Russell’s Ramblings

Those who do not hear the music might think the dancer mad

Finding the opportunity in our differences

diversityPick up a paper and the headlines are likely filled with trouble and unrest. Last year, the nation watched in anguish as cable news displayed the riots resulting from anger in Ferguson, Missouri. The racial tension was not confined to that region as protests and violence erupted across the country from Seattle to Downtown Davidson as students and teachers alike participated in a “Die-in.”

Spectators attending the annual Christmas in Davidson event looked on as protesters lay in the streets, their hands behind their backs, in a silent protest to a not guilty verdict. Christmas carols fell silent as the discontent seeped into the evening Yule Tide event

The last few weeks has seen our community gripped in a much less violent demonstration at the recent Kerrick trial of a white police officer accused of using unnecessary force in the attempted arrest and subsequent death of a black man. The mistrial again provoked demonstrations in the minds of some that somehow justice did not prevail.

Frustration, anger, and tension are not just confined to race as our state legislature in Raleigh finds rural lawmakers pitted against their urban counterparts. Perhaps at no other time in history has our state been so starkly divided between communities that are growing and those who are not.

Look no further than here at Lake Norman as we wrestle with the notion of tolling what many consider our main street – I77. This year marks my 20th year at the Lake Norman Chamber and at no time have I witnessed an issue which has so bitterly divided our community and region with the “haves” vs the “have nots.”

While transportation and some elected officials would point out that Express Lanes provide “choice” and guaranteed mobility to drivers, opponents which refer to them as “Lexus Lanes” see them as a tax on a “local road” that many simply cannot afford, and in the case of truckers, are prohibited from using.

Against the backdrop of these trying times, I am reminded of the words of the Reverend Martin Luther King.  In the midst of the Civil Rights struggle, Dr. King said, “The measure of a man is not where he stands in times of comfort and Kingconvenience, but where he stands in times of challenge and controversy.”

The one thing we can be assured is there will be change.  Challenges are brought about by change. Today is different than yesterday and tomorrow will be different than today.

Perhaps there is no more stark contrast politically to Rev. King than former President Ronald Regan. Regan too understood diversity when he reminded us, “It’s not enough to be equal in the eyes of God.  We must be equal in the eyes of each other.”

In September, the Chamber embraces “Diversity” and recognizes those companies, businesses and individuals who promote and encourage inclusion in their business practices at our annual Diversity Luncheon on September 17th.

As we face each new sunrise, let us move closer to the day, when we as a community, nation, and people find the opportunities in our differences and the strength in our common ground.

Bill Russell

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August 31, 2015 Posted by | Chamber of Commerce | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Millennial Generation – Shaping the Marketplace and Workforce

millenials_splashQuickly taking their place in the workplace is a new generation of workers – The Millennials.  Born between 1977 and 1998, approximately 75 million Americans can be identified as a Millennial. This demographic, representing, one-third the total U.S. population in 2013, is changing the way companies brand products and having major impacts on management and marketing.

Recently I was listening to a program on one of the Charlotte radio stations as they interviewed an authority on the Millennial Generation.  Large food retailers such as McDonalds are already taking note of the buying power this generation represents. It was pointed out this group was much less likely to be swayed by traditional brands, instead relying on recommendations from close friends.

This generation is the first to have access to the Internet during their formative years.  They have grown up with the world at their fingertips in an age of instantaneous information.  They are also the generation that will shape our economy for the next few decades.

Millennials are not just connected via social networks, they value the role they play in the community.  A 2013 poll found that this group, also known as “Generation Y”, was more open minded than their parents on controversial topics and are very civic minded.

Last fall, the Chamber created the Lake Norman Young Professionals, a program specifically for young people ages 18 to 39 inclusively. The group is composed of chamber members or employees of chamber members who meet monthly to network, enrich their personal and leadership skills through informative programs, and work together on community projects.

They utilize Face Book and a website to organize meetings and provide an important resource as we engage this new generation into our local communities and the region.

2015 Chamber Chair Mike Russell, Terrii Manning - CPCC, Bill Russell - LKN Chamber, with Lauren Crawley, Katie Jones, and Marley Caddell from Belk dept Stores. —

2015 Chamber Chair Mike Russell, Terrii Manning – CPCC, Bill Russell – Lake Norman Chamber, with Lauren Crawley, Katie Jones, and Marley Caddell from Belk dept Stores. —

Last week, the Chamber examined the millennial generation more closely at a PowerLuncheon at River Run Country Club. Terri Manning, the Associate Vice President for Information Technology and Research Services at Central Piedmont Community College, led the discussion. The program was Presented by Belk Department Stores.

Manning spoke about the societal influences on generations as well as the strengths and talents of generations working today.  She pointed out that this is not your parent’s workforce as expectations have changed.  Perhaps the most important questions is how do we, as business owners, managers, and supervisors motivate and reward today’s new workforce?

Dr. Manning’s presentation is available by visiting the Chamber’s website.  You can find her PowerPoint here – Examining the Impact of the Millennial Generation.  You can also view this document from Dr. Manning – 14 Rules of the New Workplace That Millennials Need to Master.

No generation has been more influenced by technology and the computer than the millennials.  These new entrepreneurs are wired for success and very soon, if not already, America will feel the power of her young people.

Bill Russell

August 28, 2015 Posted by | Chamber of Commerce | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

SPECIAL BUSINESS BRIEFING: The Business of Tolls – Myths, Misinformation and Mayhem

tollsThe Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce will hold two separate special business briefings on Tuesday August 11th and Tuesday August 18th from 6:30 to 8 pm at The Galway Hooker Irish Pub located at 17044 Kenton Dr. in Cornelius. While the chamber of commerce would like to encourage local business owners and managers to attend, the special business briefings are open to the public. Chamber leaders will be joined by Mecklenburg County Board Commissioner Jim Puckett as they cite the business and economic implications of the proposed Toll Lane plan on the Lake Norman economy.

The Chamber initially took a firm stance that the widening of I-77 from exit 36 to just below exit 23 was critical to the overall economic health of the region. Bill Russell, president of the chamber and an ex-officio board member of the Lake Norman Regional Transportation Commission, points out that local elected and business leaders were presented with the option of widening I-77 through tolling or waiting 20 years or more for the project to be funded with general purpose lanes.  “We did not think putting off relief for 20 years was an option,” he said.  “However, it would now seem the proposed HOT Lanes will not relieve congestion – it actually guarantees it!”

Past Chamber Chair John Hettwer agrees, “Like many business owners in the last few years, I was battling through the recession, building my business, and confident our elected leadership was looking out for all of us.  Unfortunately, they were being given misleading information by the NCDOT, and we now find ourselves in a fight for the economic and business vitality of our region.”

Jim Puckett, Mecklenburg County Commissioner for District #1 has been a longtime opponent of the toll project.  “I- 77 is the lifeline of North Mecklenburg and South Iredell counties and the current design and tolling plans will have a devastating impact on the future of our region and economic development going forward.  With the current ill-conceived plan contracted to last 50 years NOW is the time for the business community to push for a better solution. “

Chamber leaders hope to use the meetings to further educate businesses and citizens on the impact of tolling at the lake and plans to move forward.  Russell said he hopes citizens and business owners will attend one of the two meetings and encourage their friends and neighbors to attend. “I know a great many elected leaders, including our governor, say it’s far too late to stop this project now.  Perhaps so, but on the other hand it’s simply never too late to do the right thing.”

August 11, 2015 Posted by | Chamber of Commerce | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment