Russell’s Ramblings

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

Angels in our midst

The following article was written exclusively for The Lake Norman Citizen Newspaper and printed in the  January 22, 2014 edition.

As president of the Lake Norman Chamber, I cannot adequately express how proud I am of the people from our community who step up to the plate and make this region a great place to live, work, and visit. Like the lake itself, these selfless acts send ripples across the face of our community and change lives in its wake.  Last weekend, nearly 200 business and elected leaders packed The Peninsula Club to attend the Chamber’s Annual Meeting.  It was a reflection of the past year as outgoing Board Chair Wendy Moran shared the accomplishments of our chamber and recognized key community leaders and volunteers.

Randy Marion of Randy Marion Automotive receives the Lake Norman Chamber Cashion Business Person of the Year.  Pictured are: Chamber President Bill Russell, Chamber Board Chair Wendy Moran, Randy Marion, and Bobby Cashion.  Photo courtesy of Deborah Young Studio.

Randy Marion of Randy Marion Automotive receives the Lake Norman Chamber Cashion Business Person of the Year. Pictured are: Chamber President Bill Russell, Chamber Board Chair Wendy Moran, Randy Marion, and Bobby Cashion. Photo courtesy of Deborah Young Studio.

Randy Marion was selected the Business Person of the Year. His dealership excelled in 2013 and Marion was recognized nationally as the #1 Business Elite Dealer in the nation.  Jim Engel, president and CEO of Aquesta Bank, was acknowledged with the Spirit of Entrepreneurship Award.  In addition to their business success, Marion and Engel have contributed greatly to their communities.  Each has been recognized by the March of Dimes for outstanding leadership. Marion is also involved with the Mooresville Soup Kitchen, the Piedmont Council of Boy Scouts, and currently serves as Chairman of the Board of Lake Norman Regional Medical Center. Engel is a strong supporter of Big Day at the Lake, the Ada Jenkins Center, the Dove House and the American Red Cross.

While the Chamber’s gala was a time to reflect and celebrate, there were few dry eyes in the crowd when the staff of Business Today was awarded the Distinguished Service Award.  Literally fighting for his life, Business Today founder Dave Yochum spent half of 2013 facing a series of health challenges.  Dave is not only the hands-on leader of two newspapers, he is the founder of Big Day at the Lake and the Top Women in Business program.  During the past year, when Dave was unable to lead the projects himself, the staff of Business Today, as well as a number of community volunteers, made sure those programs met and exceeded the bar of success that Dave set in prior years.

One of our chamber members approached me with tears in her eyes. She hugged me and thanked the chamber for reminding her why she and her husband chose the Lake Norman region to live. Her comments and those just like hers that I get to hear on a weekly basis serve as a constant reminder of the impact we all make working together in a common cause. As the presentation of awards concluded, the Duke Citizenship and Service Award, was presented to Angels of ’97, a completely volunteer non-profit serving the entire north Mecklenburg area.

It was created by former Huntersville Town Commissioner Charles Guignard, shortly after the death of two high school students, who perished in a tragic auto accident in 1995.  To date, the organization has provided 152 scholarships to local high school students raising a little over $500,000. Angels of ’97 now offers a ministry group to console families who have lost children.  They hold monthly meetings for family members to share, reflect, and support one another.

Charles Guignard, founder of Angels of ’97, receives the Duke Energy Citizenship and Service Award. Pictured are Chamber President Bill Russell, Chamber Board Chair Wendy Moran, Charles Guignard, NC House Speaker Thom Tillis, and Tim Gause.  Photo courtesy of Deborah Young Studio.

Charles Guignard, founder of Angels of ’97, receives the Duke Energy Citizenship and Service Award. Pictured are Chamber President Bill Russell, Chamber Board Chair Wendy Moran, Charles Guignard, NC House Speaker Thom Tillis, and Tim Gause. Photo courtesy of Deborah Young Studio.

Like the angels they honor, these volunteers serve up spaghetti dinners for scholarships. They care for those who need comfort and consolation, lending a helping hand when times are tough. However, you will not recognize them by the wings on their back but by the smiles on their face and the love in their hearts. They are all God’s gift and a reminder, as a community – our Lake Norman community, we are never truly alone.

Bill Russell

Bill Russell is the president and CEO of the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce with approximately 1,000 business members serving the Cornelius, Davidson, Huntersville, and greater Lake Norman region

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January 28, 2014 Posted by | Chamber of Commerce | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Created to bring energy to the region – Lake Norman has powered a community

SailboatThis summer, celebrations are ongoing designating the fifty-year history of Lake Norman.  The first ground breaking for Lake Norman took place in 1959. It took four years to complete the Cowan’s Ford Dam and another two years to fill the lake.  But the story of Lake Norman actually began much earlier with the Native Americans.

     The Catawba Indians were the first to settle in our region. They referred to the Catawba River as “The Great River.” Years later, when early European settlers moved to the area, they brought diseases to which the native Indians had no resistance. These diseases nearly wiped out the entire Catawba Tribe. Once numbering 5,000, the Catawbas soon dwindled to less than 400 people. Later, early Colonists slowed the advance of General Cornwallis on grounds surrounding Cowan’s Ford, laying the foundation for later victories that helped gained America her victory from the British Crown.

     In the early 1890’s, the world’s largest hydroelectric plant began transmitting power from Niagara Falls to nearby Buffalo, NY. Local tobacco magnate James B. Duke and his brother Ben took note that electric power could be the key to their future if they could only harness the power of the Catawba River so they began to buy up land along the Catawba River basin. 

     About that time, the Duke brothers were introduced to Dr. W. Gill Wylie and a young engineer named William Lee.  Wylie and the Duke brothers came together to form the Catawba Power Company.  One can only imagine the excitement as Wylie, Lee, and the Dukes planned to bring electric power to our region.  Huddled around the table in their board room, could they have possibly envisioned what their collective dream would mean to the lake communities we know today?

     The creation of Lake Norman was not without sacrifice as homes, farms, and entire towns would be flooded to make way for the lake.  The Village of Long Island, once a thriving textile town with three mills, would end up under water as would countless other businesses and structures including the old Hwy 150 bridge.

     In 1957, Bill Lee (the son of William S. Lee) began the feasibility study for what would become Duke Energy Company’s final dam on the Catawba River.  This dam would create the largest lake in the Carolinas – our Lake Norman.

     Now, more than a hundred years later, entrepreneurs are still huddled around tables planning their future.  Some with just a dream and a Visa card as they discuss creating a new business. And like their counterparts of a hundred years ago, sacrifices must inevitably be made along the way.

     Corporations are moving to the lake.  Our proximity to Charlotte, transportation infrastructure, and skilled workforce make the area a great place to do business. But make no mistake – it’s the lake that lures them here.  Lake Norman is not just a majestic body of water – it’s a lifestyle like no other.Horizon

     The lake is more than 520 miles of shoreline covering 32,500 acres.  It is the spirit of the Catawba Indians who settled here first and who recognized then, that God had already been here.  It’s the colonial settlers who stood up to tyranny providing “a hornet’s nest” of rebellion.  It’s the dreams that spoke boldly of intentions and the actions which were bigger than the dreams.

     What began as a vision to power a business has become an energy that surges through time, touching lives, and leaving a legacy of leadership.  Lake Norman was created to bring energy to the Charlotte region and. fifty years later, its wake has powered a community.    

 

W.E. “Bill” Russell, CCE IOM

 

Bill Russell is the President & CEO of the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce with 950 business members serving the Cornelius, Davidson, Huntersville, and greater Lake Norman region. For more information on the history of Lake Norman, check out Lake Norman Reflections by Bill and Diana Gleasner.

 

 

July 11, 2013 Posted by | Chamber of Commerce, Lake Norman / North Mecklenburg History | , , , , , , | Leave a comment