

Just over ten years ago, Tucker Mitchell, Editor and Associate Publisher with The Leader Newspaper met with me at the offices of the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce to discuss a new business venture.  Mitchell was considering the creation of a newspaper which could capture the spirit of “community and place” he felt was lacking by the media covering North Mecklenburg at the time.

Sitting across from me as we enjoyed our coffee, he asked confidentially could the Town of Huntersville and its growing business community support such a venture.  “On its own,” I replied,  “probably not.  However, if you include the growth and potential in Cornelius and Davidson, absolutely.”   I am certain Tucker had already reached that conclusion before meeting with me and months later The Huntersville Herald was born.  Today, The Herald Weekly and its spinoff publications in Mountain Island Lake, Denver and Mooresville reach an estimated market of  56,000 people.

 In 2006, Mitchell was recognized as the Robert T. Cashion Business Person of the Year for his vision and investment in our Lake Norman communities. The creation of a regional newspaper tying our communities together was another step in our journey which began more than two decades ago with the founding of the Chamber.

Nine of the Lake Norman Chamber Chairmen 1987 to 1999

The Lake Norman Chamber, which is also celebrating a twenty-fifth anniversary this year, had its start as the North Mecklenburg Chamber.  Business leaders in the late 1980’s were frustrated with the lack of representation within the Mecklenburg County governance structure.  They also saw a need to create a sense of identity.  Business and elected leaders in the towns of Cornelius, Davidson and Huntersville did not want to be “just” a suburb or bedroom community to Charlotte although each benefited greatly from its proximity to the Queen City. That sense of place, which had been lacking, took hold when water and sewer lines were extended to the lake.  The Chamber’s leadership pushed for representation on the county’s watershed committee and began actively participating in the community plans which led to the town’s land development codes impacting business and commerce.

In front of the main stage at the 1998 LakeFest

The Chamber organized a regional fall festival – NorthFest, which became LakeFest, and after a 10 year run it became simply too successful as we outgrew the Jetton Park facilities.  LakeFest galvanized our rapidly growing business and civic communities with numerous new neighborhoods and new families.       

While its full impact would not be felt for another decade, the Chamber pushed for equal distribution of hospitality taxes, hotel and prepared meals taxes, which now generate approximately $3.2 million of which $1.6 is returned to the North Mecklenburg towns.  The Chamber, in the first of two public-private partnerships, launched the creation of Visit Lake Norman which is responsible today for generating events totaling $19 million in FY2011 and 54,844 visitors at 72 events.  That visitors spending saved every household in Cornelius, Davidson, and Huntersville $315.91 last year in taxes it would otherwise have to pay in property taxes were it not for travel and tourism.

In the summer of 2002, the Lake Norman Chamber contracted with the economic development consultant firm of Leak-Goforth to create a strategic plan for primary job creation and a blueprint for economic development efforts in North Mecklenburg. The results of which was another successful partnership between the towns, the chamber, and the business community in the creation of today’s Lake Norman Regional Economic Development Corporation.

So what is the most significant contribution of the Chamber over 25 years?  I asked that question of one of the Chamber’s early founders and former Cornelius Town Mayor Gary Knox. His response – “Regionalism!” “We practiced regionalism when “regionalism” was just another word.  Our kids went to North Meck High in Huntersville. We might live in Cornelius, work in Huntersville, and go to church in Davidson,” said Knox.  “The Chamber was the thread that stitched together the fabric of our community and in everything we did – we did it recognizing we had to support each other and work together.”  

Lake Norman Chamber
Politics in the Park

 Lake Norman is a great place to live, work, and visit.  However, just as the generation of business and elected leaders worked to build a solid foundation for our success, we still have ways to go before we rest.    We need more classroom space, employment opportunities for our citizens, and lake access for public swimming.  North Mecklenburg must have a magistrate, improved transportation infrastructure, and a balanced tax structure between business and commerce and our residential tax base.

 This year marks a celebration in the life of a community newspaper and a regional chamber of commerce.  It also serves as a daily reminder that the only limitations we have – are those we impose upon ourselves.  
W.E. “Bill” Russell, CCE IOM
President & CEO
Bill Russell is the President & CEO of the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce with approximately 900 members serving the business community of Cornelius, Davidson, Huntersville, and the greater Lake Norman region.


Lake Norman Chamber to Give Away Flat Screen TV at Biz Expo

Join Us Monday March 5th for the Lake Norman Chamber Business Expo   10:00 am until 5:00 Pm at the Davidson College Belk Arena

Visitors as well as exhibitors will be eligible to win a 42″ Insignia – Plasma Flat screen television donated by Best Buy in Mooresville simply for visiting with some of the many businesses exhibiting at the Lake Norman business trade show.  Guests will be encouraged to visit at least twenty-five percent of the exhibitors (35 booths), getting cards initialed from the exhibitors, and then turning in the cards at the registration table.  A $1 donation will be solicited for the Chamber’s Junior Leadership Lake Norman program – a nine month program the chamber conducts for high school juniors

The 2012 Business Expo, is the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce’s signature event, and will be held Monday, March 5th at the Davidson College Belk Arena from 10 am until 5 pm.  The Expo is presented by Lake Norman Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram.  Gold Sponsors include Lake Norman Magazine and MI Connection.  Silver Sponsors are The Herald Weekly, M&M Graphics, and Carolinas Healthcare System.  Admission is free and the public is encouraged to attend

More than 2,000 people are expected to attend with approximately 135 businesses and 25 non-profits exhibited in what has become the Charlotteregion’s largest business trade show.  Lunch will be provided by three Lake Norman restaurants: Alton’s Kitchen and Cocktails, Fox and the Hound Birkdale, and the Honey Baked Ham Company & Café will serve meals for $8 including beverage.  Tickets can be purchased at the Expo or in advance at the Chamber.  The restaurant menu can be found at www.lakenormanexpo.com

Special event activities will take place throughout the day including dance exhibitions by the Havana Banquet and Ballroom and a Business Fashion Show coordinated by Vickie Stevens. A highlight of the fashion show is participation by area elected officials and business leaders.  The Carolina Raptor Center will also be present with Birds of Prey and area arts and cultural facilities.

Bill Russell, president of the Chamber said, “The Business Expo, now in its eleventh year, is an excellent opportunity for local businesses and non-profits to showcase their products, services, and organizations to the community.  It has also become a tremendous networking opportunity as we re-establish old friendships and create new relationships.

Bill Russell presents the 2011 Best of Show to Wendy Moran and the staff of Peoples Bank

The Chamber at 4:00 pm will draw for the Television as well as offer awards for the most outstanding exhibitors: Best of Show, Most Creative, and Most Professional Booths.  You do not have to be present to win the flat screen television.

For a complete listing of sponsors and exhibitors, directions, and other information see the Expo website at www.LakeNormanExpo.com or call the Chamber for more information at 704-892-1922. The Chamber offices will be closed Monday for the show.  Anyone needing to reach the Chamber can contact Bill Russell at 704-650-8987 cell.

Several Lake Norman Restaurants featured at Lake Norman Chamber Business Expo

Have Lunch with us on Monday! 

Make plans to have lunch at the Lake Norman Business Expo this Monday, March 5th at the Davidson College Belk Arena (200 Baker Street, Davidson).  The Chamber’s Expo will feature 135 Lake Norman businesses and 25 area non-profits, attractions, and civic clubs.  The event which is open to the public with no admission charge will take place 10 am until 5 pm.

Three lake restaurants will serve lunch from 11 am until 2 pm.  Honey Baked Ham Company & Café (Cornelius), Alton’s Kitchen and Cocktails (Cornelius), and Fox and Hound – Birkdale (Huntersville) will serve lunch which includes the meal, desert, and beverage for $8 inclusive.  Lunch Tickets will be sold at the Chamber Booth and registration table at the event as well as pre-sold at the Chamber.

The menus for the three restaurants are located on the Lake Norman Business Expo website.  The Chamber encourages you to purchase your tickets in advance at the Chamber today or Friday and avoid any lines. Visa and MasterCard is also accepted.  Purchase tickets for your staff, family, friends, and clients.

In addition to the three food vendors, The CoffeeBoss will be set up serving delicious coffee as the exhibitors set up and guests arrive at no charge.  There will also be a cooking demonstration with The Grill Doctor set up outside at the entrance after lunch with grilling tips as we move into the spring and summer season.

To encourage public participation, Best Buy in Mooresville has donated a 42″ Insignia – Plasma Flat screen television.  Guests will be encouraged to visit at least twenty-five percent of the exhibitors, getting cards initialed from the exhibitors, and then turning in the cards at the registration table.  A $1 donation will be solicited for the Chamber’s Junior Leadership Lake Norman program – a nine month program the chamber conducts for high school juniors

Exhibitors and guests will be invited to a special post event reception at The Flatiron Kitchen & Taphouse located at 215 S. Main Street in Davidson.  Appetizers will be furnished along with a cash bar as the business to business networking continues in a relaxed atmosphere. 

For more information, visit the Lake Norman Expo website at www.lakenormanexpo.com or call the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce at 704-892-1922.