Who built this city…

Charlotte 2012

In a few days, more than 35,000 people are expected to fill the Charlotte region for the 2012 Democratic National Convention.  Our hotels will be filled and Lake Norman businesses are excited about the prospects of getting a boost in sales.  When asked recently what I thought of the national convention held in our backyard, I replied, “For the Chamber, it isn’t about being a red state or blue…at least for the weeks ahead, Lake Norman’s water’s will be green!”  Anyway you look at it, the exposure, attention, and spending will be great for the Charlotte region and our local economy.

Those who know me, and most of you do, know that I love politics.  While a conservative, I am just as much an admirer of Bobby and John Kennedy as I am of Lee Atwater. When you get right down to it, politics is about relationships and the art of the deal – the essence of business.  So it is perhaps only natural I have a love and fascination for both.

In late July, one of our own local business members made national news reacting to the words of President Obama.  In a speech, President Obama said, “If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that…”  Rion Homes President, and Lake Norman Chamber member, Nicole Goolsby pointed out – “Yes she did!”  Nicole responded she took out a $15,000 loan on her credit card and set up a desk in her bedroom 12 years ago.  From there Nicole built a solid business and gave back to the industry by serving as the president of the Lake Norman Home Builders Association.

Nicole was one of literally hundreds who responded with their story.  America is built on entrepreneurship, small business, and hard work. If I added a “PS” to any of their statements it would be government doesn’t solve economic problems.  People and businesses will if government simply gets out of the way.

The President indeed said those words. However, he actually said more than that.  He had begun the conversation by saying there are a great many successful people but you didn’t get there on your own.  If you read the context of his speech in its entirety, he wasn’t trying to take away from the small business owner or entrepreneur.

Bill Russell addressing participants in Junior Leadership Lake Norman – High School Juniors, our future community and business leaders

A sentence lost in his speech that he actually said was, “Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have… that allowed you to thrive.”  It’s unfortunate we live in an age when people take words out of context, lift one or two sentences from a speech – disregarding others, or read into letters or emails their own interpretation offering their unique and often biased spin.

Within days of the President’s speech, parodies were made on the old Jefferson Starship song “We built this city.” Those of us who remember the classic 1985 song, might also remember a verse that said, “Don’t tell us you need us, ‘cos we’re the ship of fools – Looking for America, coming through your schools.”

The political season and sometimes politics in general brings out the ship of fools in many of us.  Let’s hope the kids in school now don’t allow us to be their mentors in how best to govern. Perhaps they will take note on how to do a better job when its their turn at the helm.

Lost in all that hoopla was the President’s closing line – “We rise or fall together as one nation and as one people… You’re not on your own, we’re in this together.”

Republican or Democrat, Conservative or Liberal, Red or Blue – that’s at least one thing we should all agree on.  Together we built this city and we’re all in it together!


North Mecklenburg’s Night Out is a Huge Success

Cornelius Assistant Town Manager Andrew Grant at the Huntersville Night Out

Local citizens turned out in mass in Huntersville at the National Night Out organized by the Huntersville Police Department.  Parking at Birkdale Village was scarce as parents attended with their children as they played games and sampled goodies from the vendors.  While Birkdale Village was packed, there was also a very good turn out in both Davidson and Cornelius as residents, at Roosevelt Wilson Park and Jetton Village respectively, had an opportunity to meet their public safety officers and find out more about safety awareness and crime prevention.

 National Night Out is billed as an event to give “Neighborhood Crime & Drugs” a going away party.  Our local Crime Stoppers Chapter had a presence at all three venues as they handed out literature on how to make our neighborhoods safer.  I was impressed by the community and business support of the events as local restaurants like The Brickhouse Tavern in Davidson, Alton’s Kitchen and Cocktails in Cornelius, and Chik-fil-A at Northcross provided much of the free food.

 Local civic organizations, health care providers, and businesses were also well represented in the family event.  While the sky remained overcast for much of the evening and actually dampened the tail end of the Cornelius event, the participants all enjoyed a great evening socializing with our local law enforcement, learning more about how we as citizens can work together to make a safer community, while generally having an awesome time.  A special thanks to all the local law enforcement officers and volunteers who made National Night Out such a success in all three communities!

On Thursday, October 18th, the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce will have our opportunity to formally say thank you with a salute to our public safety officers at an annual luncheon which recognizes the Public Safety Officer of the Year from each police and fire department as well as North Mecklenburg Rescue Squad and the Crime Stopper of the Year. 

Davidson Town Manager Leamon Brice with Crime Stopper President Tommy Davis

National Night Out is a great community event for the towns of the Lake Norman region.  Creating a “safe” community does not happen by accident.  We are fortunate to have dedicated public servants keeping a watchful eye on our communities – both those who are employed by the towns and those who volunteer.  Their commitment, hard work, and selfless service are what make our community a great place to live, work, and visit.

Time to saddle up

Bill Russell – Junior and Senior

This past weekend, I went horseback riding with my father through some of the trails and woods behind our family farm. It was a hot and humid July Sunday afternoon, so the shade was a  welcome relief. I’m not the horseman my dad is and I’m always leery of the tree branches as our horses step gingerly over fallen logs and soft ground.

While dad usually rides his Tennessee Walker Traveler, I ride Duke, a gorgeous young quarter horse.  We occasionally get some degree of separation between us as dad seems to, and I say this hesitantly, know where he is going but I most certainly do not.

Then as we exit into a clearing Duke loves to take off into a lope to catch up.  So, I’ve learned to always be ever ready for the unexpected when sitting atop Duke.  On the few occasions I have remarked why we also seem to venture off familiar ground and make new trails? Dad responds, “you never want to cover the same ground twice do you?”

A few days ago, new Charlotte Mecklenburg School Superintendent Dr. Heath Morrison addressed a sold out luncheon of nearly 100 Chamber members and elected officials as he outlined his plan for our public school system.  Heath is a dynamic speaker and he connected well with his audience.

 Addressing our lake crowd, he reminded us all that ships are safest in the harbor, but that’s not what ships are built for and he and the board intend on meeting our challenges and embracing unbridled opportunities with new strategies.  CMS will utilize technology to advance education.  While expensive, and requiring a significant investment, the results will pay off.

When someone asked me recently what I thought were the most striking differences between Dr. Morrison and his predecessor Dr. Gorman.  I remarked, “While both are great speakers and the consummate professional, Dr. Gorman also appeared as if he had all the answers.  He exuded a calculated confidence.  No doubt Heath is a confident man too who has been successful in education.  However, his responses to questions seem to be more genuine and he strikes me as a person who may have a bit more humility.  He may not have all the answers, but together, we’ll seek them out.”

Jack Salzman, Ericka Ellis Stewart, Dr. Heath Morrison, Rhonda Lennon, and Bill Russell at PowerLuncheon

For our Chamber to be successful, your business and all of our members must be successful.  We too have invested heavily in our technology this year, creating a website designed to interface with search engines to give our members better exposure.

We are initiating new programs and we intend to venture onto unfamiliar trails as we look to provide you real time training, through the Internet, at times and on topics that best serve you and your business. 

We can all feel the economy moving as we make announcements of new jobs to the region, home sales rising, and retailers hearing registers ring.  While we are still far from where we want to be, our ship has left the harbor and there is wind in our sails.

Riding the trails with my dad is always an experience.  Each step of the horse is met with mild trepidation as Duke tests his footing.  I have to be ever ready for the occasional branch or the close run against the tree.  Not to mention, holding on tight when Duke dashes into the open or down the hill through the stream – but what a ride!

Leadership is about getting your people from where they are – to where they have not been.  For those willing to get involved, we’re headed where we have not been.  Whether you are an equestrian or you love the water – I invite you to saddle up and get on board!

Looking ahead to our past – A visit to the old Croft Schoolhouse

Ribbon Cutting of Pioneer Springs Community School

This past week, Pioneer Springs Community School hosted a ribbon cutting of a new minimal-tuition private school at the site of the old Croft School House.  This new school is rooted in the basic school philosophy of Dr. Ernest Boyer, former president for the Advancement of Teaching.  This education philosophy is the foundation of the Community School in Davidson and the Corvian Community School.   Pioneer Springs will open this fall with a Kindergarten and First grade and plans to open another grade level each year thereafter.

Abigail Jennings, a Charter Member of the Lake Norman Chamber and president of Lake Norman Realty Company knew of my interest in history.  I also serve as Chairman of the Historic  Hugh Torance House and Store Board of Directors in Huntersville.

The Croft School House, site of the new Pioneer Springs Community School, first opened its doors in 1890 to serve the rural, railroad-centered business district of Croft in North Mecklenburg.  It’s been almost 80 years since its closing but I was amazed at how many alumni still turned out to take part in the announcement.

Abigail Jennings with Bill Russell

One of the senior women, Mrs. Barnette, had no idea as to my identity – actually that wasn’t important to her – as she approached to show me a picture of her class with their teacher.  She pointed out some of the students in the old black and white photo as her eyes sparkled and the bright smile filled her face as she pointed out her friends and neighbors. She traced her finger over each face on the picture, stopping to tell a brief story about each student as her memories took us both back in time.  

The school was converted to a soldier’s home after the War (World War II) for the returning vets and several years ago became an historic landmark and today also houses an architect who specializes in historic preservation.

I could tell Abigail was as passionate about the school as Mrs. Barnette was about its history.  I asked what inspired her to get involved in this project.  Abigail stated, “My husband and I decided to join two other families to start Pioneer Springs Community School, as we had recently been exposed to the popular educational model of “The Basic School” taught at the Community School of Davidson last year when our daughter attended Corvian Community School.”

Abigail added, “Unfortunately, when Corvian received their charter, everyone had to go through the lottery process and most families did not get back in. We realized that with over 4,000 children on waiting lists for these two schools, our area desperately needed another school that provided this type of holistic learning environment, and that’s how it all got started.”

Croft School Alumni gather for announcement

During the opening ceremony, those of us in attendance were reminded of the words from T.S. Elliott when he said, “We shall not cease from exploration. And the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”

Walking the halls of the old school-house last week, I pictured Mrs. Barnette as a little girl. Sitting intently in her chair, listening to her teacher teaching the basic English and math of her day.  She and the other students would later be responsible for much of what we know in North Mecklenburg and now Lake Norman.  Now eighty years later, those same classrooms will again be a center of learning and once again we as a community will arrive where it all started and we will know the place for the very first time.

Pioneer Springs is currently accepting applications for enrollment in Kindergarten and First Grade.  For more information please visit, www.PioneerSprings.org or email PioneerSpringsCS@gmail.com

Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce Members: Take Advantage of Tax Free Day and Office Depot Savings Plan!

This weekend, Friday Aug. 3 to Sunday Aug. 5th, North Carolina citizens get a break on taxes for Back to School supplies.  The savings covers: Clothing, footwear, and school supplies under $100; Sports and recreation equipment under $50; Computers under $3,500; Computer equipment under $250.  While it is a great time to stock up for Children’s “back to School” supplies, you can also save money yourself.  Lake Norman Chamber members can also take advantage of deep discounts we have established with an Office Depot Savings Plan.

 As a member of the Lake Norman Chamber, you can enjoy these benefits: An average 51-83% discount off the list price on 235 key items on the “top buy” list, which includes paper and an extensive selection of toner. FREE next-day delivery of in-stock items for orders of $50 or more. Additional discounts on large orders … the more you buy, the more you save! Extra 1% off orders greater than $150.  Extra 1.5% off orders greater than $200 Extra 2% off orders greater than $300.

In addition, the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce receives a small percentage of the total purchase which helps offset the cost of our business development programs. So while you SAVE money, the Chamber makes money to put back into programs that benefit your business.  So start saving today and particularly this weekend when you can save on your tax bill.  If you like to purchase your supplies on line, simply follow the instructions on our website at: Office Depot Savings Program.  If you prefer to shop at the store in person, swing by the Chamber and pick up Chamber Member Discount Cards.  We will also be happy to mail them but they may not arrive until after the tax holiday.

Bottom line – start saving money today and in the process contribute to a program that helps our local economy by investing money back into local business development.  The Chamber is also exploring other programs that can save our members on their office expenses.  This program is not limited to the business only!  Share this card with your employees as a company benefit.  The more people use the plan, the greater dollars are received by the Chamber.  Thank you for your support of the Chamber and have a happy Tax Free Shopping Weekend!