Russell’s Ramblings

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

Driving Home Your Point

Garden

Granddaddy Russell in his garden

Yesterday on a Face Book Page called I77 Animal House, I was taken to task by an anonymous poster who said my constant criticism of Governor Pat McCrory and his reluctance to cancel the I77 Cintra Contract was in a word “Disrespectful.” While it is true the Governor can, with a stroke of the pen, cancel this very bad deal, he has been steadfast in his refusal to listen to the Lake Norman Town Boards, State Legislative Officials, and more importantly the voters who sent him to Raleigh in the first place.

While our chamber of commerce and business leaders have made the case why this is bad for business, now the NC Justice Department is investigating the company who was awarded the contract by NCDOT.

I have served the Lake Norman Chamber as its executive for twenty years with the primary objective of leaving this community and region better than I found it. Unfortunately the Chamber’s earlier support of this P3 Project, and my very real insistence we had to go along with this bad plan, was a mistake. Settling for the lessor of two bad deals still leaves you with a bad deal.

One wonders whether the anonymous poster is just caught up in partisanship and will go to any lengths to toe the party line or was she one of the former elected or community leaders who pushed this project through and now cringes at the notion she too may have to admit a grave mistake.

Ironically, in deriding me for my position she said in her post, “Your granddaddy would be proud.”

Anyone who has followed my career knows I like to write and many of those stories and articles have included stories about my Grandfather Russell who lost his battle with Alzheimer’s more than a decade ago.

I loved working in the garden with granddaddy. From the time I was a little boy, he had me digging post holes and then chogging the dirt.  No matter how deep I dug those holes, he always insisted just a little deeper.

A few weeks ago, I was visiting my father down at the farm, watching the cows that would graze close to our white picket fence. We had to tear down the fence that granddaddy built and replace it with a plastic version that can better withstand the elements.  But looking at the fence, I couldn’t help but recall one Saturday afternoon I was helping granddaddy repair the old one.

As we toiled that hot afternoon making repairs, I shared with my grandfather problems I was having managing the staff of an office furniture company. We had all agreed on sales goals and for a while things ran smoothly.  But after a few months, our sales staff settled back into old routines and performance declined.

After listening to me vent, granddaddy stopped his hammering, took off his old work gloves, and wiped the sweat from his brow. He looked at me for a second, gathering his thoughts, before he asked me to take a nail and strike it on the head as hard as I could into a board.

I did as he asked.  He then asked me to take the claw of the hammer and pull the nail out. Once again, I did as he directed, finding it a fairly easy task as the nail was driven in just so far.

Granddaddy then asked me to take a new nail and drive it repeatedly into the board until the head was flush with the board. Upon completing the task he asked me to remove that nail as I had the other.

I could not.  The nail was flush with the board and there was no leverage to remove the nail. My grandfather in his wisdom explained just as I drove that nail in repeatedly, you sometime have to drive your point home with colleagues, staff… and sometimes a stubborn Governor.

Some might call it disrespectful to question the foolishness of a fifty year bad deal.  People can certainly draw their own conclusions.  I prefer to look at it as fulfilling a promise I made to the businesses and citizens of Lake Norman. I will do everything I can in the time I have left at this chamber of commerce to leave my community and region a better place than I found it.

And to that end, I will on every occasion I have, drive home the point – Toll Lanes at Lake Norman are bad for our citizens, bad for our communities, and bad for business.

Would Granddaddy Russell be proud? He didn’t quit until the job was done and neither will I.

Bill Russell

Advertisements

February 2, 2016 Posted by | Leadership Lessons, Politics, Uncategorized | , , , , , | 3 Comments

The voice which will not be silenced

Russell thoughts 1On January 2, 1996, I was hired as President of the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce, then known as the North Mecklenburg Chamber.  The Chamber at the time was working aggressively to bring a new High School to the area.  Our region was seeing dramatic growth, yet the schools were overcrowded and the CMS leadership in Charlotte relied on bussing North Mecklenburg children to schools in Charlotte as the answer.

While local elected officials and business leaders lobbied our School Board, the real change came about because parents and citizens said enough is enough. A successful lawsuit brought by local parents challenged the status quo and Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools were forced through the courts to stop using kids as pawns in their student assignment policies.

The North Mecklenburg Education Committee, Chamber of Commerce, FUME, and Town elected leadership worked together to bring new schools to North Meck. There are several significant individuals who played a key role from the county commissioners and school board representatives of District #1 to the parents and citizens who simply stood up to the bad policies impacting our children.

It’s funny how in twenty years some things have changed and some things have not. Once again, we see North Mecklenburg getting short changed – this time in the form of transportation improvements. Our elected leadership in Charlotte still holds the trump cards in a high stakes game which has dire consequences for the quality of life and commerce at the lake for the next 50 years.

Only…it is no game.  This nightmare is for real and the stakes are the legacy we leave for the generations to come.

Just as parents took the lead in an education lawsuit almost two decades ago, local citizens have banded together to stop the HOT lanes.  Widen I77 has a court date set for January 8th as they contest NCDOT’s contract with the Spanish firm Cintra.  Just over $100,000 has been raised by Widen I77 through fundraisers and local citizen contributions.I77 Traffic Jam

Running on a different path, the Charlotte Regional Transportation Planning Organization (CRTPO) will take up the issue again January 20th and could decide to ask NCDOT to cancel the contract with HOT lanes at the lake. Currently, the City of Charlotte controls 46% of the vote. There is a touch of irony that once again an individual, who does not reside in North Mecklenburg, could decide the future of a region for decades to come.

All that said, just as it was almost two decades ago when I arrived at the chamber, it will not be the influential “Power Players” that wakes the lake and with it…the state.

It will not be a Governor, Senator, State Legislator, or town board who stops the madness.  It will be the grassroots.  The mom who takes to the road everyday with her kids, the store owner trying to carve out a living, the young person just out of college, citizens, and parents – just everyday people who have been pushed way too far.

It will be one voice amplified thousands of times in a voice too loud to be silenced. A voice which will not be ignored until the will of the people prevail over the power of the few. And a voice which grows, louder, and louder, and louder each day.

But make no mistake, what started as a ripple in the waters of a lake will wash across this state, leaving change in its wake.

Bill Russell

January 4, 2016 Posted by | Chamber of Commerce, Transportation & Road Improvement, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

A regional approach to business

Southwire Grand Opening

Southwire Grand Opening

A few weeks ago, community and business leaders welcomed Southwire, North America’s largest cable producer to Lake Norman when they purchased ABB located in Huntersville.  Southwire acquired the 240,000 square-foot, 3-year-old plant which features state-of-the-art technology for producing high-voltage underground transmission cables. The company plans to add another 20 employees to the 65-member staff at the facility within the next two years.

While I have toured the plant on a couple of occasions, I enjoyed another trip around the facility marveling at the advanced technology required to produce the high voltage cable. A real treat is gazing out of an observation window at the top of the 430’ tower onto the Lake Norman landscape with the Charlotte skyljne in the horizon.

A number of Chamber Board members, both past and present, attended the announcement and we talked about the seed that was planted more than a decade ago.  At a Chamber Board retreat in 1999, we discussed the need to create both a travel and tourism and economic development organization that could bring events and jobs to the region.

As more in-depth discussion ensued, we realized partnering with the three North Mecklenburg towns was the best opportunity to bring the vision to reality. Shortly thereafter, Visit Lake Norman was created followed by the Lake Norman Economic Development Corporation.  The Chamber commissioned a land use study in 2002 with Leake Goforth which detailed potential locations for commercial, industrial, and retail tracts allowing our towns to diversify the tax base and bring primary jobs to the region.

Charlotte skyline from Southwire

Charlotte skyline from the 430′ Southwire tower

It was not the first time the chamber collaborated with the towns in such a manner. In early 1997, chamber leaders pushed NC DOT for an access management study to widen NC Hwy 73 from Lincoln County to Concord. Such a study over three counties and several municipalities had never been undertaken before and were initially dismissed by DOT.

However, the three chambers of commerce – Cabarrus, Lincoln County, and Lake Norman – worked together with our towns to create what is known today as the NC Hwy 73 Council of Planning with the end result to widen and improve Hwy 73. It is an example of a Public-Private Partnership that is working for our region.

This month at our October 16th Focus Friday, we will look back on the formation of the Hwy 73 COP and discuss planned developments and improvements for the corridor.

The poet John Greenleaf Whittier once wrote, “For all the sad words of tongue and pen, the saddest are these: It might have been.”

Our region faces great challenges and with it awesome possibilities.  When the story of tomorrow is written, it will not be what could have been, but what we accomplished by working hard, working smart, and working together.

September 30, 2015 Posted by | Chamber of Commerce | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Thoughts from a cluttered desk – What direction are we headed?

What direction are we headed?

AliceIn Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, there is an exchange between Alice and the Cheshire Cat:

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.
“I don’t much care where–” said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat
“–so long as I get somewhere” Alice added as an explanation.
“Oh, you’re sure to do that,” said the Cat, “if you only walk long enough.”

I’m sure many of us feel like Alice.  Stuck in the congestion of I-77, if we wait long enough, we’ll get to our destination. The promise of express lanes to expedite our travel seemed like a solution months ago given the option of HOT lanes or no widening of I-77 at all. The leaders of the chamber of commerce felt the former option was the only option.

There are times looking back on this issue, I feel like our elected leaders…and yes…the business leaders too, including me, struggled with the right road to our funding. How do you get “there” when you don’t know where “there” is?

As I write this, the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce has joined other business and citizen voices in calling for the cancellation of the contract between NCDOT and I-77 Mobility Partners. It is an action on our part brought about by the groundswell of residents, small business owners and chamber of commerce members who saw the direction we were headed and said that is not the direction we need to go.

The Lake Norman area is unique. The Interstate which runs through the heart of our lake communities, yet is the common bond uniting our region, makes us different than other cities and towns in North Carolina.  I-77 is a local road.  It is how we get from one community to the next.  We may live in Huntersville, work in Cornelius, go to church in Davidson, and shop in Mooresville – but for many of us, we use I-77 to get there.I77 express lanes

Tolling and Public – Private Partnerships may well be the means to fund road improvement projects in other areas of the state.  That said, it’s not the best option for Lake Norman.

It doesn’t take a Cheshire Cat to figure out that not any old road will do. The path we were headed down was the wrong road. It was bad for the citizens living here.  It was bad for business. More importantly, it was bad for the legacy we leave to our children –  those who will inherit the results of our decisions today.

I sincerely hope we change the direction of this dialogue, and more importantly take a different direction in our actions. I’m not sure if we will be successful or not.  I simply know now, and I think I’ve always known, we have to try. We have a responsibility to the next generation of Lake Norman citizens and we dare not fail in our task.

W.E.  “Bill” Russell, CCE IOM

July 6, 2015 Posted by | Chamber of Commerce | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Proposed Superstreet for Cornelius (NC) May Not Be Such A Super Idea”

Russell thoughts 1“Left turns are bad!” That is the foundation of the “Superstreet” concept which the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) has recommended for Cornelius between Jetton Road and Sam Furr Road. With a Superstreet design, instead of waiting for oncoming traffic to clear to make a left, or using a traditional traffic signals, all vehicles are re-routed to dedicated left lanes. These vehicles then make U-turns at a designated distance and circle back to reach a planned destination.

I am convinced that it is not a street that makes a town or a region super. But rather, it is the people and the businesses who bring life and passion to that community that make it so.

For over 10 years, town staff, elected officials, citizens, and local business leaders have examined transportation plans for West Catawba Avenue. The Superstreet design was first suggested to the town by NCDOT when the first part of this road was widened in 2005. At that time, Cornelius town officials and the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce lobbied NCDOT for a hybrid version of the Superstreet design. We insisted on adding traditional intersections with left hand turns to foster economic and business vitality. Over the recommendations of NCDOT, more left turn lanes were also added (five in total).

During the last few months, the town has encouraged the businesses and residents of our community to weigh in on the most recent Superstreet recommendation by the NCDOT. Planning sessions have examined drawings and computer simulations showing how the Superstreet concept would work. There seems to be no doubt that the recommended Superstreet design can move greater volumes of traffic more efficiently, safely, and quickly through Cornelius.

That said, I am not convinced this traffic pattern is in the best interest of our community. Recently Commissioner Jim Duke pointed out that the Superstreet design does not fit the character of Cornelius. Others have suggested that the section of West Catawba Avenue, from Jetton Road to Sam Furr Road, does not yet have a distinct character. It is important to consider that what exists today is not what will be there tomorrow. Business and residential development continues to evolve and there is so much potential for the future.superstreet

While Hwy 115 serves as a main street for Cornelius and Davidson, West Catawba Avenue is “Main Street Lake Norman.”  It is the main artery pulsating through the heart of the Lake Norman region.  Just as Cornelius town and business leaders fought for the consensus and compromise a decade ago to protect the economic vitality of West Catawba Avenue during its initial expansion, it is imperative for the future of Cornelius and the Lake Norman region that we do so again today.

You cannot load character into a computer simulation. It cannot be drawn into a blueprint, nor does it show up in traffic counts. But you can see it in the faces and feel it in the hearts of the people who live and work here.  It’s what makes our lake towns more than super and the reason we call Lake Norman home.

W.E.” Bill” Russell, CCE IOM

President and CEO

Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce

June 26, 2015 Posted by | Chamber of Commerce | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Working a Trade Show – Best Practices for the Lake Norman Chamber Business Expo

my alohaEach year the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce hosts an exhibitors orientation for our local businesses participating in the Lake Norman Business Expo.  It is usually held a few weeks before the show to review the 25 or so Most Frequently Asked Questions.  This year marked our 15th business trade show and over the years of attending ours, as well as other regional shows in Charlotte, Cabarrus, and Mooresville I have see some quite interesting booths. Here are some tips I have compiled for our local exhibitors as they look to get the most out of their trade show experience.

  • First, always get the right look for your booth. Each year we present awards for the Most Professional, Most Creative, and Best of Show.  We’ve had hotels bring out furniture to create the bedroom feel. While certainly creative, it was also a lot of work moving furniture around and with an 8’ x 10” space you are limited.  Remember, those with electricity only have 5 amps of power at the Lake Norman Expo… so NO POPCORN POPPERS.  But if you have electrical power, you can give video demonstrations on your laptops or tablets.  Attendees are drawn to colorful booths.  Pop up displays as a backdrop, banners and signage are important.  Make sure you have flyers, pamphlets, and reading material about your business to give away.
  • Perhaps the most important thing is staff your booth with people who are trained and experienced to answer questions and address the public. Too often I see people sitting in the back of the booth, texting or talking on the phone. Make sure the people you select to work your booth are invested in the success of your business.  Always have someone in the booth and never leave the booth unmanned. It’s always good to have multiple people in the booth so someone can walk around to the other booths and then come back and relieve their partner.
  • Be different – do something that draws people in – dress in a costume, have a model, celebrity, magician, or mascot in costume they draws people’s attention. Some host games with prizes – putting green, spinning wheel, guessing how many coins, buttons, or marbles are in a jar.
  • Offer Business Expo specials – give them coupons for stopping by the booth. It can be redeemed in the next 30,60, or 90 days for stopping by your booth.Executive Women
  • Some booths offer snacks, candy, water. If you do have a goody – make sure it’s properly wrapped. Hard candy and chocolates are always handy!
  • The Chamber will extensively advertise the show through the papers, billboards, and MI-Connection. However, you should use your social media to get the word out. Use Face Book, Twitter, LinkeIn, Pinterest, and the other social media platforms to let people know about the event and your booth location along with any specials.  Encourage folks to take part in the show!
  • Giveaways: I’m always asked what’s the best give aways? One of the most unique was a few years ago The Range at Lake Norman had little flash drives in the shape of a small firearm and a local funeral home had chocolate covered caskets – very clever!!! Pens, bags, USB or thumb drives are always handy as are snack clips, notepads, post its.  Remember, its all about impressions. Will the attendee use your item once or over and over again?

So. Let’s sum it up – create a checklist of what to bring to the expo.  Make sure you have the right people in place. They should be well trained with a consistent message about your brand and service or product. Make sure they are dressed appropriately for the event – what kind of image do you want to present? Create a booth schedule so others can help you not only man the booth but give you time to enjoy the show and meet the other exhibitors present.  Make your booth stand out but be cognizant not to overdo it.  You don’t want to make dozens of trip back to the car loading in and out.  Keep it effective but simple.

Think about giveaways and make sure you have business cards and literature to hand out about your business.

All that brings me to perhaps the most critical piece – the follow up!  You must have a way to capture information about those who show a genuine interest in your product or service.  Have them register for a prize you can give away by dropping a business card or a card you give them  Remember, the primary reason you are there is to generate leads.  This should be stressed when you train your staff. Consider hand writing notes to people who stopped by your booth and seemed interested.

Getting a hand written notecard says volumes and is much more effective than an email.  The personal touch will go a long way to building a business or customer relationship.  Keep in mind, waiting a week after the event is too late.  Reach out while the event and contact is still fresh in their mind.

Above all – have fun!  The Lake Norman Business Expo is a great place to both renew and nurture existing relations and create new ones.  We’re excited to have another opportunity to showcase the Best of the Best in business at the lake.  The Lake Norman Expo is our version of Show and Tell.  Make this trade show – Your Show and I’ll see you at the Business Expo!

June 26, 2015 Posted by | Chamber of Commerce | , , , , , | 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

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!

August 2, 2012 Posted by | Chamber of Commerce | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Leadership Experience – Leadership Lake Norman

ImageThe poet Archibald MacLeish once said, “There’s only one thing more painful than learning from experience, and that’s not learning from experience.”  How many times have we seen people who have made mistakes in the past, turn around and make the same ones again.

This past month, the Chamber graduated one of its largest Leadership Lake Norman classes.  Created in 1996, with the first class in 1997, Scott Lawrence and his Board saw the need to create and nurture future community, elected, and business leaders of our region.  The program was developed to expose these individuals to the resource agencies, history, and community infrastructure of our communities, county, and state.  The program has seen graduates emerge as town elected officials, a North Carolina State House representative, Civic Club presidents (Rotary and Kiwanis), and Chamber Board Chairs as well as members of the Board of Directors.  Several of our key town staff including two town managers, assistant mangers, police chiefs, parks and recreation, and planning staff  have graduated.  Not to mention the many business leaders in both corporate and small business.

If Leadership Lake Norman focuses on one thing, it is to learn from your experiences.  Those experiences begin with the team building exercises, continue with the sessions, and culminate in graduation.  Those who make it a practice to reflect on personal experience, evaluate those experiences, and learn from them, distinguishes those who lead and those who will follow.   It reminds me of the parable of the fox, the wolf, and the bear.  One day they all went hunting together, and after each caught a deer, they discussed how they would divide their spoils.

The bear asked the wolf how he thought it should be done.  The wolf said everyone should get one deer.  Suddenly the bear ate the wolf.  Then the bear turned to the fox and asked him how he proposed to divide the rewards.  The wise fox offered the bear his deer and said the bear should also take both his own and the wolf’s deer as well.

“Where did you get such wisdom?” asked the bear.  “From the wolf,” replied the fox.

After facilitating fifteen leadership classes there are a few take aways that I have:  First, an effective leadership class has members who complement each other and leaders always emerge in every group.   At every leadership retreat a leader will appear, sometimes several, with a couple of common characteristics: they know exactly where they are going and they persuade others to follow.

Image

Children from Ramah Christian Classical School make a presentation at Leadership Lake Norman.

A great leader earns your trust and inspires confidence in their followers  It’s been said, a good leader inspires their followers to have confidence in them.  But an outstanding leader inspires their followers to have confidence in themselves.   At this past graduation, a friend attending a later reception of current and past graduates noted the enthusiasm and chemistry of the class members. This particular person, a chamber member themselves remarked, “it must make you feel really proud.”

Yes it does, …intensely.  Knowing that in 1997 a group of people developed a program based on a vision of the community we could become – and in the process – 287 people have participated and today each play a vital role in leading our communities and its businesses.  Yes, I’m very proud!

Download the Leadership Lake Norman application from the Chamber’s website.

July 9, 2012 Posted by | Chamber of Commerce, Leadership Lessons | , , , , | Leave a comment

The Lesson of Unintended Consequences – Mecklenburg County’s Revaluation

 

Bill Russell, Sr. and Jill tending the cows on the farm

As many of you may know, my family has a farm in Rock Hill, SC where we still raise livestock and horses where they graze in the green pasture and each spring we plant a vegetable garden.  Year after year, generation after generation, we have continued that tradition since our family first settled there in the 1760’s.

Last year, my dad brought to my attention a blight which we seemed to have on our tomato plants.  We also had a pitiful, if not nonexistent, harvest of corn, beans, cantaloupes, and other assortment of goodies.     I wrote it off to bad weather – lack of rain – and perhaps some type of fungus. However, imagine my surprise when dad said again this year our plants are showing signs of disease as the leaves are withering up already.  Last year  the plants did not die – they simply did not yield and those that did looked malformed.

Dad took the soil down to the local Clemson Extension Agricultural office where they determined the manure that dad used to fertilize the soil from our livestock had a concentration of pesticide which came from the hay ingested by the cows and horses.  The pesticide used to kill the yellow weed had no harmful effects to the grass or to the livestock.  However, while not killing the plant outright, it had devastating effects on the growth and maturation of the plants and its produce.

Dad planting this year’s tomatoes

So what does manure and County Government have to do with each other?  Many of our businesses are just now aware that the revaluation, which property owners have been concerned about for months, are being passed on to many tenants in the form of CAM (Common Area Maintenance Charges) which typically are composed of insurance, janitorial, landscaping, and property taxes to name just a few.

Many of our smaller businesses including retail and key man offices are unprepared for the hefty hikes in CAM charges and are now having to figure these increases into the bottom line.  While all of our businesses and residents in Mecklenburg County have a fiduciary responsibility to pay taxes for municipal and county services including education, health and human services, transportation, and safety – these taxes should be fair and justifiable.

Data collected by the chamber of commerce indicates examples where the county’s assessment and independent evaluations are significantly different.  While the county government may be operating in compliance with rules, procedures, and an approved process which govern evaluations of residential and commercial properties, the system itself many argue is flawed and needs to be evaluated by an outside and independent review or audit.

In essence, commercial property owners and tenants are facing hardships which threaten their economic viability forcing some to make cuts in employment or in some cases close or move the business – an unintended consequence of the county’s actions.

The Chamber of Commerce will be encouraging our county officials to examine faults within the present system and correct them expeditiously.  If legislation is required in Raleigh that creates a fairer and equitable process, we will support that as well.

The good news for our family’s garden is that recognizing the problem and correcting it with nutrients we can neutralize the toxins, repair the damage to the soil and through hard work nurture a healthy crop in the future.

The lesson dad and I learned was we need to be careful just how much manure to use and be more careful what’s in it.  It’s a lesson we could all learn from whether a garden or a board room.

June 20, 2012 Posted by | Chamber of Commerce | , , , , , , | 1 Comment