Fourth of July weekend in the Queen City

Fourth of July weekend in the Queen City

By: Felipe Rivas

2 min read July 2020Independence Day traditionally marks the peak of summer travel, events and large gatherings. This year, however, Fourth of July festivities have been significantly reduced or moved to the digital landscape for families to enjoy from the comfort and safety of their homes due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Among the cancellations is The Charlotte Knights’ annual fireworks show over Independence Day weekend. However, not all celebrations have been dampened by the virus. From interactive conversations to races and, of course, fireworks, the Queen City will feature a few in-person events mixed with a large offering of virtual spectacles that will surely foster the patriotic spirit in these uncertain times. Here is our pick of the different in-person and virtual events happening over the Indepence Day weekend. 

Fourth of July Celebration at U.S. National Whitewater Center 

Described as a “summer classic,” the U.S National Whitewater Center will feature a two-day Fourth of July Celebration with plenty of opportunities to enjoy the festivities and keep socially distant. The festival will feature live music, various yoga practices, Battle Royale SUP Sprint, and two days of fireworks overlooking the world’s largest man-made whitewater river, the center wrote on its website. The celebration is free to attend, open to the public, and does not require tickets.

To learn more, visit: https://usnwc.org/relax/festivals/fourth-of-july-celebration/

Gastonia Grizzlies Baseball Game and Fireworks Show

Those wishing to enjoy nine innings of baseball, hot dogs and fireworks can head over to the City of Gastonia on Friday, July 3, for a night of Independence Day celebrations. Dubbed as the “the best fireworks in town at the greatest show in town,” the event is a great place to stretch your legs over the Fourth of July weekend. 

To learn more, visit: https://gastoniagrizzlies.com/schedule/

Park National Bank American 4 Miler

Those wishing to maintain their fitness routine before tackling the celebratory burgers, hotdogs and chips customary of Fourth of July celebrations can enjoy an in-person or virtual 4-mile race. The Park National Bank American 4 Miler is an on-site or virtual run on Friday, July 3 that sets the tone for the rest of the Independence Day weekend. The on-site race will conclude with live music, but there will be no in-person awards ceremony, according to organizers. The cost ranges from $24-$27 and there will be no race-day registration.

To learn more,  visit: https://runsignup.com/Race/NC/Charlotte/American4MilerpresentedbyFamousToastery

Independence Day at the Charlotte Museum of History 

For history buffs and parents looking for daily learning activities, The Charlotte Museum of History will host virtual Independence Day festivities starting June 29 through July 4. The museum’s website offers new resources ready to teach and entertain its audience each day throughout the Independence weekend. Activities are free of charge but registration is needed. 

To learn more,  visit: https://charlottemuseum.org/digital/

Virtual Family Dinner

Use this holiday break to bring the family together virtually. Much like work video calls, schedule a family video call at dinner time to unite family members scattered by social distance and travel restrictions. Though it may be hard to pass the potato salad across a video conference call, it is easy to enjoy a virtual family dinner filled with laughs and smiles. Food always brings people together, use this Independence Day to recreate the Fourth of July weekend you had in mind at the start of 2020.

The Post-Pandemic City

The Post-Pandemic City

By: Abby Melone, President & CEO, Capital Analytics

It’s a truism in today’s hyper-connected world that people go where the jobs are, more so now than ever before. But what happens when your job suddenly can be done from anywhere?

 

The 19th century ushered in the first and second Industrial Revolutions that saw more and more people move to urban environments, precisely because that’s where the jobs were. In the United States, the rise of manufacturing opened a new world of employment possibilities, pushing people from the farm to the factory. It’s a push that in one way or another continued into the 20th and 21st centuries. The result is seen today in the population densities that cram big cities from coast to coast, border to border.

According to the United Nations’ World Urbanization Prospects report and the website Our World in Data, the world crossed over in 2007. That’s the fist year the number of people living in urban areas rose above the number living in rural areas (3.35 billion versus 3.33 billion). In the United States, around 82.3% of the population lives in urban areas, according to the World Bank. Growth trajectories project a steady increase in urbanization as far out as 2050. 

Today, the millennial generation is changing the character of urbanization by spearheading the live-work-play ethos. This generation prefers to skirt the traffic jams and live and play near where they work. The goal to have it all close by has given rise to the mixed-use building concept that puts everything – your living options, your entertainment choices and your shopping – all in one convenient location, which preferably, is near your workplace. 

It also means we are all living closer to each other in smaller and smaller spaces. That seemed to suit a lot of people just fine. Then the COVID-19 pandemic happened, and all of sudden, none of that seemed fine at all.

The pandemic resulted in shelter-in-place orders that forced people to live 24 hours a day in their homes while also working from their home offices, if they had one, or their kitchen tables if they didn’t. The very idea of needing to go somewhere else to do your job turned out to be not so much of a necessity after all. In just a few months, priorities appear to have shifted. Now, many of us seem to crave space, the great outdoors, and we seem to be split 50-50 on whether we want to continue working from home, wherever we choose that to be, or prefer an official office setting, mostly for the socializing.

There is little doubt that the world has changed as a result of the pandemic. Most experts are puzzling on whether that change will last and just what our cities will look like as a result. The fact is, though, that change was already in play before COVID-19 hit.

My company focuses on nine major U.S. markets like Orlando, Miami, Atlanta and Philadelphia. We talk to industry and political leaders to understand the issues their communities face to gauge the direction in which they are moving. Today, everyone is talking about the pandemic’s impact on the retail sector, for example. Yet, e-commerce was already a thing before COVID-19. In 2019, a record 9,800 stores were shuttered, according to a Bloomberg report, with 25,000 closures expected in 2020 due to the coronavirus impact, the report said, citing Coresight Research. Yes, that’s a devastating impact, but the pandemic really has only accelerated the pace of implementation. It pushed more people online immediately, but those people were likely headed there anyway.

Many of the leaders we have spoken with during the pandemic agree that retail and commercial real estate was already undergoing a slowdown as industrial space to accommodate last-mile delivery for the Amazons of the world was booming. Many expect this trend will continue.

More importantly, what the pandemic has done has caused a rethink of priorities among individuals and it is this impact that will likely shape the post-pandemic city. Living in lockdown awakened people to the “smallness” of their space, forced on them by a combination of convenience and higher and higher housing prices in big cities. The median listing price for a home in Miami-Dade, for example, was $465,050 in May compared to the average U.S. listing price of $329,950, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. Interestingly, population growth in Miami-Dade was already slowing as more people moved out, with escalating living costs among the factors. With the pandemic highlighting the risks of living so close together, will more people decide that farther away is not only cheaper, but safer?

Big city living will change in the post-pandemic world as social distancing forces “people places” like gyms and restaurants to accommodate lingering fears from the virus. Tens of thousands of small businesses have already closed down for good, clearly altering the very unique characteristics of cities that attracted people in the first place.

The biggest impact, however, will be on how – and where – jobs are done. Remote working is hear to stay in some form or another. Like the industrial revolutions of the 18th and 19th centuries, people will always go where the jobs are. For many, those jobs will now be done from home, which means that home can be virtually anywhere. It creates choice like never before, and this will dramatically alter the character, although not likely the course, of urbanization. That’s an important difference. 

Big cities have seen the ebbs and flows of population growth before and will likely see them again. Through it all, they have more often thrived than not. The post-pandemic city may look and feel a bit different – the way condo units are built, for example, may change to accommodate working from home, while adding elements like air filters to battle any future virus outbreak – and there may even be a greater push to the suburbs in the short term. Overall, however, continued urbanization likely will remain on the cards. If we’re lucky, there may just be a little more distance between all of us.

 

Charlotte: Toe to Toe with Coronavirus

Charlotte: Toe to Toe with Coronavirus

By: Felipe Rivas

4 min read June 2020—The tenacity of the coronavirus has challenged, and at times highlighted, the economic strength of cities across the nation. While the pandemic has severely bruised the Queen City’s economy, the city’s dexterity and sound fundamentals are helping to soften the blow as Charlotte recoups and prepares for an uncertain future. 

 

Marked by serious losses and promising victories, June has been a roller coaster of economic activity for the Charlotte Metro Region. Unexpectedly, the city’s hospitality sector, an already embattled segment of the economy, suffered a further blow when President Donald Trump and Republican leaders swiftly yanked the Republican National Convention (RNC) out of Charlotte after coronavirus-related concerns prevented North Carolina leaders from guaranteeing a fully operational Spectrum Center, hotels and other amenities. But as Charlotte reeled from this sudden blow, the region jabbed back at the coronavirus-related adversity with positive job expansion and promising rezoning announcements slated to be catalysts for growth in the near future. 

Two years of RNC preparations vanished as RNC leaders decided to move more than half of the August festivities to Jacksonville, Florida. Since winning the bid to host the 2020 RNC in 2018, the host committee and Charlotte’s hospitality and business leaders have toiled to ensure a smooth and enjoyable experience for the thousands of delegates, journalists, and visitors expected for the event. However, as government and business leaders entered 2020 confident about the state of the economy, the contingency plans unsurprisingly failed to factor in a global pandemic and the subsequent reduction in major events and large gatherings of people. 

In late May, in a letter to Gov. Roy Cooper, RNC leaders demanded that Charlotte, which remains in a state of emergency, guarantee a “full convention,” and “full hotels and restaurants, and bars at full capacity,” according to a response letter published by the governor’s office. Citing uncertainty and the state of the coronavirus come August, Gov. Cooper said planning for a scaled-down convention with fewer people, social distancing and face coverings is a necessity. “As much as we want the conditions surrounding COVID-19 to be favorable enough for you to hold the Convention you describe in late August, it is very unlikely,” Gov. Cooper wrote to the RNC leaders. “Neither public health officials nor I will risk the health and safety of North Carolinians by providing the guarantee you seek.” 

This lack of guarantee prompted RNC leaders and President Trump to move three of the four convention days to Jacksonville, according to different news sources. Charlotte will host the first day of the convention, with the traditional speeches and fanfare occurring in Jacksonville. The convention is scheduled to run Aug. 24-27.  

“We wanted to host the RNC because we hosted the Democratic National Convention in 2012 and so we want to prove to the world that we are capable of delivering high-quality events,” Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles told Invest: Charlotte in the spring, before the RNC decision. She further explained the advantages for Charlotte: “It is a great branding opportunity for the city, as we expect up to 50,000 people, including many international journalists, to visit during the event. It will also provide a huge boost to our hospitality industry.” she said. The convention was expected to generate more than $150 million in revenue for the area’s restaurants, bars and hotels, the Charlotte Observer reported.  

As the hospitality and tourism sector begins to gather its composure after such a punch, Charlotte heavyweights aim to continue to strengthen the region’s foundation. Two significant redevelopments projects moved forward on Monday after receiving unanimous approval from city leaders. Rezonings were approved for the redevelopment of Atrium Health’s Midtown flagship campus and the former Eastland Mall property in east Charlotte, according to the Charlotte Business Journal. 

Atrium Health, the region’s largest employer, seeks to rezone close to 70 acres at the Carolina Medical Center to accommodate a live, work, and play environment, complete with a new bed tower, rehabilitation hospital, office space, affordable housing and more. In 2019, Atrium Health announced more than $1.5 billion investment in the Charlotte metropolitan area to help build new infrastructure, including new hospitals and medical facilities, President and CEO Gene Woods Told Invest:Charlotte in the spring. “This is about more than just adding brick and mortar. It’s about investing in this community because this is the place our friends, our neighbors and our loved ones call home, and we want to see it continue to thrive,” Woods said. “As the major healthcare system in the state of North Carolina, we know we can play a key role in helping our economy flourish as well.”

The Eastland rezoning includes close to 78 acres of mostly city-owned property, according to the Charlotte Business Journal. The site will be the future headquarters of the yet-to-be-named Charlotte Major League Soccer team, owned by business leader David Tepper. Similar to the Atrium Health project, Eastland will be the site of mixed-use development featuring residential units, office and retail space, and athletic fields. 

And while these projects are expected to pay dividends to the community in the future, the region scored significant economic development victories on Tuesday when Chime Solution and Ross Stores announced the addition of 250 and 700 jobs respectively to the region’s economy. 

Georgia-based Chime Solutions, a provider of customer contact services for several industries, will add jobs for licensed life and health insurance agents and will pay $16 an hour and include training and licensing,  WFAE reported Chime Solutions  opened an office in the University City area last fall. Leading off-price apparel and home fashion retail chain Ross Stores Inc. announced it will expand its distribution and warehousing operations in York County, according to the Charlotte Regional Business Alliance. The company’s $68 million investment is projected to create 700 new jobs over five years. 

To learn more, visit:

https://files.nc.gov/governor/documents/files/2020_06_02_RNC-Response-Letter.pdf

https://www.bizjournals.com/charlotte/news/2020/06/16/eastland-mall-atrium-health-rezoning.html

https://www.charlotteobserver.com/news/politics-government/rnc-2020/article243540772.html

https://charlotteregion.com/index.php?src=news&submenu=Relocation_Expansions&srctype=detail&category=Investor%20News&refno=8639&hurl=n

https://www.wfae.org/post/charlotte-says-chime-solutions-250-job-expansion-offers-economic-mobility#stream/0

 

Spotlight On: Tom Finke, Chairman and CEO, Barings

Spotlight On: Tom Finke, Chairman and CEO, Barings

By: Felipe Rivas

2 min read May 2020 Charlotte is strongly positioned to capitalize on the investment diversification push from both local and foreign investors to keep its growth sustainable. Tom Finke, chairman and CEO of Barings, walks Invest: through the key features and challenges of the Queen City’s financial landscape.

 

What is your assessment of the Charlotte market?

Charlotte is a great story. It has grown dramatically since the 1980s, fueled by the growth of the two big banks headquartered here at that time, as well as Duke Energy. It also enabled the expansion of the city’s hospital system and other important institutions, along with other companies growing contiguous to that ecosystem. Today, companies such as Honeywell have chosen Charlotte as their corporate HQ, along with a number of business startups, not necessarily tied to the financial industry but related to either the energy industry, the healthcare sector, education and high tech, to name a few. The Queen City benefits from the fact that through its growth was launched by the financial sector, over the years it has become much more diversified, making it a highly attractive city to any company and industry looking to grow.

 

What challenges are looming in Charlotte’s financial sector?

Asset management, like the rest of the financial sector, is dealing with the ongoing economic and market crisis stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic. It is hard to predict the long-term effects and trends. At Barings, we are primarily focused on the short-term situation, managing risk appropriately for our clients through this crisis. It is likely that the financial markets will change after the crisis subsides, much like they did after the 2008 financial crisis, which ushered in an unprecedented decade of lower rates. The macroeconomic picture remains uncertain in terms of the downturn’s length, albeit clearly severe. Looking ahead, investment decisions will be impacted not only by macroeconomic factors but also by understanding which businesses will survive, grow and thrive, which among them will need restructuring, with inherent opportunities to invest on a distress basis and how it affects different asset classes.

 

How have tax reform and low tax rates impacted your side of the business?

The most recent tax reform enabled corporations to bring capital stranded overseas back into the United States, leading to reinvestments in the home market. It had a positive stimulus effect in terms of growth rates coming into 4Q19, contributing to the strength of the U.S. economy. Over the longer term, lower rates are also an indication that the Fed and other central banks are set on stabilizing inflation at a reasonable level, tangentially worried about deflation. Rates are going to remain low in part because there is a lot of stimulus, both fiscal and monetary, injected into the crisis situation.

 

How would you rate Charlotte’s attractiveness for national and foreign companies?

Charlotte has been on the radar of several international companies for a long time. The large number of multinational European firms that have operations in Charlotte or nearby in the general region between western North Carolina and into South Carolina, demonstrates that it is definitely a place that attracts business. The next level is to not only continue to attract growing businesses such as technology companies, but also attract Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). We work with several asset owners, such as sovereign wealth funds and foreign pensions. We direct our discussions toward Charlotte and its inherent opportunities, whether it is investing in real estate or in local companies. Charlotte is in a strong position to continue to attract global investment. Since the financial crisis of 2008, the investment market has further globalized. Several investors, such as the superannuation funds in Australia, are investing in U.S. markets. This diversification push from home to foreign markets is a sizable opportunity for cities such as Charlotte to tap into. 

 

What strikes you most about the growth of Charlotte’s real estate market?

Barings was the first company to break ground on a new office building post-crisis in Charlotte in 2014. We have seen a significant number of new developments up and down Stonewall Street and other parts of the city since then. It primarily reflects demand coming from within and outside of Charlotte. Coming out of the financial crisis, developers have shown more discipline around ensuring there is demand to support specific types of development.

 

What impact do you anticipate COVID-19 will have on the economy?

The virus outbreak is unlike anything we have experienced in our lives. It is indiscriminately impacting communities across the world. From a business perspective, we anticipate a high level of defaults and bankruptcies, as well as companies that may thrive in terms of the demand for their products and services. Anytime we go through a significant recession of this sort, there is an initial shock that we are still reeling from, as evidenced by overall economic weakness and the erratic stock market. 

 

What is your outlook for 2020?

It will take a period of time for economic growth to get back to where it was in the United States and globally, well beyond 2020. It is a question about the severity and the length of the impact on the economy of this shutdown state and how we start getting out of it so companies can again start building revenue. 

 

To learn more, visit: https://www.barings.com/us/guest

 

2020 Hurricane season in the face of coronavirus

2020 Hurricane season in the face of coronavirus

By: Felipe Rivas

2 min read May 2020—A few days shy of the official start of the 2020 hurricane season and the Southeast has already seen two named tropical storms. Tropical Storm Arthur brought inclement weather to the Carolinas a full two weeks before the June 1 start date and on Wednesday Tropical Storm Bertha formed quickly in the morning and drenched South Carolina before dissipating to a depression, all in a day’s notice. 

 

As the country reels from the devastating effects of the coronavirus, states on the East Coast can expect an above-normal Atlantic hurricane season, according to forecasters with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center, a division of the National Weather Service. States like Georgia, Florida and the Carolinas can expect a 60 percent chance of having an above-normal hurricane season with a likelihood of three to six major hurricanes making landfall. The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 to Nov. 30, peaking in August and September.

The 2020 Atlantic hurricane season is expected to have 13 to 19 named storms, six to 10 hurricanes, and three to six major hurricanes, according to the National Weather Service. As states juggle coronavirus-related safety concerns with the reopening of their economies, state leaders urge residents to begin their preparation and evacuation plans early while emphasizing the importance of hygiene and keeping in mind social distancing measures. “This early season storm reminds us that we always need to be prepared for severe weather,” North Carolina Emergency Management Director Mike Sprayberry said during the formation of Tropical Storm Arthur, which set off tropical storm warnings along the North Carolina coast from Surf City north to Duck. “The time to prepare is now,” Sprayberry said.  

COVID-19 may put a damper on the way residents traditionally prepare for the months-long season. “Social distancing and other CDC guidance to keep you safe from COVID-19 may impact the disaster preparedness plan you had in place, including what is in your go-kit, evacuation routes, shelters and more. With tornado season at its peak, hurricane season around the corner, and flooding, earthquakes and wildfires a risk year-round, it is time to revise and adjust your emergency plan now,” said Carlos Castillo, acting deputy administrator for resilience at FEMA, according to the National Weather Service. “Natural disasters won’t wait, so I encourage you to keep COVID-19 in mind when revising or making your plan for you and your loved ones, and don’t forget your pets.”

In Florida, a magnet for constant hurricane activity throughout the season, leaders are strategizing on how to contain the spread of COVID-19 in the midst of a hurricane threat.      “We don’t know how the virus is going to react as we move into these various stages,”Gov. Ron DeSantis said at a news conference in Sarasota, according to the U.S News & World Report.  “We don’t know what it’s going to look like a month from now, three months from now, but we have to assume that it’s going to be with us in some capacity, so how do you deal with hurricane issues?” he said. 

Days before the official start to hurricane season, Florida has reported more than 52,000 cases of the coronavirus and more than 2,300 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins University & Medicine’s Coronavirus Resource Center. “This virus really thrives and transmits when you have close sustained contact with people inside an enclosed environment,” DeSantis said. “As you’re looking at sheltering for a hurricane, you have to keep that in mind. If you pile people into a place, under normal circumstances that may be fine, but that would potentially allow the virus to really spread if somebody is in fact infected,” he said.  

Florida leaders are working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency on changes to sheltering and evacuation procedures to account for the coronavirus implications. Florida emergency management Director Jared Moskowitz said those changes could include shelters that only accept people infected with the coronavirus, or shelter in place orders depending on the strength of the building and magnitude of the storm. “We’re going to do more non-congregate sheltering instead of mass congregate sheltering,” Moskowitz said.

In similar fashion, Georgia leaders and the Georgia Emergency Management Agency urged all Georgians to prepare and follow activity in the tropics. Tropical Storm Arthur did not cause too much impact as it curved away from the Peach State while traveling through the Atlantic Ocean. Though unfazed by Tropical Storm Arthur, Georgia has dealt with severe weather conditions since the start of the spring. In March and April, Georgia experienced heavy rainfall and severe flooding in more than 100 counties while also dealing with the aftermath of the coronavirus. In March, Gov. Brian Kemp signed an executive order declaring a state of emergency for 120 Georgia counties south of I-20. “The state is working to ensure counties impacted by flooding across Georgia have access to all the resources necessary to respond,” Kemp said at the time. “I encourage residents to listen to their local officials and news sources and heed the directions of their local emergency management officials,” he said. 

To learn more, visit: 

https://www.noaa.gov/media-release/busy-atlantic-hurricane-season-predicted-for-2020

ReadyNC.org

https://gema.georgia.gov/

https://floridadisaster.org/

https://www.fema.gov/media-library-data/1589997234798-adb5ce5cb98a7a89e3e1800becf0eb65/2020_Hurricane_Pandemic_Plan.pdf

 

Spotlight On: John Aneralla, Mayor, Town of Huntersville

By: Felipe Rivas

2 min read May 2020 Developing a sense of community through a revamped downtown is the overall concept that Huntersville is working to materialize. Mayor of Huntersville John Aneralla shares the details of his three priority pillars: enact a 2040 Growth Plan, accelerate infrastructure development and bolster the town’s school capacity. 

What are your primary goals for your recently inaugurated third term (November 2019) as mayor of Huntersville?

There are three main goals. First, establishing and enacting our 2040 Land Use Plan. It is a refresh of the guidelines relating to our town’s growth objectives and how to achieve them. Second, continue to invest in and accelerate infrastructure development. That includes greenways and sidewalks. Another example is our Town Hall, which was obsolete the day it was built 20 years ago and the town has outgrown it. One of the things we have been pushing for in the last few years is to develop Huntersville’s Downtown infrastructure and optimize the town’s Downtown assets. Third, we are severely lacking in school capacity. The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools system has no planned new school funding for North Mecklenburg. We need to figure out a way to stress our need for more schools sooner rather than later. 

 

What are the short-term objectives for Huntersville?

The trick is to make sure we keep things as affordable as possible so people can actually live, work and play here. We are working on increasing the number of people who can work and live here, and the numbers are improving. Within the overall scheme of the town, the big focus from the governmental point of view is building out the infrastructure. Considering the rapid growth that we have witnessed over the last 25 years, the infrastructure component is lagging behind. Since 2015, we have been pulling out all the stops to accelerate growth projects, and even more so since 2019. 

 

One area that we are most excited about is shedding the poor reputation of our Downtown. Part of this plan is to revamp Main Street. We are widening the road and getting rid of some old buildings and houses to start the improvement. Highway 115, our north/south route through the Downtown, is the only way people can get north and south. Building out our Main Street, which is east of the 115, will relieve a lot of the pressure on that one particular road. As a result of building out the infrastructure, developers are noticing that there are going to be multiple routes to get in and out. The town is investing between $18 million to $20 million, which is attracting much of the developer interest in our Downtown. 

 

What are the main challenges inherent to the goals Huntersville has set for itself?

Our No. 1 job as a government is the safety of our people. We are facing difficulties in recruiting police and law enforcement. We are looking to be more creative. We’ve offered bonuses to our employees for referrals and we are examining changing the pay scale. We are undermanned as an entity of 65,000 people. Despite the shortfall, Huntersville consistently scores as one of the safest places in North Carolina. Our officers are doing a great job, albeit not with as many resources as we would like to bring in.

 

What are the town’s plans in terms of talent attraction?

That’s a question that’s on everyone’s mind. We have made a commendable effort to connect both the local business and education communities. We have the Merancas Campus of the Central Piedmont Community College (CPCC) and UNC Charlotte is close by. We are also integrating our high schools in this effort. The ultimate goal is to connect high-school seniors with jobs, particularly relating to light manufacturing. Huntersville is home to top-tier, high-tech companies, such as a 3D printing of metals manufacturer. We want to bring the Career & Technical Education (CTE) teachers and kids to the businesses to give them hands-on experience and for the schools to integrate the skills inherent to such businesses into their curriculum. We are working closely with the Lake Norman Economic Development Chamber (EDC) on this initiative. 

 

What is the 2020 outlook for Huntersville?

We have a diverse business community. Although some sectors will be hit more severely by COVID-19 than others, we have a fairly broad business base, including a 3D manufacturing company, a fruit-netting manufacturer, even a NASCAR team. Money will be slower to come by in the short term like everywhere else, but if one wants to be close to Charlotte, with a business-friendly community at less cost, Huntersville is the place to be. 

 

We are also looking forward to providing a sense of community by offering a walkable, playable and livable Downtown. Finally, we are thinking ahead. Conservative projections estimate the town will grow to at least 85,000 people over the next 8-10 years, with all the inherent adjustments such a population surge implies.

 

To learn more, visit: https://www.huntersville.org/

 

Spotlight On: Michael Praeger, CEO and co-Founder, AvidXchange

Spotlight On: Michael Praeger, CEO and co-Founder, AvidXchange

By: Felipe Rivas

2 min read May 2020Charlotte-based AvidXchange is looking to reduce paper for middle-market companies by providing a full suite of accounts payable and payment automation solutions to businesses across the country, a trend that might have been accelerated by measures taken around the COVID-19 pandemic, said CEO Michael Praeger in an interview with Invest:Charlotte. 

 What service is AvidXchange providing to the market?

AvidXchange automates the accounts payable and payment process for middle-market companies, eliminating the paper invoice and paper check. We are primarily focused on the United States, with a growing presence in Canada. 

Imagine the impact in the current transition to a work from home environment when you realize that you don’t have an automated process for your accounts payable and to pay your bills. There are a lot of companies that still have paper checks, with pre-printed check stacks, and you can’t send a person home with a pre-printed corporate check stack. 

The current situation has been a catalyst in terms of new customers wanting to adopt our technology and existing customers trying to get everything implemented as fast as they can. Suppliers that have historically been receiving paper checks from their payment network are raising their hands and saying they want electronic payments.

We have five core verticals: real estate, HOA or homeowners’ associations, and financial services, where we have over 2,000 banks that use our services platform to manage their internal accounts payable and pay their own bills. Then it’s construction, which has done really well in recent years, and our newest vertical in healthcare facilities and social services.

 

How would you describe the evolution of the tech sector in Charlotte as compared to other, better-known tech hubs?

When we founded AvidXchange 20 years ago, there was a small and passionate group of entrepreneurs in Charlotte who really wanted to build a more entrepreneurial ecosystem, particularly around technology, and adapt a lot of the companies that supported the banks. Most of the technology in Charlotte around that time was supporting the banking or the energy sectors. We started growing and gaining traction by staying focused on developing our AP automation solutions, and today we are the largest software company in Charlotte.

In terms of our evolution, our rapid growth began in 2011-2012. There were two catalysts for that. One was that we are a software as a service, cloud-based technology platform. Up until then, companies were really hesitant to adapt cloud-based technology for financial applications. The mindset was to run these services internally, behind a firewall. And then we had the growth of companies like Salesforce and Concur that created momentum and customers started becoming comfortable. 

We then added payments to our existing accounts payable solution. We were growing at 15% to 20% annually up until 2012, and since then, we’ve averaged around 40% growth per year. That is a reflection of the growth of Charlotte, but also of the general marketplace adopting our technology.

 

Are the schools and universities in the region meeting the challenge of training the talent companies like AvidXchange need?

It is really interesting because one of the first things discussed about Charlotte is that all of the other tech centers are really anchored by a university or college research system, and Charlotte does not have that. That is true historically, but one of the things that this COVID-19 dynamic is showing us is that you don’t necessarily need people physically together in a lab or research environment to drive innovation. You have to be in an environment that supports innovation, and I think Charlotte and North Carolina have that. The region does not have that deep research presence in the city itself, but when you look at the whole North Carolina ecosystem, between the research triangle and what UNC Charlotte is doing around analytics and Big Data, positioning itself as an analytics center for the university, there are really good things happening.

How are your services received in the market?

Our main presence in terms of customer concentration is around the major centers of employment in the United States. We have customers in all 50 states and over 6,000 in total nationwide. As I mentioned, this has been our eighth consecutive year of averaging 40% growth, which provides some insight on adoption. It is currently estimated that 60% to 70% of middle-market companies still process paper invoices, so we’re still in the very early days of that adoption curve.

I think the COVID-19 crisis is going to act as a catalyst event where we see companies deciding to automate to avoid future business continuity issues around how they pay bills.

To learn more, visit: https://www.avidxchange.com/

 

 

Charlotte begins reopening process, Altanta ramps up COVID-19 testing

Charlotte begins reopening process, Altanta ramps up COVID-19 testing

By: Felipe Rivas

2 min read May 2020—Southeast metro areas like Charlotte and Atlanta have been a popular destination for families, businesses and large corporations looking for affordability, dynamic business fundamentals and a high quality of life. In the landscape of the coronavirus, much of the national attention was placed on the Southeast in late April as Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp led the nation in the reopening timeline, terms and guidelines. Following Georgia’s example, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper announced Tuesday the loosening of his stay-at-home and transition into phase one of his economic recovery plans effective Friday, May 8. 

 

“COVID-19 is still a serious threat to our state, and Phase 1 is designed to be a limited easing of restrictions that can boost parts of our economy while keeping important safety rules in place,” Gov. Cooper said in a press release. As of May 5, Mecklenburg County, where Charlotte is located, reported more than 1,700 residents have tested positive for the novel coronavirus and 52 deaths due to COVID-19, according to Mecklenburg County Public Health. “This is a careful and deliberate first step, guided by the data, and North Carolinians still must use caution while this virus is circulating,” Cooper said

Gov. Cooper’s orders remove the distinction between essential and non-essential businesses. Retail businesses are allowed to open at 50% capacity and must follow strict health guidelines and best practices, such as social distancing, perform frequent cleanings, provide hand sanitizer when available, and screen workers for symptoms. The order also allows people to leave their homes for commercial activity at any business that is open, bringing potential economic activity to small businesses that were shuttered during March and April. “We must continue to protect our families and neighbors as we take this cautious step forward,” Secretary of the NC Department of Health and Human Services Dr. Mandy Cohen said. “When you leave your home, follow the three W’s: Wear a face covering, wash your hands, and wait six feet apart.”  

Days into phasing the reopening of the Georgia economy, health, university, local and state officials are ramping up COVID-19 testing in the Peach State. On April 30, the state reported conducting over 20,000 tests, a single-day record for COVID-19 testing, according to the governor’s office. “Thanks to Georgia’s partnership with our university system, the private sector, and local public health officials, we ended April by setting a single-day testing record, reporting over 20,000 tests on April 30 alone,” Gov. Kemp said. “This is great progress for our state, but we refuse to rest on our laurels. In the days ahead, we will continue to increase access to coronavirus testing across Georgia.”

In March, the state of Georgia announced partnerships with the University System of Georgia, Georgia Public Health Laboratory and Emory University to process over 3,000 samples a day.  Since that time, Georgia, a state with large rural areas, has partnered with companies like CVS, Walgreens, Walmart and eTrueNorth to launch drive-thru testing sites throughout metro Atlanta and deploy mobile testing units to areas with limited access, according to the governor’s office. “We have the capacity, we have the bandwidth, and now we need the patients,” Kemp said. He encourages residents who are experiencing symptoms as well as asymptomatic medical and frontline workers to schedule a COVID-19 screening and visit one of the state’s more than 50 active testing sites if necessary. “We will continue to work diligently to innovate and increase testing in Georgia, and together, we will win this fight,” Kemp said.

 

To learn more, visit:

https://governor.nc.gov/news/governor-cooper-announces-modified-stay-home-order-and-transition-phase-1-easing-restrictions

https://www.mecknc.gov/news/Pages/Mecklenburg-County-COVID-19-Data-for-May-3.aspx

https://gov.georgia.gov/press-releases/2020-05-01/georgia-sees-banner-week-covid-19-testing

 

 

Spotlight On: Saad Ehtisham, President, Novant Health Greater Charlotte Market & Novant Health Presbyterian Medical Center

By: Max Crampton-Thomas

2 min read April 2020 —Novant Health is an integrated nonprofit organization with 15 medical centers and more than 1,600 physicians in almost 700 locations. President of Novant Health Greater Charlotte Market and Novant Health Presbyterian Medical Center Saad Ehtisham told Invest: about the group’s approach to the COVID-19 pandemic and how it is minimizing risk to patients and healthcare staff.

What accommodations is Novant Health making to handle the influx of patients due to the COVID-19 outbreak? 

Novant Health excels at being change-ready and resilient in the ever-changing world of healthcare. From the onset of COVID-19, we began assessing our readiness. Our emergency management and clinical teams have been hard at work, building on our existing plans to make sure we’re ready to manage any and all scenarios that could come with an influx of COVID-19 cases in our communities. 

At Novant Health, we made the decision to cancel elective and non-time-sensitive procedures to minimize risk to patients and our team members, conserve PPE (personal protective equipment) and be mindful of future capacity needs. We’ve also made investments to greatly increase our bed capacity across the system. As part of our commitment to patient safety, we diversify and routinely monitor our supply chain in order to be prepared and meet the needs of our patients and team members. In anticipation of a surge, our supply chain and emerging infectious diseases teams doubled down.

Outside of managing our acute care capacity, we’ve prepared for an influx of patients who need screening, testing and treatment in our ambulatory clinics, as well. Novant Health proactively stood up screening centers, respiratory assessment centers and mobile health units across our markets. This ensures we are able to test and treat, as clinically necessary, people outside of our hospitals and ensure beds are available for those who need higher levels of care.

We’re confident that we are prepared and well-equipped to safely care for our community.

How can the community best assist local healthcare providers in this time of need?

The best thing the community can do for us right now is stay home, if and when they can, and practice physical and social distancing. This will help us further flatten the curve to ensure we won’t experience a surge of patients all at once or a resurgence if we ease up on social distancing. 

If someone thinks they may have symptoms of the coronavirus or have been exposed, it’s best to first take our online assessment, call their healthcare provider, or call our 24/7 helpline 877-9NOVANT for advice on care and how to be treated. This will help us ensure only those who meet guidelines for further evaluation and testing are routed to the most appropriate venue of care, which in turn reduces risk of exposure to our team members, the community and helps us conserve valuable resources.

We each have a responsibility to do what we can to care for ourselves, our families and our neighbors. Continue to wash your hands, stay informed, stay calm, and stay home. 

What would your message be to the local community that is sheltering in place and waiting for a return to normalcy?

First and foremost: Thank you. From the #ThankYouNH posts to the purple ribbons tied around your mailboxes – we see you and we thank you. We understand this is a time of stress and uncertainty for many in our communities. This new normal is not easy, with social and economic impacts being felt deeply by many. Yet, staying-at-home, if and when you can, and practicing physical distancing is quite literally saving lives. It’s helping to ensure that those who do get sick, and not just with the coronavirus, will be able to get the care they need. So when you’re getting a little stir crazy, just try to remember why it is we’re doing what we’re doing, together, and I encourage all of us to hang in there. 

If at the end of this we look back and see that the number of cases and deaths are lower than the models predicted, that’s a good thing. It means the policies put in place and the actions taken by our communities worked to beat the coronavirus. This was not for nothing.

Where can the community go to find more resources to support your efforts or learn more about what you are doing?

At Novant Health, we are humbled by the outpouring of support from our community in our fight against the coronavirus outbreak. So many people – from all over – are reaching out to see how they can contribute and, truly, no contribution is too small. To support our efforts, visit novanthealth.org/giving. 

For up-to-date information and resources, visit novanthealth.org/coronavirus. I also encourage everyone to visit healthyheadlines.org where you’ll find truly remarkable stories about our team members who are fighting this virus on the frontlines. You can also join the conversation by following @NovantHealth on your social channels.

To learn more about our interviewee, visit: 

https://www.novanthealth.org/