Russell’s Ramblings

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

Behavioral Health Hospital in Davidson is a great decision for the Lake Norman region

The below editorial was distributed and has appeared in much of the Lake Norman media.  It is reprinted here in my blog:

Mary Beth Kuzmanovich speaks about the new hospital planned for Davidson

News last week at a press conference held at the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce that Carolinas HealthCare System plans to build a 66-bed behavioral health hospital in Davidson was welcomed.  While it could be argued the former site in Huntersville was appropriate given the dramatic increase in the population of that area, the new site, with its easy access to both I-77 and I-85, may prove to be more accessible for our region.

The Chamber was given the unique opportunity last week, not only to host the announcement, but to comment on the facility itself.  The economic impact of this decision is considerable as the total investment of Carolinas HealthCare is estimated at $36 million and will provide 155 well-paying jobs, many of which will be filled from the local employment market.

In addition, the campus itself will serve as an incubator to other ancillary businesses, which will gravitate to that site supplying more economic activity — and with it … jobs!

While there is no question the medical facility will be a significant economic catalyst for Davidson, it provides a critical healthcare need that we lack at the present time.  The loss this year of a high school principal and two young students, and more recently the tragic news regarding a former north Mecklenburg elected official and community activist, who all lost their battle with conditions such a facility may have helped relieve, underscore how much of a need this is.

One in four families hasa member who deals with depression, anxiety, a bi-polar disorder or some other behavioral health issue.  It could be the good-natured fellow that dresses up as Santa for his community and entertains legions of kids at Christmas.  Perhaps, it might be the secretary down the street, or even a child at school.

Behavioral health hospital site in Davidson

The heartfelt and painful admission by a young teenager recently in The Lake Norman Citizen that she herself struggled with depression and tried to take her own life is evidence that depression and behavioral health issues are not confined to any gender, race or age.  Its victims come from all economic and social walks of life.

Without proper diagnosis and treatment, this thief silently changes its victim’s outlook on life and their perspective on the riches of living, leaving in its wake, tragedy and despair for loved ones and friends, many of whom “never saw it coming.”

The Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce would like to thank Carolinas HealthCare System for pursuing this critical healthcare need despite recent setbacks on prior zoning decisions in Huntersville.  We would also like to convey our sincere appreciation to Davidson Mayor John Woods and the entire Davidson Town Board for stepping in and embracing this facility.

Bill Russell speaking on behalf of the Lake Norman Chamber

Mayor Woods, a banker by trade, understands this healthcare facility will be a significant investment for his town and our region, which will pay huge dividends in the future.  It will serve as a catalyst for economic growth and vitality for his community supplying employment and ancillary businesses that will be attracted to the site.

But more importantly, it will provide a critical healthcare need that is sorely lacking in the Lake Norman-north Charlotte market.  It also sends a strong and profound message to the thousands of residents, family members, friends, colleagues, and kids who suffer from some type of behavioral health issue, that from this day forward help is on its way.

Bill Russell

Bill Russell is the president and chief executive officer of the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce with more than 900 business members in the Cornelius, Davidson, Huntersville and greater Lake Norman region.


May 17, 2012 Posted by | Chamber of Commerce, Social Causes | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lake Norman Chamber Reacts to Mayor’s Task Force

This past Friday, a press release announced the formation of a “Mayor’s Task Force on Travel & Tourism” appointed by the three North Mecklenburg Mayors, without the knowledge or notice to Visit Lake Norman, the experts charged with the promotion and marketing of the Lake Norman region since 2001. Media reports from Business Today and articles in the upcoming editions of the papers will likely detail the concerns from the multiple stakeholders in the hospitality industry and business leaders much better than I can.

I must admit many of us representing your chamber of commerce were surprised at the formation of any task force which would make “recommendations for a more focused vision for our small business, destination and tourism entities” stated in the release, without any representation from the Lake Norman Chamber or the leadership of Visit Lake Norman. However, the more troubling aspect of this was the lack of any hotel representation in this task force.

Perhaps there is no greater stakeholder in travel and tourism than our hotels whose properties generate the revenues and subsequently the accommodation taxes and are the real experts when it comes to how best to attract visitors and tourists to our region. While we can debate goals, objectives, mission statements, and priorities, ultimately what is at stake here is how we should best allocate the use of hospitality taxes.

So why is this all important to Lake Norman Chamber members?

According to the Annual Report by Visit Lake Norman, events recruited by their organization in 2009 – 2010 brought $11,987,300 in visitors spending (a 59% increase from the previous year). That visitors spending in Mecklenburg County saved each household in Cornelius, Davidson, and Huntersville $304 in taxes last year that would otherwise have been passed on through property taxes.

The bottom line is that for every $1 invested in Visit Lake Norman by the towns, $24.26 was generated back to our local economy!


So what is the hospitality tax anyway and how can it be spent? There are several taxes: the sales tax we are all accustomed to, the accommodation tax 6% levied on the hotel rooms and the 1% prepared meals tax. In 1983, legislation was created which levied, at that time, a 3% tax on the gross receipts of hotel rooms (later amended an additional 3% in 1989). It was stated in this legislation that these funds would “be allocated for activities and programs aiding and encouraging convention and visitor promotion.” Section 8C of that bill went on to say the remaining money, after a dedicated portion (50%), could be spent for “acquiring, constructing, financing, maintaining, and operating convention centers, civic centers, performing arts centers, coliseums, auditoriums, and museums, and for visitor related programs and activities including cultural programs, events, or festivals.”

In essence, this was a tax that the hospitality industry at the time supported, having imposed on itself the task to create visitor’s spending. Much like Senate Bill 647 in 1990 when the restaurants agreed to a 1% prepared meals tax for the same use. In 2001, the Lake Norman Chamber led the charge for House Bill 715 which returned a share of the prepared food tax to the North Mecklenburg towns (previously all of it went to Charlotte) with the agreement we would create a tourism authority known today as Visit Lake Norman and formerly known as the Lake Norman Convention & Visitors Bureau. That agreement in 2001 allowed for a 50% investment of accommodations taxes and a 25% share of the prepared meals taxes to promote and create events resulting in increased visitors spending for hotels, restaurants, and local businesses!

Today, the North Mecklenburg town’s investment to Visit Lake Norman has been decreased steadily over time by the town boards to $428,145 or 28% of the accommodation tax and none of the prepared meals tax, which is thought to be well over $1 million dollars. It was $615,243 in 1999. The North Mecklenburg towns take in $1.6 million in accommodations taxes, leaving them collectively with $1.1 million or 72% to spend in ways which may or may not create room night stays.

The events created by Visit Lake Norman, whether a soccer or softball tournament or a fishing tournament on the lake bring in significant dollars as families and guests stay in our hotels, eat at our restaurants, fill up at the gas station, shop in our stores, etc.

While health care and the financial investment companies are strong economic generators in North Mecklenburg, they are largely so because of our proximity to Charlotte and being the second largest financial district in the country. However, we have two home grown industries that fuel our lake economy: the commercial and residential real estate market and the hospitality industry.

We all know when building and real estate have a downturn, we all feel it in the pocketbook. The same can be said with our hospitality industry – hotels, restaurants, attractions, marinas, boat dealerships, etc. When Visit Lake Norman has a tournament in town – our business community positively feels it!

Ironically, next week the Chamber will host a luncheon on Thursday, February 17 at Northstone Country Club in Huntersville on the Direct Effect of Visitors Spending on Local Citizens and Businesses.” Featured at the luncheon is Lynn Minges, the Assistant Secretary of Tourism, Marketing and Branding for the North Carolina Department of Commerce; Mike Butts the Executive Director of Visit Charlotte; and Sally Ashworth the Executive Director of Visit Lake Norman. To register for the event click here.

While the statesman Edmund Burke was much stronger in his language, to paraphrase him, “All that is necessary for the triumph of our misfortune… is that good people do nothing.’That is not the case here, as the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce will continue to support our hotels, restaurants, attractions, hospitality partners and our local business members!  

February 11, 2011 Posted by | Chamber of Commerce | , , , , | Leave a comment