Spotlight On: Gray Shell, Division President, TRI Pointe Homes

Spotlight On: Gray Shell, Division President, TRI Pointe Homes

By: Felipe Rivas

2 min read January 2020 — Creative product design and an increase in density are part of achieving a higher relative affordability for housing developer TRI Pointe Homes, according to Division President Gray Shell. The company also takes pride in achieving good, lasting business relationships with partners and providers to keep prices fair in an increasingly tight market, he said in an interview with Invest: Charlotte. 

How have you been able to secure land in the tight North Carolina market?

 

It really starts with people, with hiring the right land acquisition team to identify and underwrite the deals. Company strategy follows. TRI Pointe is a $3 billion public company. We build in seven states, but really, real estate is a local business. We have this concept called the best of big and small, meaning, we are a big, public company, we have access to the public debt markets, we have nearly a billion in liquidity to invest, but we really see the land strategy, the product design, the consumer segmentation as a local business. We have the flexibility to be creative and current with our product design and to be design-forward. That really resonates well with land sellers, developers and municipalities when we talk about our creativity on the product side. That is probably the largest single factor in our success in addition to people. Then, there is the process. You have to have the right process of identifying, underwriting and contracting land.

 

How is creativity applied to property development?

 

We start with a property, for example something near Uptown Charlotte. Here, it is about small acreage and a lot of density, and we want to create good relative affordability. So, we know what the property is, but we need to design the site plan and the product to maximize the use of that land.

 

We go through a product design process in which we identify the consumer. For example, are they millennials and if so, are they married or single, what is the household income? We’ll go through a three- day design process considering the customer’s wants and needs and, from scratch, draw a series of plans. By the end of those three days, we’ll have a good set of working drawings, with exterior elevations and renderings so we really understand the product. Most national builders would do that in nine months; we do it in a week.

 

What has been the impact of the millennial generation on the local market?

 

They do represent the single largest consumer group from a home buying perspective. But even if some people see millennials as one large group, there are really four or five different subsets, related to age, stage of life and income. The one thing all of them do want is relative affordability. It depends on whether they want an in-town, four-story product or a more suburban, traditional, residential two-story product, but you really have to decide what subsegment of that generation you are targeting.

 

The sort of amenities that we add to these developments has changed dramatically over the last five to 10 years. A lot of residential projects that were built 10 years ago had a big swimming pool, a large clubhouse, a golf course, but that has really transitioned and I can tell you, the No. 1 amenity today is walkability. Whether a community has a trail system, walkability to retail, entertainment and restaurants, that is the No. 1 amenity. When we get to suburban communities, there is still that want and need for younger families to have a swimming pool, but the scale is usually smaller.

 

How are you navigating the increase in construction costs in the area as you develop these communities?

 

It really starts with relationships. We partner with trade partners on the product design, on the value engineering, and they want to grow their business with ours. With that relationship, you might not get the best price, but you get a fair price and you get more advance notice of cost increases because you are partnering on it. It is also a tight labor market, the labor pool is short, but when you build a business relationship where they’d rather work for you, that is how you get the labor, and again, a fair price.

 

What other challenges for developers are arising in the Charlotte market?

 

Land availability has always been an issue. There is also the complexity regarding zoning, entitlements, and permit fees that continue to escalate so the cost of development becomes more expensive and affects affordability from a consumer standpoint. Those are the biggest problems. Every municipality is a little bit different and we have a dozen in the Charlotte market, so you have to really understand the municipality and partner with it to get the best result.

 

How can developers and local governments help to cover the affordable housing gap in the market?

 

I think that it requires flexibility from a product design standpoint, and creating good relative affordability. You get there by creating smaller, denser products, but it pushes yields up too. Some municipalities don’t like density, but I think getting more creative with density is the best approach over the next three to five years.

 

To learn more about our interviewee, visit: https://www.tripointehomes.com/

 

We’re making our mark on the industry by offering a strong benefits programs and great opportunities to build careers, a total rewards program to attract and retain the best talent: the unusual combination of offering both industry-leading 401(k) matches and a pension plan to most teammates; industry-leading time off programs to ensure maximum flexibility in planning life events; and financial wellness programs.

 

There is also a place for those interested in computer science and engineering. We are creating an Innovation and Technology Center in Charlotte that will be dedicated to the ongoing enrichment of client experiences. The Innovation and Technology Center will focus on optimizing technology to serve our clients at every interaction, whether it takes place in a branch, over the phone or through a digital channel. The Technology and Innovation Center will also focus on equipping teammates with solutions to deliver personal touch and care to clients. We see this combination of technology and personalization as vital to ensuring clients’ trust and confidence in the security, simplicity and convenience of our services.

 

To learn more about our interviewee, visit :https://www.truist.com/

Face Off: The growth of Gaston County

Face Off: The growth of Gaston County

By: Felipe Rivas

2 min read January 2020 — In the last few years, Gaston County, located an hour away from the Queen City, has greatly benefited from the activity happening in Mecklenburg County. As a result, Gaston County, home to cities like Gastonia and Mount Holly, is experiencing growth in its residential, commercial and industrial sectors. Its proximity to the Charlotte Douglas International Airport and available land make it a suitable place for businesses and new residents to settle in and still tap into the energy of nearby Charlotte. In an interview with Invest: Charlotte, city of Gastonia Mayor Walker E. Reid and Mount Holly Mayor Bryan Hough talk about how their perspective cities are adapting to the growth, changes in infrastructure, and their vision for their cities moving forward. 

 

What areas are witnessing growth in your cities?

 

Walker E. Reid: Residential is growing in the southeast part of the city. It is an area we invested in a while back in hopes of developing it. As we speak, 411 single-family homes are being built within Nolen Farm. Also, we are going to bolster the zone’s water infrastructure and improve the sewage system. Eastridge Mall is in the process of being revitalized as well. For this project, some investors are willing to inject between $100 million and $150 million. It will include apartments and an aquatic center. We are working on the details of traffic patterns in and out of the mall. We are also working with the Transportation Commission to get the Silverline light rail into Gaston County.

 

Bryan Hough: We are one of the closest cities to the Charlotte Douglas International Airport. Our proximity to the airport provides an opportunity for travelers and professionals to see Mount Holly and take an interest in the city. They’ll see that we have a small town atmosphere but can take advantage of a large place like Charlotte and the amenities they provide. The exposure the airport provides is good for job growth and opportunities for commercial growth. For 2020, we expect to see more investment coming to Mount Holly. We are going to see additional growth in both residential and commercial. We also plan to expand the greenway system. Our arts community has been blossoming and we expect it to continue to grow. 

Walker E. Reid

How is the local infrastructure dealing with the region’s growth?

 

Reid: The county was traditionally and primarily focused on the textile industry. When those businesses and jobs were lost, we had to adapt to find our next business niche, which turned out to be infrastructure. Now, we sell water to municipalities in Gaston County as well as in Clover, South Carolina. We also provide water, sewage and electricity services. The Gastonia Technology Park is a great testament to our diversification efforts. Businesses from all over the world have come to Gaston County to capitalize on this park. It has 24-hour uninterrupted power. We have a qualified workforce, training facilities and the infrastructure to assist new businesses looking to set up shop in Gastonia.

 

Hough: “Mount Holly, located in Gaston County, is home to 16,000 residents. In the past year, we have seen a lot of investor interest and development in Mount Holly. Investors in the manufacturing and distribution sectors are interested in development opportunities. We have a new hotel being built on the edge of our city, off of Interstate 85, which is connected to Charlotte, and is 10 minutes away from the Charlotte Douglas International Airport. Our economic development department created a strategic vision plan based on significant economic input that highlights the attributes of Mount Holly, and provides investment information for businesses that want to bring their operations to the area. We work with the Gaston County Economic Development Commission to attract and retain large commercial companies. We want to make investment information accessible to investors.  

Bryan Hough

As mayor, where do you see your city heading in the future?

 

Reid: We have set some very aggressive goals related to our infrastructure, healthy communities, good government, economic vitality, our community identity, and for the safety of our community. In the coming years, we will continue to build on our momentum of growth and entrepreneurship. We also must continue to bring everyone to the table because we are a diverse city. One other goal that I would like to see the city work toward is for more diversity and inclusion. I want to put more emphasis on getting our residents from different cultures and different age groups involved in our city’s future – to build a sense of belonging and bring everyone together. Let’s hear more and different voices. I want the city of Gastonia to become the best city we can possibly be. Considering we are between Charlotte and Atlanta, we have a lot to offer.

 

Hough: Quality of life has been a key focus for the city. We want to be connected to the Catawba River via a greenway system that we are developing. We will have around 9 miles of greenway development near the river and 200 acres have been preserved for eco-tourism, such as canoeing and kayaking. We will have a bridge near the Dutchman’s Creek greenway area that will help with development near the river. The greenway system will stretch from I-85 to Highway 16 once it is completed. Mount Holly is home to very active residents who like to swim, bike and kayak. We want to connect with nature, which is part of our logo. That is our niche in the Charlotte Metro Area.

To learn more about our interviewees, visit:

https://www.cityofgastonia.com/

https://www.mtholly.us/

Spotlight On: Heath Campbell, Metrolina Regional President Charlotte, Truist

Spotlight On: Heath Campbell, Metrolina Regional President Charlotte, Truist

By: Felipe Rivas

2 min read January 2020 — In December, the banking industry welcomed the nation’s sixth-largest commercial bank as the merger between BB&T and SunTrust was completed to create Truist Financial Corporation. The organization chose Charlotte as its headquarters to begin the new enterprise. The region’s banking legacy, strong financial service workforce and diversifying economy helped solidify Charlotte as Truist’s official headquarters. In an interview with Invest: Charlotte, Truist Metrolina Region President Heath Campbell talks about the factors that brought Truist to the region, the meshing of the BB&T and SunTrust cultures moving forward, and how Truist plans to tap into Charlotte’s financial services workforce.   

 

What factors led to the selection of Charlotte as the location for Truist’s headquarters?

 

BB&T has a great heritage in Winston-Salem in the same way that SunTrust does in Atlanta, however our leaders, in the true spirit of a merger of equals, selected a new city in which to base Truist.

 

Charlotte was a natural choice. Both BB&T and SunTrust had operations here, and it is one of the world’s top financial centers and an emerging fintech hub, with access to incubator and accelerator programs, data science and education programs. The area has the second-largest population of financial services professionals behind New York City. Charlotte also sees more than 33,000 newcomers each year, attracted by career opportunities, diverse living options and a favorable cost of living.

 

How will the cultures of BB&T and SunTrust mesh as Truist establishes itself in the market?

There are not a lot of mergers of equals because they are hard to pull off. The cultures of the organizations need to be compatible – and they were with BB&T and SunTrust. While we have different practices, we shared a very similar vision, mission and values. We took different strategic paths in how we went to market, but what we stood for was very similar. As Truist, we are doubling down on our community bank philosophy. We are building a client-centric business model. BB&T and SunTrust had complementary strengths. For instance, SunTrust built an investment banking platform that was unparalleled and BB&T had a strong legacy in community banking and insurance. We are combining those strengths to benefit the clients and communities we serve.           

  

How will Truist tap into Charlotte’s financial services workforce?

 

I’m particularly proud that when we announced this merger, we not only committed to being best in class for our clients, but recognized that our teammates are at the heart of great client experiences. Truist is a dynamic place to work, offering industry-leading benefits and opportunities for all sorts of professional positions, including insurance, investments, and core banking.

 

We’re making our mark on the industry by offering a strong benefits programs and great opportunities to build careers, a total rewards program to attract and retain the best talent: the unusual combination of offering both industry-leading 401(k) matches and a pension plan to most teammates; industry-leading time off programs to ensure maximum flexibility in planning life events; and financial wellness programs.

 

There is also a place for those interested in computer science and engineering. We are creating an Innovation and Technology Center in Charlotte that will be dedicated to the ongoing enrichment of client experiences. The Innovation and Technology Center will focus on optimizing technology to serve our clients at every interaction, whether it takes place in a branch, over the phone or through a digital channel. The Technology and Innovation Center will also focus on equipping teammates with solutions to deliver personal touch and care to clients. We see this combination of technology and personalization as vital to ensuring clients’ trust and confidence in the security, simplicity and convenience of our services.

 

To learn more about our interviewee, visit :https://www.truist.com/

Spotlight On: Douglas Smith, Charlotte Market Executive, First Bank

Spotlight On: Douglas Smith, Charlotte Market Executive, First Bank

By: Felipe Rivas

2 min read January 2020  — After its recent acquisition of Carolina Bank, regional North Carolina financial player First Bank wants to keep its focus on the smaller side of business finance. The bank is relying on a combination of market expertise and speedy response to cater to companies with revenues up to $100 million that could fall through the cracks of larger, national institutions, First Bank Charlotte Market Executive Douglas Smith told Invest: Charlotte 

 

 

What have been the main impact from the 2017 acquisition of Carolina Bank?

 

Carolina Bank was a $700-million to $750-million bank at the time of acquisition, so it was not insignificant from a balance sheet perspective. That operation has had a high impact. We had an opportunity to relocate some of our operations people from Troy, North Carolina, to Greensboro, which has had a positive economic impact there. Carolina Bank was dominant in real estate and we have been able to capitalize on its market share in Greensboro. We were also able to keep some very good bankers from the Carolina Bank team, and hired really good team members with experience in the Commercial and Industrial (C&I) business since the acquisition.

 

Which niche is First Bank trying to fill within the Charlotte market?

 

In 2017, there were five banks headquartered out of Charlotte and now there is one, Bank of America. The landscape has changed a lot. Most regional and national banks are swimming upstream from a client perspective. They are looking more for midmarket clients with half a billion dollars in revenue or higher. Our opportunity is with operating companies that have $5 million to $100 million in revenue. I think there is a void there, not just in banks but also regarding the expertise of bankers in that market. Other regional banks offer business banking or a smaller commercial focus, but I don’t think they have our background or our emphasis on commercial banking. We also have a lot of knowledge in commercial real estate and look for project opportunities ranging in size from $2 million to $25 million. 

 

As a community bank, we have the opportunity to be nimble and quick in our decision-making. We make sure that we have a credit partner in every metropolitan market and we always have a treasury management product officer in every major market, providing all the commercially-relevant pieces that you need to offer quick answers, go to market together and have quick engagement. If we get a full financial package on a prospect, we can have a term sheet in our prospect’s hands within two or three business days. We have heard stories that in the regional bank space, some banks can take four to five weeks to put a term sheet in the hands of a prospect. That speaks to a client.

 

Which financial services are most in demand by your clients?

 

Aside from commercial, the mortgage space is hot right now, given where interest rates are. For a while, we were slowing down on refinances but I think that even those people who refinanced two years ago now see that rates could have dropped to 1% or 1.5%, and they are back at play in the market. Acquisition activity is still decent, but the rates environment is definitely driving a lot of activity to the mortgage side. We have a Small Business Administration (SBA) division, which does very well for us from a fee income perspective.

 

The retail group has also done a great job. We hired a team within the last 18 months that is focused on the oversight of the retail function. Our First at Work product provides the employees of new commercial clients with benefits like free checking, free closing on loans, discounted prices and general financial wellness seminars for their employees. That has been a very meaningful deposit-gathering tool for us. 

 

What programs are you supporting at the community level to educate the public?

 

We focus on supporting anything regarding youth education. We try to help with math education, for example, and we put a great emphasis on kids in less developed suburbs of Charlotte who need financial assistance with school supplies. As kids get older, we also look for opportunities to help with financial literacy, making sure that high-school kids understand what a credit card is, what a checkbook is, and making sure to foster the right kinds of behaviors.

 

What is the near-term business outlook for the city and the bank?

 

I would like to believe that the lion’s share of the M&A activity in the community banking space is slowing down, just because there are fewer of our types of banks out there. Because there has been so much consolidation in the community banking space, the North Carolina commissioner of banking has been a little bit more generous with the issuance of charters, which offers opportunities for new capital groups to buy charters. As a result, I think we are again building up that base of true, smaller community banks that would be $100 million to $500 million in size, and the community needs that. 

 

To learn more about our interviewee, visit: https://localfirstbank.com/

 

Spotlight On: Douglas Smith, Charlotte Market Executive, First Bank

Local leaders optimistic amid Charlotte’s latest jobs ranking

By: Felipe Rivas

2 min read January 2020   — The Queen City closed out the decade as one of the hottest markets in the nation, especially in the southeast. Millennials, Fortune 500 companies, and even a new soccer team want to be fully established in Charlotte and tap into its growth. And while the region offers a robust, tech- and financial services-savvy workforce, and is steadily diversifying its economy, a new report puts Charlotte in the middle of the pack for best cities for jobs in 2020. However, local market leaders across industries say job opportunities will remain sustainable for 2020, especially in the technology, law, and real estate sectors.

 

A new report by WalletHub puts Charlotte at No. 104 on its ranking of “2020’s Best Cities for Jobs.” The personal finance website compared more than 180 U.S. cities across 31 indicators of job-market strength, such as employment growth and monthly average starting salary. Scottsdale, Arizona, took the top spot, and Detroit, Michigan, came in last at No. 182. Other major North Carolina metros received mixed reviews, with Raleigh cracking the Top 50 at No. 48, and Fayetteville listed before Detroit at No. 181. Though the report listed Charlotte as middle of the pack for jobs compared to other cities, the technology, law and real estate sectors will continue to provide opportunities for the region’s workforce, local leaders say.  

 

Charlotte is quickly becoming a tech town, as evidenced by the different tech-based companies that relocated to the region in the latter half of the last decade. “In the Charlotte market, the technology talent pool is growing at a rapid pace, largely driven by companies like Red Ventures, LendingTree, and AvidXchange,” JLL Market Director Chase Monroe told Invest: Charlotte. “There has been a need for high-tech talent. Locally, there has been investment in the school system to drive technological education.” Charlotte’s banking legacy, coupled with the fintech that is coming out of the banking system, is also fueling the technology sector and driving talent to the Queen City, Monroe said. “Those factors have allowed Charlotte to be a top recruiter for multiple tech-based opportunities across industries. Recruiting and retention of talent has been a huge factor in the Charlotte Metro Area.” 

 

Similarly, the legal sector has evolved with the growth of the city and has a positive outlook heading into the new decade. “I don’t see anything but good things for the legal profession here,” Poyner Spruill Partner Tate Ogburn told Invest: Charlotte. “Charlotte has grown for the two decades that I have lived here, and I don’t see that dramatically changing.” The legal needs of companies evolve with the economic diversification and growth of the region, which creates opportunities for legal professionals, he said. “It is still a place where people want to be and there are more opportunities with new and more sophisticated companies coming in for the legal sector to continue growing. There are a lot of opportunities in terms of new clients and people, and different types of work as well,” Ogburn said. 

 

Real estate and development provide investor confidence and opportunities for the workforce as Charlotte continues to grow. “I’ve been at this for 40 years and the real estate market in Charlotte is the strongest, most robust I’ve ever seen,” Northwood CEO Ned Curran told Invest: Charlotte. He highlighted the growth of the residential, industrial and commercial sectors. “Residential leads the way. It has not slowed like in other cities. Distribution and manufacturing continue to grow, and we have a unique distribution hub of state highways and rail networks associated with the airport. The office sector has trailed a little, but in recent years it has been catching up, which is a reflection of job growth,” he said. Curran expects the growth to continue during an election year and beyond while expressing confidence in the region and its economic diversification, which will allow the region to be better prepared in the event of an economic downturn, he said. “We will continue to grow across all sectors. We continue to diversify our economy, which only gives us greater strength. When there is a downturn in the economy, not everybody suffers. Some have disadvantages, some have advantages, but we are all components of an economic system and with our great diversity, we will be able to weather it better.”

 

To learn more about our interviewees, visit: 

https://wallethub.com/edu/best-cities-for-jobs/2173/#methodology

https://www.us.jll.com/en/locations/southeast/carolinas

https://www.poynerspruill.com/

https://www.northwoodoffice.com/

 

Spotlight On: Judy Wishnek, Commercial Market Executive, Truliant Federal Credit Union

Spotlight On: Judy Wishnek, Commercial Market Executive, Truliant Federal Credit Union

By: Felipe Rivas

2 min read January 2020Credit unions are growing at a fast pace across the country and in some cases rivaling banks, with their focus on long-term relationships with their members. North Carolina’s Truliant Federal Credit Union Commercial Market Executive Judy Wishnek says the credit union is well-capitalized and plans to continue to broaden its technology offerings to help it expand in the vibrant Charlotte commercial lending market. 

What is the state of business for banks and credit unions in the middle of the Charlotte boom?

 

Charlotte’s banking and credit unions have all had a great deal of growth, with a lot of people moving to the city. In the banking sector, many new names have entered the market, and credit unions specifically have had impressive growth. All credit unions combined now have about 115 million members nationwide. Truliant, specifically, has over 250,000 members. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal said that credit unions are now going toe to toe with other financial institutions, adding that credit unions’ asset growth is outpacing that of banks, and our industry is very well-capitalized. In Charlotte, Truliant has added nine locations in the last five years, to a total of 12 in the city. In the last year, we also added a commercial lending office.

 

What are the benefits of joining a credit union instead of putting yourself in the hands of a bank?

 

Credit unions are about deeper financial relationships. It is a very personalized type of service with high emphasis on guidance and helping members make the right decisions. We are not focused on the bottom line, because we are a not for profit. It is not a short-term strategy but a long-term strategy of working with our members to help improve their lives and their decision-making. In commercial lending, we have the opportunity to start telling our story and letting people know that we are a great source of financing for commercial real estate.

 

People are looking for lots of options and the ability to make decisions. It is nice that in Charlotte they can work with a credit union that is focused on really understanding their needs and helping them. We are investing in locations close to them, but we are also investing in technology so they have the option of having their financial needs met online or in person.

 

How is technology, such as the eClosings system for mortgages and credit, helping your clients and shaping your business?

 

Offering these efficient loan closings saves people time and money, and it can be done anywhere. There is less chance for error in their filings, and it is more secure, allowing the records to be recorded instantly. It also reduces paperwork, legal fees, mailing and courier costs. We are just excited to be a leader in that space. I think that this is going to be something that is going to spread throughout the country, and North Carolina and Truliant were innovators in getting this to work first.

 

Additionally, we have added a chief digital officer, a digital marketing director, a vice president of digital innovation and a vice president of IT infrastructure. Hiring these specialists has enhanced optimization and automation to ensure we stay on top.

 

What are Truliant’s expansion plans in the region? What is your relationship with the local business community?

 

We continue to look for additional locations, and I think we will continue to find areas to add brick and mortar offices in the Charlotte area. But I think we will continue to add people digitally, because it is very easy to grow our online services.

 

All the folks in the commercial lending office have been here for a very long time and are very involved with the business community. We sit on a number of boards, and we are involved with different organizations. It really is about relationships, and that helps Charlotte work.

 

To learn more about our interviewee, visit: https://www.truliantfcu.org/

 

Public-Private Partners Devise Future of Queen City

Public-Private Partners Devise Future of Queen City

By: Felipe Rivas

2 min read January 2020In the last decade, Charlotte rose from the devastating effects of the Great Recession to become the 16th-most populous city in the United States. The Queen City has experienced continuous years of growth thanks to the diversification of its economy, its budding headquarters relocation culture, steady commercial and residential development, and its “cool” appeal favored by the young workforce moving to Charlotte and its surrounding region. As the city prepares for another decade of evolution, growth, and development, public and private partners have their eyes set on the year 2040. Several complementary plans are underway that will help guide the future of Center City, the city of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County for the next 20 years.

Spearheaded by nonprofit Charlotte Center City Partners, in partnership with the city and county, the “ALL IN 2040” plan aims to establish a new blueprint for the growth and development of Center City, an area that encompasses Uptown and South End. Simultaneously, the city of Charlotte is working on its 2040 Comprehensive Plan, which will guide the growth of Charlotte overall, while Mecklenburg County rewrites its Park and Recreation master plan.

Michael Smith, president and CEO of Charlotte Center City Partners, said the Queen City has a strong legacy of careful planning for long-term development. “We’ve had four decades of deliberate planning and this decade has really defined Charlotte,” Smith told Invest: Charlotte. “Charlotte has launched a new, renewed Center City vision for 2040, called the ‘ALL IN’ plan. This is a great opportunity for Charlotte to carry on its legacy of planning. This is a 50-year tradition of creating these blueprints, each time looking several decades ahead, but renewing that vision every 10 years. This provides us with an opportunity to listen to our community, and to bring subject-matter experts in to help us understand some of the best practices around the world,” he said.

 

Much of the successful growth and development in Charlotte that occurred in the past decade was a result of strong public-private partnerships, which the “ALL IN 2040” plan will continue to develop and strengthen. “The plans and projects are co-created and co-owned with the private sector. In Charlotte over the last 50 years, we’ve had the public sector making transformative, shaping, stimulating investments in infrastructure, and the private sector responding in a collaborative way,” Smith said.

 

Infrastructure will be a strong focus of the “ALL IN 2040” plan, as well as the city’s 2040 Comprehensive Plan. “With the growth we have, we know we have to invest in transportation,” Smith said. Both plans account for major transit expansions to the city’s rapid bus transit and light rail systems. “All that infrastructure development is really needed as the city is booming with construction on the residential, office and hospitality fronts. Right now, there are almost 2.2 million square feet of office space under construction. Of that, there are about 700,000 square feet in South End, and more in Uptown. This is not speculative; there is a lot of pre-leased space in South End. As a matter of fact, about 90% of what’s under construction is pre-leased. It provides us with great confidence,” he said.

 

The “ALL IN 2040” plan and similar city and county efforts are meant to complement one another. Throughout 2020, residents are encouraged to attend public engagement sessions where they can give their input regarding the future of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County. 

By the end of the process, a final draft will be created that will eventually head to the city council for approval and implementation.

 

To learn more, visit:

https://www.charlottecentercity.org 

https://www.allin2040.com/plan

Spotlight On: John McDonald, Charlotte Office Managing Partner, McGuireWoods

Spotlight On: John McDonald, Charlotte Office Managing Partner, McGuireWoods

By: Felipe Rivas

2 min read December 2019 — The economy and legal services go hand in hand. As a result, Charlotte, well-known for its banking and financial services industry, is attracting top legal talent. With the rise of the region’s healthcare and technology sectors, the legal needs of the business community are evolving with the diversification of the economy. In an interview with Invest: Charlotte, McGuireWoods Charlotte Office Managing Partner John McDonald talks about the factors that influence the region’s legal market, the large talent pool available, and outlooks for the legal market heading into 2020. 

How have the legal needs of the business community evolved with the growth of the region?

The majority of the lawyers in our Charlotte office are involved in the financial services sector in some fashion, whether that is through securities, debt finance, or litigation practices. Charlotte’s large banking community influences the work we do. We also have one of the largest healthcare practices in Charlotte. We are nationally known for our healthcare practice and Charlotte is our second-largest hub for that practice. We also have a very strong energy practice and work with a number of energy clients in the region, as well as nationally. The legal needs of the Charlotte community are very sophisticated. Major national and global companies, such as Bank of America, Wells Fargo and Duke Energy, bring sophistication to the business world, which translates to the legal market. Firms in the Charlotte market have to provide high-end legal services because of the sophistication of the work that is demanded by our clients. 

 

What do law firms need to do differently in today’s technological era to attract and retain clients?

Generally, lawyers by nature are behind the curve because we are cautious and skeptical, especially when it comes to new technologies. Part of McGuireWoods’ strategic plan is to identify and embrace technology that will help us better serve our clients. Whether through artificial intelligence or data analytics, we are always looking for ways to leverage technology to help us drive the results our clients are looking for. Technology can help us identify legal factors and anticipate issues to accomplish the desired results in the most cost-effective way. If firms do not embrace the use of technology, they will fall behind.

 

What is the state of the region’s legal talent pool? 

We recruit from the regional law schools. Charlotte draws lawyers from across the country. In a dynamic market like this, it can be challenging to both attract and retain qualified talent. There is a lot of competition. In addition, the in-house market for lawyers is really impressive in Charlotte. Between the banks and other major corporations in the area, there are a lot of sophisticated in-house legal teams that are an attractive option for some of our lawyers. We acknowledge this, and frankly, it can be a great opportunity for us. When our lawyers leave, they almost always end up going to an in-house team. That is a great way for us to build relationships with clients. At McGuireWoods, our lawyers are always looking for ways to help their community, which they do through pro-bono work or by serving on nonprofit boards. Over 90 percent of our lawyers provide pro-bono services on an annual basis. We take great pride in this and are always looking for ways to do more. I find that law students today have a great sense of wanting to give back. 

 

What is the outlook for Charlotte’s legal sector heading into 2020?

The national and international economies impact the work in the financial services sector. There are signs that some sectors of the national economy might be slowing. That is a concern and we need to prepare for that. At the same time, in the legal market, there is always work to do regardless of the economy. We have to be able to adjust and recognize our clients’ needs and how they are impacted by the broader economy. Overall, we are excited about what 2020 has in store. I know our clients are trying to put together some amazing deals and there is a lot of optimism that it will be a great 2020.

 

To learn more about our interviewee, visit: https://www.mcguirewoods.com/people/m/john-g-mcdonald

Spotlight on:Flint McNaughton, CEO & Founding Partner, SunCap Property Group

Spotlight on:Flint McNaughton, CEO & Founding Partner, SunCap Property Group

By: Felipe Rivas

The Charlotte Metro Area offers access to capital, a talented and growing workforce, and an affordable cost of living. As a result, many companies and new residents are flocking to the region. Developers, however, must navigate the area’s competitive climate and tackle rising construction costs to materialize their projects. In an interview with Invest: Charlotte, SunCap Property Group CEO Flint McNaughton talks about the trend of companies relocating their headquarters to the area, the challenges for developers, and the outlook for the region amid continued growth.

What impact has the millennial workforce had on the region?

Companies continue to focus on recruitment and retention of millennials because they are a big and growing workforce. Many companies are adjusting their work schedules and environments to recruit and accommodate them. Many millennials are looking for lifestyle choices that provide flexibility. I think apartment life enhances that flexibility and is a major reason for the consistent positive absorption we have seen in the multifamily sector. In my opinion, there will continue to be growth in that area.

What are some challenges facing the commercial real estate development industry?

The biggest challenge today in the commercial real estate development industry is the rising cost of construction and land and how that affects underwriting. As costs rise, so must rents. When markets were trying to recover from the recession, contractors remained aggressive in their bidding and costs remained low. They were trying to keep the lights on. However, as the market recovered and their pipelines became full again, the aggressive bidding began to wane. Many contractors can pick and choose their projects now. In a hot Charlotte market, costs of labor and materials are up.  

What is driving the region’s headquarters relocation culture?

Labor is a big concern for companies coming to the region. South End has been a robust and interesting story for Charlotte. It’s where the millennials and younger crowds want to go. When companies compete for employees, particularly the millennial generation, many of the companies find a competitive advantage by co-locating where those folks live. If you can live, work and play in an environment like South End, it checks a lot of boxes, and gives companies a competitive advantage over those located in  smaller, less “amenitized” submarkets. 

The headquarters relocation trend happening in the Charlotte Metro Area is largely driven by a number of positive attributes. Probably the biggest driver is the cost of living in the area, which is significantly less expensive than the other major markets. The region has a large well-diversified workforce, land, access to capital through its banks, and it is a great place to raise a family. When you can attract and retain young talent, it is a boom across industries and sectors, and I don’t think that will change in the near future.  

What is the outlook for the region heading into 2020?

The different headquarter relocations to the Charlotte area serve as big milestones as to how the city is doing. From a macroeconomic perspective, the area has experienced tremendous, positive and sustained growth. The area has its challenges, but overall Charlotte is very healthy. 

I’m bullish on Charlotte and believe this wave of momentum will continue. One of our biggest challenges will be investing in infrastructure to keep pace with that growth. Our roads, hospitals and education systems in particular will have to keep pace with that growth. The private sector will also have to get involved in upward mobility initiatives and be actively involved in the community to help the less fortunate move forward. We have to be smart, disciplined and fair about how we grow.

To learn more about our interviewee, visit: https://www.suncappg.com/