The Voice of Business, Industry & the Professions Since 1942
North Carolina's largest business group proudly serves as the state chamber of commerce

Fresh Faces
NCCBI Welcomes New Leadership While Rededicating Itself
to Improving Education and Economic Growth for the Whole State

Saying he wants to continue NCCBI's decade-long emphasis on improving public education while also promoting rural economic development and strengthening the association's ties with local chambers of commerce, First Union Bank executive Malcolm E. “Mac” Everett III of Charlotte was installed as chairman of NCCBI for the coming year.

Everett, 53, accepted the gavel from outgoing chairman Earl N. “Phil” Phillips of High Point at the association's 58th annual convention on March 15. The change in leadership came at the conclusion of a successful day-long event at the Raleigh Convention and Conference Center attended by more than 1,000 persons.

At the end of his term at the helm of the state's largest and most influential business organization, Phillips, the chairman of GE Capital First Factors, told the audience he was pleased to report that NCCBI had earned many successes over the past year, including his top priority — securing increased state funding for the community colleges.

Other goals achieved during the past year, Phillips said, were a substantial increase in NCCBI membership and successful lobbying activities on behalf of a number of public policy issues. “All is well with your state chamber of commerce,” he said.

“When I look back at some of the past leaders of this organization,” Everett said, “I realize that many of them, like Bill Lee, Sherwood Smith and First Union's own Cliff Cameron, are true heroes to me. It's an honor to follow in their footsteps.”

Many members commented they thought the annual meeting was one of the most successful ones in recent memory, with entertaining, enlightening keynote speeches by Nasdaq Market President Alfred A. Berkeley III at the luncheon and by Howard A. “Humpy” Wheeler, president of Lowe's Motor Speedway and a key figure in the rapid rise of NASCAR, at the dinner. There were large, enthusiastic crowds at the two afternoon panel sessions, and the aisles were full most of the day at the Information Exchange, the tabletop trade show that boasted a record number of exhibitors this year.

The luncheon crowd rose to its feet and cheered as NCCBI honored Gov. Jim Hunt with its 2000 Citation for Distinguished Public Service as the business community's tribute to his two decades of government leadership. In presenting the award to the governor, Jim Goodmon of Raleigh, CEO of Capitol Broadcasting, said it represents NCCBI's thanks for Gov. Hunt's unfailing efforts to improve the public schools.

“He placed the cornerstones,” Goodmon said. Ticking off some of the governor's many educational initiatives, Goodman listed “Smart Start, created in 1993 to ensure that every child starts school healthy and ready to learn; the Excellent Schools Act, raising standards for teachers but also rewarding them for excellence; setting the bar higher for students; and creating a safer, more nurturing environment for learning by mandating swift, sure consequences for disruptive students.”

Goodmon presented a touching video in which dozens of young school children thanked Gov. Hunt, and, to the delight of the audience, flashed him the thumbs up sign. Afterward, Hunt stepped to the podium to a standing ovation.

“I want to thank NCCBI for this award and to thank you for all you've done as an organization,” Hunt began. “The truth is, this state is on a roll. We have a long way to go, but we're moving.”

He discussed the state's growing reputation as an education-focused state. He said someone in Washington recently told him that “there is not an important conversation in America today (about improving education) where North Carolina is not mentioned.” He went on to encourage the group to “stick with it, don't give up.”

During the dinner, NCCBI presented its 2000 Citation for Distinguished Citizenship to Bank of America Chairman and CEO Hugh McColl. Bill Friday, president emeritus of the UNC System, presented the award to McColl and extolled the banker for his many contributions to civic and social causes in Charlotte. Friday reminded the audience that, with contributions of $100 million last year, McColl's bank gave more in philanthropy last year than any other corporation in America.

McColl accepted the award with thanks and candor. “I never set out to do good works or earn awards for citizenship,” he said. “I just wanted to do business in a way that helped the communities where we do business instead of hurt them. This is a simple idea that has guided our company.”

He added that, for him, supporting civic causes was just the good business thing to do. “We business people don't like other people (such as government regulators) telling us how to run our businesses. So what I have learned is the best way to avoid having other people telling me how to run my company is to make a habit of doing the right thing.”

And then he quipped: “When you have critics, being one of the good guys tends to take the wind out of their sails.”

Wrapping up the annual meeting, Everett said NCCBI “will continue our sharp focus on education. We need to be focused on the common goal of providing a more well-rounded education for our young people” through new partnerships between schools, businesses and non-profits such as the YMCA.

“During the next year,” he said, “NCCBI will highlight efforts by businesses to promote education and spotlight organizations that are leading creative educational efforts.”

Berkeley, the luncheon speaker, said education is one of his personal passions as well.

“There is a shortage of quality math and science graduates in the United States. For a long time the easy answer was immigration,” he said, only half joking about stapling green cards to the diplomas of any international students who get math and science doctorates here. “But guess what, those people are starting to go home now after they finish their degrees and we have to start growing our own.”

He talked about a prototype of a website at which school children could take tests and compare their scores to those of students around the world. “We can see where a local B+ stands in comparison to the rest of the world,” he explained. “And I'm afraid you're not going to be happy with what you find.”

Adequate funding of basic university and governmental research is a critical need, Berkeley said. “One of our rules of thumb at Nasdaq is that fully half of our companies were built on technology that came about 15 to 20 years ago from basic research (funded by the government or the military),” he added. “So don't skimp when you talk about investing in science and technology.”

In the coming months Nasdaq will be expanding into Europe and Japan, where Berkeley thinks there will be a substantial demand for American growth stocks as well as interest by entrepreneurial companies in listing on Nasdaq. “And that's the best way to world peace. It'll be a much better world when everyone has something to lose.”

AT the NCCBI board meeting held during the morning of the annual meeting, directors heard a positive report by Treasurer Horace Johnson of Raleigh, the Ernst & Young executive, on the financial health of the association. He said NCCBI was finishing its fiscal year in the black for the first time in four years. The North Carolina magazine also ended its year in the black, he noted.

Johnson presented a proposed $2.43 million budget for the coming year that he said projects a 10 percent growth in revenue from all sources that should lead to a year-end surplus of about $185,000. Board members approved the budget proposal unanimously.

Gordon Myers of Asheville, the Ingles Markets executive who as NCCBI second vice chairman headed up the association's annual membership drive, reported to the board that 337 new members joined NCCBI during the year, a record number. He said he was happy to report that the association had met Chairman Phillips' membership goal of “2,000 by 2000.”

Myers said the individual board members did better than ever before at recruiting new members and brought in a total of 140. The top three board members in recruitment were Kelly King of BB&T, 29; Myers, 19; and Phillips, 10. Following NCCBI business, John Davis, executive director of NCFREE, spoke to the board on political trends.

Two informative seminars were offered during the afternoon, one on rural economic development and the other on smart growth issues.

North Carolina's rural areas need concrete, immediate assistance to jump-start their faltering economies and generate new jobs to staunch a brain drain to urban areas of the state, panelists said at an afternoon seminar.

Speaking at the seminar, entitled “Spreading Prosperity to the East and West,” panelist Billy Ray Hall, president of the Rural Economic Development Center in Raleigh, pointed out that the average per capita income in rural North Carolina is only 75 percent of that in the state's urban areas. “The rural-urban divide is still there,” Hall emphasized, adding, “the restructuring of agriculture particularly is hurting Eastern North Carolina; it now costs more to grow corn than you can sell it for.”

Myers, who served on the Rural Prosperity Task Force appointed by Gov. Jim Hunt, reviewed recommendations issued by the task force. “We need you to look at these proposals, decide if they are the right ones, and then talk with your colleagues about how to implement them,” he told the large audience.

Among the task force's recommendations are proposals to improve Internet access in rural parts of the state, to provide funding for a Rural Redevelopment Authority, to improve water and sewer and other infrastructure, and to invest in programs to train community leaders.

Panelist Andrea Harris of Raleigh, vice president of operations at the N.C. Institute of Minority Economic Development, echoed the concern that rural parts of the state are falling further and further behind. “We have two worlds emerging,” she warned. She suggested that existing businesses in rural counties, which now primarily supply consumer end-product industries, need to become more active in primary manufacturing industries.

Mark Sorrells of Clyde, executive director of N.C. REAL Enterprises, said in his remarks that the state should focus on encouraging rural residents to start their own businesses. “We have to diminish the brain drain that's happening in rural North Carolina,” he said, adding, “We need to diversify our economic development strategy and stop focusing on just industrial recruitment.”

Sorrells said he hoped the public schools would begin offering programs teaching students how to become entrepreneurs. Now, he said, schools teach students “how to be job applicants.”

The afternoon's second seminar, “Smoothing North Carolina's Entry into the 21st Century,” was a well-attended panel session with four state leaders in growth-related issues: Sen. Howard Lee (D-Orange), co-chair of the legislative commission to address smart growth; Ellis Hankins, executive director of the N.C. League of Municipalities; Janet D'Ignazio, chief planning and environmental officer for the N.C. Department of Transportation; and Chip Cherry, president of the Greenville-Pitt County Chamber of Commerce. The discussion was moderated by Ed Scott, chair of NCCBI's Environmental Concerns Committee.

Scott started the session with some sobering population estimates: it's projected, he said, that North Carolina will gain up to 15 million people in the next 15 to 20 years.

Sen. Lee, one of the sponsors of the original bill that resulted in the establishment of the growth management commission, summed up some of the responsibilities and goals of the group. The commission's four subcommittees will address (1) transportation and how the state can take a comprehensive approach, including roads, rail, and mass transit, (2) open space and how to maintain our undeveloped areas in conjunction with other activities, (3) community revitalization and encouraging the redevelopment of brownfields and downtowns and (4) partnerships and how to work on growth management in a regional way.

“We've definitely got some important issues to work on. Our state's urban areas are concerned about traffic and crowded schools, but we also have the responsibility to address the lack of growth in other areas,” Lee said.

Hankins began his presentation by defining what “smart growth” means to him. “When people talk about smart growth, they tend to talk of more compact development, growth closer to existing municipalities, redevelopment of downtowns, and development patterns that are easier and less expensive to serve with public money and public transportation,” he said. “But how do we get there? And is there even a consensus that this is what we want?”

Certain growth management plans in other states like Oregon and Maryland have been unpopular and have run up against opposition. Another challenge that North Carolina will face, he said, is how municipal and county governments will work together.

“It's not an easy task,” Hankins said. “We're dealing with elected bodies that sometimes have conflicting priorities.”

The DOT's D'Ignazio said that since 1970 the state's population has grown 40 percent and that the growth in vehicle miles traveled has increased by 160 percent.

“That statistic alone makes my hair stand on end,” she said. “People are driving longer, further, and I don't care why. There are a lot of explanations for it, but bottom line is that we have to improve the capacity of our system. The gap is enormous. If we don't have good mobility and access in this state, business will suffer.”

Increased traffic has caused “horribly congested corridors,” tremendous delays in just-in-time deliveries for businesses and worsening air quality across the state.

D'Ignazio explained that roads alone are not the answer. “DOT cannot build roads as fast as people build houses,” she said. Other solutions in which the department has been involved include helping communities apply smart growth standards, examining the feasibility of alternative transportation systems and mass transit, regional planning and land-use planning.

Cherry explained how a coalition of 42 Eastern North Carolina chambers of commerce has begun to talk about smart growth in the hope of learning from the mistakes of their more urban neighbors. What's been equally important, he explained, was defining smart growth from a business perspective and not letting environmentalists frame the discussion in their own terms.

“We look at smart growth as economic prosperity in balance with environmental, social and economic issues. We realize that we need to meet the needs of the present but without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.”

The majority of the coalition's chambers has approved the concept, and the group will be bringing together volunteers to address smart growth from the perspective of its 18,000 member companies. “We can't just let growth happen any more than we'd sit back and watch our companies grow without managing it,” Cherry said.

Delivering an entertaining and informative dinner speech, Wheeler of Charlotte, who also heads the publicly-traded Speedway Motor Sports concern, said NASCAR continues to grow rapidly and has quickly evolved into a major component of the state's economy.

He said NASCAR's economic impact was about $400 million in 1998 but is projected to reach $1.5 billion by this year, including indirect spending. Of that, between $400 million and $500 million is directly attributable to events staged at the state's two major speedways, the North Carolina Speedway in Rockingham and Lowe's Motor Speedway in Cabarrus County.

He said about 1 million fans attend events at Lowe's Motor Speedway each year. “We need to keep this industry in North Carolina,” Wheeler said. “Indianapolis (home of the Indianapolis 500) would love to get this industry. So don't take it for granted.”

He regaled the audience with an amusing history of stock car racing, saying it's true that the sport has its origins in bootleggers driving fast cars to outrun the law. “Racing was rough and tumble in this days” but has since grown to become the nation's fastest-growing sport.

The luncheon invocation was given by Dr. Thomas S. Haggai, chairman and CEO of IGA, and the dinner invocation by Laura Carpenter Bingham, president of Peace College.


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