Russell’s Ramblings

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

Viewing life through a different lens

diversity-4

2016 Diversity Chair Chris Hailey and Lake Norman Chamber President Bill Russell

Anyone who knows me well, knows that I am an avid football fan. On any given Saturday or Sunday, I’m usually sitting back watching games when I see a real bone-headed play that leaves me thinking, “What was that all about?”

Granted the play has been stopped, we know the result and, in many instances, we watch replays over and over from every angle. Knowing the outcome, many of us become sports geniuses — hence the term “armchair quarterbacks.”

Several years ago, I had the opportunity, through our Leadership Lake Norman program, to tour the Criminal Justice Center at the Central Piedmont Community College Merancas Campus in Huntersville. There I was allowed to participate in a firearms simulation on which our law enforcement officers are required to train. Participants are provided a firearm equipped with a laser that registers actual hits and misses in a simulated environment.

In some situations, subjects in the video are innocent bystanders. In others, in the blink of an eye, the bystander became an armed assailant. The actual time you as a law enforcement officer have to ascertain the threat and act are mere seconds. My simulation involved terrorists who had taken hostages on a passenger jet in flight. I laughed it off and went home after I hit an assailant, a bystander and the fuselage of the plane perhaps dooming all of the passengers. For me, in that room with that make-believe gun in a simulated environment, it was little more than a video game.

Out on the streets, it’s anything but.

The last few days in Charlotte, and last few months nationwide, have seen tensions between law enforcement and the public reach a precipice. As I personally struggle to understand why we have reached this point, my good friend and the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce Diversity Chairman Chris Hailey asked me to “step back away from my ‘whiteness’ and see the world through a different lens — that of an African-American man.”

What some of us may see as a single incident is for many a tipping point of years of frustration, anxiety and fear. While there can be no excuse for looting, violence and lawlessness, there must be a way to confront the feelings many minorities are experiencing.

On Wednesday, Oct. 5, the Lake Norman Chamber Diversity Council will host a Lunch & Learn session at the CPCC Merancas Campus with Brandi Riggins from Charter Communications. She will discuss race relations and how we can continue to come together as a community. The Diversity Council will also host another community forum later in the month.

In the meantime, the Lake Norman Chamber will salute our public safety officers who put their lives on the line for us each and every day — our police, fire and EMS officers along with the Crime Stopper of the Year. That event takes place Thursday, Oct. 20, at NorthStone Country Club.

Unlike football, our police officers have no instant replay and no way to truly know what’s in the mind of the person they stop or try to apprehend. They have no ability to look back on what they could or should have done. They have only the moment. It’s real time.

One thing I do know for certain: none of our officers are out there looking for confrontation. They simply want to serve and go home safe at the end of the day to their families.

My friend Chris asked me to see life though a different lens. The reality is I’m not sure I ever really can. But I do know, I need to try. I pray to God that we all try.

October 11, 2016 Posted by | Chamber of Commerce, Politics, Social Causes, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Zeiss Leaves Legacy on Local workforce

The below column was written exclusively for The Lake Norman Citizen Newspaper and appeared in the April 6, 2016 issue (page 39 – For the Record)
zeissNearly a quarter of a century ago, a man of boundless energy, laser focus, and a commitment to higher education took the helm of Central Piedmont Community College.  In 1992, Dr. Tony Zeiss became just the third president of a community college that today serves 70,000 students a year.

Under Tony’s leadership, the college has grown from one campus to six, including the Merancas Campus in Huntersville. Dr. Zeiss has created a “learning college” whose mission is not simply to transfer knowledge from teacher to student but to create an atmosphere that allows students to discover knowledge, to apply it, and in essence become a problem solver.

Early in my career with the Lake Norman Chamber, I had the privilege to sit down with Beverly Dickson, the Dean of the Merancas Campus at the time. Beverly, who served on my board for six years, pointed out that the traditional four year college, while providing a “college experience,” was becoming unaffordable and less accessible for many students.

Enter Zeiss who understood that employers in the Charlotte region and beyond are challenged to find knowledgeable and skilled workers. Tony and his team set out to create a culture that prepared students for the workforce and deliver area businesses and industry high caliber employees committed to their task.

In 2005, the Lake Norman Chamber partnered with CPCC in a Workforce Development Summit held at the Merancas Campus. Highlighting several of our Lake Norman companies such as Lowe’s and Daetwyler, the theme of the summit was “Get ‘em While They’re Hot.” It was the title of Dr. Zeiss’s book on how to attract, develop, and retain peak performers in the labor shortage we faced at the time.

Tony gave me a copy of the book and made a little notation within its cover. Looking at it the other day, I also noted several turned down pages and highlighted text that I’m often guilty of doing to my favorite books.Zeiss Book

Zeiss writes, “Today’s leaders must learn to think globally, appreciate cultural diversity, develop high technical skills, build partnerships, and share in decision making.” Zeiss goes on to point out the critical skills needed to succeed are – the ability to communicate and create employee support for a shared vision, unwavering integrity, a focus on results, and a commitment to customer satisfaction. More than a decade later, his words are still the foundation for success today.

The campus here in Huntersville trains firefighters and police through their Public Safety program and Criminal Justice Academy as well as collision repair, emergency medical training and general public education.

On April 14, Dr. Tony Zeiss will speak to business and community leaders at the Lake Norman Chamber PowerLuncheon for the last time as President of CPCC. Although I suspect he will still be impacting the next generation of employees and business leaders in other ways.

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.”

The next time you call that electrician to your house, have an EMT respond to a family emergency, have your car repaired at a nearby body shop, or have an accountant work on your taxes, remember that skilled worker may just be a product of our community college system.

Dr. Zeiss has taken a block of marble, shaped our workforce and revealed the community we could be. It’s a legacy of promise and opportunity and the best work of any life.

Bill Russell, Huntersville, NC

Bill Russell is the President & CEO of the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce which serves 1,000+ business members in the Huntersville, Davidson, Cornelius, and greater Lake Norman region.

April 12, 2016 Posted by | Chamber of Commerce, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | 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

Vote Yes for the Bonds

CMS Bonds On November 5th, voters in Mecklenburg County will consider approving $290 million for Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools (CMS) and $210 million for Central Piedmont Community College (CPCC).  In Cornelius, voters there will also decide $20.4 million for transportation, parks and recreation, and town center bonds.

In addition to the County and Cornelius bonds, a political issue shaping this election which has gripped our community and region over the last several months is how do we fund the widening of I-77?  The current DOT plan would use HOT or toll lanes in partnership with a private company (P3 Partnership).  While details are still being worked out, even those in local and state government wrestle with the notion of tolls.

Attending our local candidate forums, it is abundantly clear many elected and business leaders are torn between a practical reality –  the need to widen our most critical transportation artery as soon as possible and  declining revenues to fund those improvements.  While we can debate whether there are adequate funds to create General Purpose Lanes instead of High Occupancy Toll lanes, there can be no question that our past elected state and transportation leaders did a poor job of forecasting the future.

There are no fingers of blame here. Remember, those same leaders were elected by their constituents.  So in essence, we have only ourselves to blame.  In a very real sense, we are left with few alternatives as we pay dearly for not having planned adequately in the past for our current and future infrastructure needs.

On November 5th, we have an opportunity to invest in the future when voters go to the polls.  The Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce encourages our citizens to invest in public education and our community college system. A successful economy requires a skilled workforce capable of operating and managing industries and businesses where we exercise a competitive advantage over other regions and states.  Our public education and community college system is the foundation of our economic development efforts.

Cornelius citizens will have an additional opportunity to shape their future as they consider bonds which will make road improvements, sidewalk enhancements, finance improvements to town parks, and redevelop the town center.

The recent toll debate has led to much second guessing and a look back on what we might have done differently.   I am reminded of a quote from Victor Hugo in Les Miserables,”Nothing is more imminent than the impossible . . . what we must always foresee is the unforeseen.”

Let’s all hope looking back from the days ahead, we don’t regret the community and region we could have been simply because we didn’t take time to be informed and take advantage of our right to vote on election day.   Make an investment in our community and region and Vote Yes for the Bonds!    

Bill Russell

Bill Russell is the president of the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce with approximately 1,000 business members in the Cornelius, Davidson, Huntersville, and greater Lake Norman region. For more information on the Bonds visit www.VoteYesforBonds.com

October 24, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Corporate Executives Examine Workplace Learning

Lake Norman corporate executives received a briefing this month from representatives of the North Carolina Department of Labor and Central Piedmont Community College. The Executive RoundTable, sponsored by the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce and the Lake Norman Regional Economic Development Commission, brought together approximately 24 area executives.

Jerry Broadway – Lake Norman EDC, Pamela McGimpsey, Apprenticeship Consultant with NCDOL, Mike McGee, with CPCC’s Corporate Learning Center, and Bill Russell with the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce.

Jerry Broadway – Lake Norman EDC, Pamela McGimpsey, Apprenticeship Consultant with NCDOL, Mike McGee, with CPCC’s Corporate Learning Center, and Bill Russell with the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce.

Mike McGee, with CPCC’s Corporate Learning Center spoke about Apprenticeship Charlotte and specifically what employers can do to create a talent pipeline of productive employees.  Joining McGee was Pamela McGimpsey, Apprenticeship Consultant with NCDOL. McGimpsey pointed out that the Apprentice and Training Bureau works to promote the development, registration and completion of apprenticeship and on-the-job training programs providing N.C. employers with quality trained and highly skilled workers.

Michael Arcidiacono, Manufacturing Manager for Max Daetwyler Corporation, was a participant in the forum. Daetwyler, a Huntersville firm, has a very active and recognized apprenticeship program. Arcidiacono told those in attendance, “At Daetwyler, our goal is to meet our customer’s needs and keep our employees’ ahead of the technology curve. Skilled individuals are hard to find to fit specific needs. Apprenticeship2000 allows us to grow an experienced workforce from within. Our company culture, standards and ideals are all part of the training. The program not only teaches our apprentices to be responsible students and employees but excellent stewards for the program. Graduates in their respective fields have the ability to design, machine, document and assemble parts on demand.”

Arcidiacono added, “ This makes each person and the company much more flexible to changes in trends and ever changing market conditions. The apprenticeship program allows us the time to expose our employees to every facet of our business so they can be useful in any area and they understand every aspect of how to meet the customers’ requirements.”

Earth Fare, located at 14021 Boren Street in Huntersville, was the Breakfast Sponsor of the event. For more information and the presentation itself, visit the Lake Norman Chamber’s website at www.lakenormanchamber.org.

Additional Links

Apprenticeship Brochure

Veterans Brochure

December 21, 2012 Posted by | Chamber of Commerce | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment