Russell’s Ramblings

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

Lessons from a lemonade stand

GardenPerhaps my favorite summer activity is gardening. I really enjoy going down to our farm in Rock Hill and working the ground that my dad, grandfather, and great-grandfathers toiled.  Perhaps the best thing about the garden is that the investment in labor always yields a bountiful harvest of fresh vegetables that keep my family and friends very happy.

A few summers ago, I drove through the back roads to the farm and passed by a little lemonade stand by the side of the road.  A little girl sat at a folding table and chair with a handwritten sign that said, “Fresh Lemonade.”  There was also what appeared to be a glass pitcher and a few Dixie cups stacked as she waited patiently for a thirsty customer who would certainly come along.

I did not have time to stop then, but made a mental note to drop by for a cool drink after working in the garden in the hot afternoon sun.  After spending a few hours tilling the soil and tying up the tomatoes, I packed up and headed home.  The little girl was still in her chair, head resting on her left hand, as she slumped down on the table.

I pulled my car over and walked over to her stand.  She jumped up and beamed a big smile as I asked her for a cup of her cold lemonade.  To be truthful, the lemonade was a little warm as the afternoon sun had taken a toll on the ice.  However, after a long day in the garden, the beverage was tasty and really hit the spot.  She charged me a whopping 25 cents.

After downing the delectable treat, I asked if I could have a refill.  She indicated that would require another quarter.  She carefully poured a second beverage, handed me my drink, and held out her hand for payment.  I pulled out a $5 bill and her eyes widened and mouth dropped in awe. The little girl timidly said, “Sir, I do not have enough change.”  I told her that was okay, she could keep the change as a tip.  As I drove away, I watched in the rear view mirror as she dashed back to her house waving the money.  Based on her excitement, I am guessing that she made more in one visit with me than she did all day.

The little girl’s location was not ideal – located on a lonely country back road where you’re more likely to see a stray dog wander by before the occasional car.  She clearly wasn’t prepared for any large transactions but I really admired the fact she stuck it out through the hot summer heat.lemonade-stand

That lemonade stand was similar to many businesses that are located in low traffic areas or operate without a solid business or marketing plan. The Lake Norman Chamber helps in those situations. We provide businesses with numerous opportunities to build new relationships through our many networking opportunities. Our chamber also gives business owners and managers’ new tools and knowledge needed for success, including presentations in financial planning, sales training, marketing, risk management, HR issues and other personal and business topics.

Unlike a lemonade stand, our lake businesses cannot afford to make critical errors in planning, financing, and marketing their business.  Our businesses are like a garden which requires constant attention. You do not just plant a seed – you have to constantly provide care.  Tilling, hoeing out the rows, fertilizing the ground, and supplying it with plenty of water.  However, if you put in the effort and investment in the business, the time spent building new relationships and cultivating existing ones, will yield a bountiful harvest and a successful business.

I’m not sure how much lemonade that little girl sold that afternoon but just thinking about her brings a big smile to my face. I hope she’s back there again this summer. A fresh pitcher of cool lemonade and perhaps this time a cookie or two.

Bill Russell

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May 29, 2018 Posted by | Chamber of Commerce, Personal, Uncategorized | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Feminine Mystique

billThe 1960’s was perhaps the most turbulent and transformational time in the history of our nation.  I was only four years old in 1963 when President Kennedy was killed by an assassin’s bullet in the streets of Dallas. Before the end of the decade we saw the horrible killing of two more civil rights leaders – the Rev. Martin Luther King and Senator Bobby Kennedy, both shot down after addressing crowds about the dramatic change they envisioned for our young country.

The innocence of the 1950’s gave way to a remarkable decade of the antiwar protests and the Civil Rights struggle which played out in our streets and was shown on television sets in living rooms across America.

There was the Beatles, flower children, hippies, and Woodstock. The 1960’s saw the approval of birth control and by the end of the decade, more than 80% of women of child bearing age were using contraceptives.

In 1963, Betty Friedman published her book, The Feminine Mystique which challenged the traditional gender roles and with it a full on assault to give women equal rights under the law. The passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, specifically the section known as Title VII, banned sex discrimination by employers and offered legal protection for women who had been rejected for employment solely because of their sex.  The American workplace would be forever changed and it was “game on” for women who strived to be treated equally when it came to employment and wages.

Fifty four years after the Civil Rights Act, females are still facing discrimination and dealing with harassment in the workplace. This past year, the #MeToo movement took center stage as behavior, once accepted or at the very least tolerated, became unacceptable and the perpetrators of those actions harshly rebuked.Pic 2 Women's Con Thoughts

On Thursday, April 19th, The Lake Norman Chamber’s Diversity Council will conduct its Fifth Annual Women’s Conference at the Peninsula Club in Cornelius. Last year’s event drew more than 140 women CEO’s and business leaders to the 11 am until 5 pm program.

Entitled, “Truth, Courage, and Empowerment: Don’t Be Silent!” the conference will examine the trials and tribulations which have faced women business owners and how they have used their courage and persistence to overcome the critics, building successful business careers and serving as mentors for the next generation of female business and community leaders.

Keynoted by Dee Worley, the Co-Founder and COO of Worley Global Enterprises, the conference has several women who have overcome the obstacles placed in front of them and serve as inspirations to women and men alike.

Worley had a gymnastics career at the University of Alabama from 1989-93, and became a 17-time All-American, a four-time champion and a nine-time regional champion. As a senior in 1993, she set an NCAA record with perfect 10’s in five consecutive meets.

Ranked as the nation’s No. 1 all-around competitor, she was a runaway winner of Alabama’s Amateur Athlete of the Year Award. At the time of her graduation, she was the only NCAA gymnast to finish in the top three in All-Around for four straight years.

Dee’s story is one of several attendees will hear at the conference as speakers recount the challenges they have faced, but more importantly how they used their faith, strength, and determination to succeed in business and in life.

Ayn Rand, a Russian American Novelist once said, “The question isn’t who’s going to let me; it’s who’s going to stop me.”

The role women play in board rooms, government, civic clubs, and at home has changed dramatically in the last fifty years. Rand who passed away in 1982 would not be surprised at the tremendous strides that have been made by women in our workforce and culture. I imagine if Rand were alive today, she’d likely smile and say, “And who’s going to stop us now.”

Bill Russell, President

April 11, 2018 Posted by | Chamber of Commerce, Social Causes, Uncategorized | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Legacy We Leave

Career

Jeffrey Johnson, a student at Hough and one of our Future Business Leaders of America, is going to be a strong force in the business world.

Incentives and rewards are important to drive people beyond what they thought was achievable. As I write this column, athletes who have trained all of their lives, are competing for the Gold in the Winter Olympics. Imagine if you can, any sport without a championship or the workplace without an opportunity for a “bonus.” We are a competitive society that likes to win and we strive to be recognized as the “Best of the Best” among our peers.

This past month, while attending a Davidson Town Board Meeting, I had the opportunity to thank Commissioner Jim Fuller for his term of service on the Lake Norman Chamber Board. Jim had missed the Annual Banquet when we recognized other Chamber Board Members, and those who have gone the extra mile, with plaques recognizing their achievements and service to our community.

Mayor Rusty Knox quipped, “That will look really nice among all your other awards Jim.” Mayor Knox, like many of the visitors to Jim’s office, have seen the recognitions and plaques that speak boldly of Commissioner Fuller’s legacy of leadership.

I read a story once about a man named James Dobson whose goal it was to become his school’s tennis champion. He felt proud when the school placed his trophy prominently in the school’s glass trophy cabinet for all to see. Years later, someone mailed him the trophy. They had found it in a trash bin when the school was remodeled. Dobson realized, “Given enough time, all your trophies and plaques will be discarded by someone else.”

As I look up on the walls of my own office, with its array of plaques and pictures, there is a small silver plaque presented to me by the Future Business Leaders of America. The plaque is a recognition of our support of Hough High School’s Career Days.

Pic 2 Career

2017 Pine Lake Prep Career Day  

“Career Day” is an opportunity for business owners, managers, professionals, and employees to counsel and advise young people as they look to post-secondary education or perhaps to enter the workforce at graduation from High School.

This month the Lake Norman Education Collaborative, Economic Development Corporation, Visit Lake Norman and Chamber will work with Pine Lake Prep, Hough, and Hopewell High Schools to host Career Days and Speed Networking Events with students. Information on these events can be found on the Chamber’s website at LakeNormanChamber.org.

The two or three hours spent with a student could be that spark that ignites their career. One morning or an afternoon’s gesture may impact a lifetime.

Commissioner Fuller chuckled for a second at Mayor Knox’s statement. Then I watched as Jim silently sat down the plaque, gazed across the crowd and began to thank the businesses and volunteers who work hand in hand with our town to make the community a great place to live and work.

He, like many other servant leaders understand well, it’s not what we receive for being the best – but what we become by doing it.

We have within our ability the opportunity to prepare the future generation with the insight, skills, and confidence to build on the foundation we have built working hard, working smart, and working together.

What some may fail to realize is all of the achievements will eventually be surpassed, all of the records broken, and most of the reputations will eventually fade from memory. However, the lives we touch along the way and the difference we make in leaving this place better than we found it, will not!  And that is the legacy we leave.

Bill Russell

Check the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce website at www.lakenormanchamber.org for area Career Days and Education Events.

April 5, 2018 Posted by | Chamber of Commerce, Lake Norman Chamber Education Collaborative | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Place Called Hope

billThis past week, I stopped by one of our local Chamber Members – Kilwin’s Chocolate, Fudge, Ice Cream in Birkdale Village. Bill Kenney, the owner, has always been a very engaged member of our business community, often lending a hand to local charities and non-profits. When I asked how the New Year was starting off for his business, he smiled broadly as he reminded me we’re approaching Valentine’s Day and “these are the biggest weeks of our year.”

Valentine’s Day is that time of the year when we tell that special someone in our life just how much we love them. As I reflected on that notion the other day, I could not help but think just how much I simply love Lake Norman, and for many of us, there is quite a bit to love!

Arriving at the lake some twenty years ago, I met a young man who was just starting a local newspaper. Scott Hinkle was the editor and publisher of The Lake Norman Times which predated today’s Lake Norman Herald Citizen.

Scott’s paper focused on our lake communities and the great things happening in the region. He later became the 1999 Board Chair of the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce and later Chair of Visit Lake Norman. Scott used to crack me up doing a spot on impression of former President Bill Clinton. He’d poke out his lip, cock his head, and with his thumb squarely pointed to the sky, he’d utter the line in a croaky Bubba accent, “I still believe in a place called Hope.”

Scott Hinkle personified leadership and he would be excited to know that next month, the Lake Norman region will have its very first leadership conference. Business Coach and John Maxwell Trainers Dave Ferguson and Titus Bartolotta will join communications consultant Heidi Hansen and myself as we headline what we hope is the first of many Living to Lead Leadership Conferences.

It will be held Wednesday, March 7th at Grace Covenant Church in Cornelius. The net proceeds of this conference will go to The Hope House Foundation. For those unfamiliar with The Hope House, this outstanding organization provides a safe home to females, whose lives have been turned upside down when she becomes displaced from a home due to job loss, illness, or a major life change. Her safety net may be broken and she needs her community’s support to help her work toward self-sustaining goals.

The Hope House is dedicated to helping women who are experiencing “situational” homelessness.  With 12 beds in a pleasant, congregate living environment, The Hope House encourages transformative life choices and helps women from various backgrounds, age groups, and all walks of life.

Neither a battered women’s shelter nor a substance abuse recovery center, The Hope House is simply a place for residents to call “home” for up to six months as they get back on their feet.Living to Lead Leadership Conference

Sadly, we suddenly lost Scott Hinkle a few years ago but his dream of a place called “Hope” still lives in the hearts of many people who call the Lake Norman region home.

The 2018 Living to Lead Leadership Conference will be a great opportunity to prepare your mind for leadership and your heart for service. In the process, your participation and support provides hope for those who need a helping hand.

Philosopher Thomas Paine once said, “We have it in our power to change the world.”  It starts, one person, one community at a time.  For women and children who are looking for that outstretched hand and a second chance – it often starts at Lake Norman. It starts – at a place called Hope.

Bill Russell, President

Information about the 2018 Living to Lead Leadership Conference is available by visiting LakeNormanChamber.org  or by calling the Chamber at 704-892-1922.

February 12, 2018 Posted by | Chamber of Commerce, Personal, Social Causes, Uncategorized | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

My Wish This Holiday Season

billThe holiday season is upon us and with it comes the sights and sounds of Christmas. Regardless of your faith, December is often a special month of reflection, generosity, and family.  Listening to my favorite carols and songs brings back long cherished memories of family and friends. For many, it’s a spiritual season with thoughts of life’s purpose. But others face much darker days with the struggle of addiction. Providing them and their families, relief from the pain would be the greatest gift of all.

Last week, I attended my weekly Rotary Club meeting and listened as a young lady shared her story of addiction to opioids. The daughter of a Rotarian, she fought through tears as she shared her innermost struggle with substance abuse. She was an honor student, gifted athlete, and popular classmate. Yet, she still felt a lack of esteem and confidence, which led to handfuls of pills that wrecked her life, leaving a wide wake of personal destruction with family and close friends.

I squirmed in my seat as I listened to her recount how her parents tried desperately to reach out with counseling and assistance. But in the end, they were forced to lock her out of their house. It was a story I was all too familiar with as my stepbrother faced the same insidious demons.

The opioid epidemic is now considered the worst drug crisis in our nation’s history. These drugs kill more Americans than automobile accidents and opioids now claim more than 27,000 lives each year. Addiction knows no discrimination as every demographic segment has seen a dramatic rise in deaths from overdoses of prescription opioids and heroin.

In 2014, friends from my High School lost their son to his struggle with substance abuse. Their family was close and Hendon was a popular and gifted young man and a talented athlete. Their son was one of the most likeable young men you would ever meet.  But again, addiction does not discriminate – and another life ended entirely too soon – and another family faced unimaginable heartache.

Earlier this year, I attended the funeral of a very successful young chamber member. She was the mother of two little girls. Bethany lost a battle that far too many wage. Her family and her faith simply could not compete with the pull of addiction – the momentary high that robs from the future.opioid

The young lady at Rotary ended by telling us how each day is a struggle, but she is winning that battle one day at a time. It takes courage, time and tons of support. Ultimately, the answer must begin with an acknowledgement that there is a problem and there must be resolve to overcome it.

If I could have one gift this Christmas, it would be for our nation to put aside all the petty political bickering and focus on the real threats which face our great country, robbing each of us of our greatest living treasure – the sons and daughters of America.

Country Singer Vince Gill sings a song called, “Go Rest High on that Mountain.” In the song, Gill sings, “…only you could know the pain. You weren’t afraid to face the devil, you were no stranger to the rain.”

Let us hope as we face this year ahead, we do so resolved to ending the addiction crisis threatening our young people. United in a common cause to bring awareness to the issue and compassion to the cause. While we may not win every battle, no one should ever have to face the devil alone.

Happy Holidays and God Bless!

Bill Russell

 

The above column first appeared in the last issue of The Lake Norman Citizen Newspaper – Final Thoughts – November 29, 2017.

December 5, 2017 Posted by | Chamber of Commerce, Personal, Politics, Social Causes, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Politics of Business

Russell thoughts 1Tip O’Neil, the 55th Speaker of the House and perhaps one of the most influential members of the United States Congress once said, “All politics is local.” He coined the phrase in a 1992 Congressional campaign running against an attorney who was heavily financed with out of state campaign contributions. What O’Neil was referring to was the principles that a politician’s success is directly linked to his or her ability to understand fully and influence the issues of their constituents.

The last few weeks and the week ahead will see a flurry of campaigning for local office and school board by both incumbents wishing to hold onto their seats and newcomers looking for an opportunity to serve. This year’s town boards are quite competitive with perhaps the most ever seeking an opportunity to represent their community.

The last local election could have been seen as a referendum on I-77 as tolls at Lake Norman figured prominently into the debate. There is no question that transportation – whether they are state roads or under local control – are critical in the minds of voters.

The Chamber has aggressively advocated for the cancellation of the Cintra Contract and moving forward with general purpose lanes since we adopted a Resolution calling for that action in June of 2015.

At a recent trip to my dentist, he pointed out I-77 has significantly impacted his business as they almost daily have to shuffle appointments from patients who are caught in traffic. Those of course are  patients who choose to reschedule!Reagan

This election cycle, voters in Mecklenburg County will decide the fate of a $922 million Charlotte Mecklenburg School Bond. As I write this article, your Chamber Board has not taken a position on the Bonds and may not.

As business leaders, we understand that education – public and private – is the foundation of our economic and business development. Our schools provide our workforce and the future generation which will inherit our communities tomorrow.

One of my favorite politicians of all time was Ronald Reagan. I met Reagan when I was National President of the United States Junior Chamber of Commerce (Jaycees).

It is well documented that Speaker O’Neil and President Reagan were constantly at odds. O’Neil said Reagan was the most ignorant man who ever occupied the White House and “a cheerleader for selfishness.” In his memoirs, the Speaker was asked about the attacks on the President and how the two seemed to remain friends. O’Neil commented, “Before 6:00 pm it’s all politics.”

Reagan himself once quipped, “If you’re afraid of the future, then get out of the way, stand aside. The people of this country are ready to move again.”

Our economy seems to be doing quite well and I believe our citizens are ready to get moving again. The businesses of Lake Norman have looked to the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce for 30 years to help create jobs and provide an environment that encourages entrepreneurship and business development.

The bottom line is we as business, community, and elected leaders cannot go back and change any mistakes that were made yesterday but we can create a brand new beginning. A change that begins with us, one person and one community at a time. It is the charge we have from our past and the responsibility we owe to the future.

Bill Russell

This column was written originally for the October Lake Norman Chamber Splash Newsletter and appeared as a Guest Column in the October 4th issue issue of the Lake Norman Citizen Newspaper (Page 32), Photo taken at the 72nd Annual Meeting of the United States Junior Chamber of Commerce (Jaycees) Portland Oregon, June 1992.

October 30, 2017 Posted by | Chamber of Commerce, Junior Chamber of Commerce (Jaycees), Politics, Transportation & Road Improvement, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Lasting Lesson From A Moment In Time

As summer vacations begin to wind down, many of us are refocusing on local businesses, seeking to learn new techniques to attract customers and create new revenue. Learning comes in many forms – seminars, forums, and continuing education. Sometimes though, the most lasting lessons come from the briefest encounters.

Aktion

Aktion Club of Lake Norman

For more than a decade, I have served as the advisor to a group of special needs adults called the Kiwanis Aktion Club. These young adults meet each month at the Lake Norman Chamber to socialize, conduct community projects, and participate in programs to enrich their lives.

Recently, a friend asked if I had a personal connection to this group. Perhaps a family member with special needs or a friend with a disability? As I started to reply, I had to suppress the tears. Yes, there was a story. There’s always a story.

In 1983, I joined a local community service group called the Jaycees and jumped head first into nearly every local project. Then one day, the Chapter President asked for volunteers to participate in Camp Hope Sunday. The statewide charity was a summer camp for children with disabilities. Each year the Jaycees would dedicate one Sunday to drive to this special camp and spend an afternoon with the young campers. The volunteers would take a picnic lunch, usually stopping at KFC just outside of the camp, and spend time with the campers.  After lunch, the kids would sing a few songs for their hosts.

The first few times I was asked to join in, I always found an excuse why I couldn’t attend, but in 1986 I was president of our Jaycee Chapter and felt that I had to go. Once there, I was assigned a little boy. Thirty one years later I still remember his name … Jason. Jason was just like any other ten year old child except he was considered special.  Jason had Down Syndrome.

Shortly after we arrived, we sat down for our picnic. The room was loud with laughter and chatter and Jason hardly took a breath between bites as he filled me in everything that came to his mind. When he reached over and started picking up food off of my plate, I was slightly taken aback.  But Jason just laughed as if he had told the biggest joke of all.

Several minutes later Jason joined a group of kids to sing a few songs. Picture twelve children, all singing the same song, but each and every one in a different harmony and pitch. I caught Jason looking directly at me, eyes locked on mine, and he was smiling from ear to ear. After the last song, he ran back to our table, anxiously asking could I hear him?  “Absolutely,” I replied. I’m quite sure he was the loudest child on stage!  As our group gathered to depart, I’ll never forget that moment when this young boy who I met just hours before, wrapped his little arms tightly around my waist, and said “I love you Mr. Bill.”Aktion 2

We drove three hours back to Rock Hill and although others in the car were carrying on conversations, my thoughts were still on Jason and the other campers. That’s the day, the very moment, I realized Jason didn’t have a special need – I did. But not anymore. I truly believe God gave me that moment with Jason for a reason.

When my friend asked me recently did I have a special needs child of my own? I said yes. I have a couple of dozen of them actually. We meet every month at the Chamber. We call ourselves the Aktion Club.

Some Aktion Club members are in their 20’s, some in their 30’s and they may not be kids – but in a very special way, they’re my kids. When they have every reason in the world to rail against their own particular challenges – they laugh, love, learn, and serve.

Jason touched me in way that I have never forgotten. This ten year old child with Downs taught me I didn’t need to be afraid. He had enough love for us both as he wrapped his arms tightly around me as my body literally shook.  Three decades later I remember that simple hug. It was the afternoon I found God’s Grace in the heart of a child.

Bill Russell

The above article was written for The Lake Norman Citizen Newspaper – July 26, 2017.

 

August 16, 2017 Posted by | Chamber of Commerce, Kiwanis, Lake Norman Aktion Club, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Grandmama Tillie’s Chow Chow Recipe

Chow chowIngredients

4 cups Green Tomatoes

4 cups Cabbage

4 cups Onions (Vidalia) *

12 Green Peppers – Hot & Bell  (Hot sweet Bananas) *

3 cups sugar (Original recipe! – I cut back on sugar, no more than 1 1/2 cups) *

1/2 cups salt

1 tablespoon Celery Seed

2 Tablespoons Mustard Seed

1 1/2 Teaspoon Tumeric

4 cups Vinegar (Tillie used white vinegar.  I prefer Apple Cider and just a splash of Balsamic for additional flavor) *

2 cups water

Chop vegetables up and let stand overnight in salt. Rinse vegetables and drain 24 hours later and then combine other ingredients. Bring to a boil and simmer 3 minutes.  Seal in hot sterilized jars.

  •  I take liberties with the original using the Apple Cider and Balsamic Vinegars (just a splash of the Balsamic as you do not want to discolor the batch. I also add just a touch of fresh garlic to each jar and always use vidalia onions.  For a slightly hotter batch, cut a slice of hot pepper and put in the jar before sealing.

Mama (Sarah Feemster Russell) says you should always let the batch set up a couple of weeks before serving.  I tend to put a small jar in the fridge I’m tasting from.

This is the recipe that Jim and Tillie Feemster passed down – my grandparents. Enjoy!

June 25, 2017 Posted by | Personal | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Planting Seeds – our harvest of hope

Garden 1

Our garden

Spring! It’s the time of year I look forward to most of all. While I spend my weekdays working at the chamber, I look forward to those weekends when I can travel down to our family farm in Rock Hill and work in the garden that I have toiled in for almost five decades.

My passion for gardening began as a little boy when my Grandfather Russell first had me plant watermelon seeds in his garden. At the age of seven, I was creating little hills with my small hands, dropping in my precious seeds, and waiting for that day when I could plunge my fingers into a delicious Crimson Sweet.

Granddaddy didn’t confess up front all the work that went into harvesting that plump juicy melon. Instead, over the years, he broke me in slowly. By the age of 16, I was helping both Grandfathers (Russell and Feemster) with their gardens. Typically, on Good Friday (but never rotten Saturday), we planted our seeds and sometimes our plants that yielded the corn, tomatoes, beans, melons, squash, cucumbers, and peppers that we hopefully harvested later that summer.

A few weeks ago, I listened as a couple of local entrepreneurs shared the challenges they faced with their small business and I couldn’t help but realize the similarities between those aspiring entrepreneurs and any determined farmer.

First and foremost, it all starts with that single seed. For many entrepreneurs it might begin with a credit card and a dream sitting at a kitchen table. I still remember Jim Engel, the President of Aquesta Bank, sharing how the Lake Norman-based bank started in the basement of his home. Like most entrepreneurs, he began with a vision, surrounding himself with a close knit team, facing challenge after challenge, on their journey to success.

Both the farmer and the entrepreneur will put in long hours and hard work and for a farmer the heat, weeds, and critters will challenge you every step of the way.

Garden

Bill Russell working the garden.

Farmers can usually recount the one good year versus all the bad. They must be patient and optimistic, realizing that perhaps next year can be better than this year.

As a farmer, you pray for good weather, and in some years it seems, the sweat and tears were about the only moisture that kissed the soil that whole summer. Yet, the risks should never be obstacles from pursuing your dream. They are merely steps along the way and we learn from each and every one.

Entrepreneurs face a new challenge every day. Challenges which require perseverance and creativity. There are no shortcuts to success. Instead, they toil each day, creating new relationships, and nurturing existing ones.

Perhaps there is no better example of entrepreneurship than Tom and Vickie VanWingerden who immigrated to Huntersville from The Netherlands. They started their business in 1972 with a 20,000 sq. ft. greenhouse on Old Statesville Rd. That 1 acre plastic covered structure has blossomed today into Metrolina Greenhouses which employs 725 people year round and another 600 seasonally. It is also largest single-site heated greenhouse in the United States at 162 acres under roof. Quite an accomplishment for a farmer and entrepreneur!

My grandfather was never a wealthy man. Just an old country farmer who toiled from sun up to sun down. Yet, he taught me a great deal – not just about farming, but life.   Anyone can plant a seed, but it takes a farmer or an entrepreneur to envision what it can become. It takes passion, perseverance, and yes, luck. But in the end, the fruit of our labor is the harvest of hope.

Bill Russell, Huntersville

The above post ran as a column “Idea Exchange” in the March 29, 2017 issue of The Lake Norman Citizen Newspaper page 33.

April 4, 2017 Posted by | Chamber of Commerce, Personal, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Business of Education

The uncharacteristically warm days these past few weeks had me climbing into the attic to retrieve my summer clothes in anticipation of the spring and summer days ahead. Grabbing what I thought to be a box of summer shirts, turned out instead to be old scrapbooks and albums.

First G

Mrs Hope – First Grade Class Finley Road Elementary, Rock Hill, SC  1966

Feeling nostalgic, I found myself perusing through a worn binder filled with grade school pictures and most of my early report cards. I laughed when I read the comments from my first and second grade teachers who cited “Billy is much too talkative” and “Billy is a really busy boy,” which was polite southern speak for “Billy simply cannot stay in his seat!”

The truth is I was a very bad student in elementary school and there is a real place in heaven for those teachers whose patience was extremely taxed teaching such an immature and talkative kid. It was not until high school that I hit my stride and found a love of history, political science, and writing. I have to admit, there are times I wish I could go back and thank those women who persevered with me. I wish I could express my gratitude to Mrs. Hope and Sellers whose names I still fondly recall fifty years later.

Education is the foundation of our economic and business development at the lake.  Perhaps no single issue impacts commerce more than our workforce development. The strength of our American economy hinges on our public and private school systems as well as post-secondary education and vocational training.

Recently in a Chamber meeting of Corporate CEO’s and entrepreneurs, they pointed to a lack of a skilled workforce as a challenge to their success. They stressed it is critical that we develop our talent and prepare our young people who will soon enter the workforce.

This Thursday, March 16th, the Lake Norman Chamber will have an opportunity to hear from both our current and incoming Charlotte Mecklenburg School Superintendents when we host our Education PowerLuncehon at NorthStone Country Club.  It will be an opportunity to thank Dr. Ann Clark for her service as well as welcome new School Board leader Dr. Clayton Wilcox.

The following day, Friday, March 17th, the Chamber will host a Focus Friday with our area Charter and Private Schools at the Chamber. Both events are a chance to hear how our educational leaders are developing our future employees.

This past week we have held School Career Fairs at both Pine Lake Prep (3/7) and Hough High School (3/8). It was a chance for area businesses to meet with students and help them prepare for their vocational future.

027

Future Business Leaders of America – Hough High School

Joseph Addison once said, “I consider the human soul without education like marble in a quarry, which shows none of its inherent beauties until the skill of the polisher fetches out the colors and makes the surface shine.”

Looking at those handwritten notes from my teachers brought a bright smile to my face and a little tug on my conscience.  We can all mentor a student, provide a business internship, participate in a career fair, and donate to a school fundraiser. That is the responsibility we have to the future and the obligation we all have to the past.

Bill Russell

The above column appeared in The Lake Norman Citizen (March 1, 2017 page 39) as Take Time to Mentor a Mind of the Young.

March 10, 2017 Posted by | Chamber of Commerce, Personal, Uncategorized | , , , , , , | Leave a comment