Preps for the Presidential Debate
Tens of millions of voters in the
United States and curious citizens around the world will
get a glimpse of Winston-Salem on Oct. 11. Granted, it
won't be much of a glimpse, probably no more than the
inside of a chapel and maybe a look at a baseball field,
but the economic boosters of the city are not going to
pass up a chance to sell Winston-Salem to corporate
decision makers and site selection consultants.
That night the second of
the presidential debates is scheduled for Wait Chapel on
the campus of Wake Forest University. It will be the
second time Wake Forest has hosted a presidential debate,
the first being back in 1988 when three determined
undergraduates sold their university and the Commission
on Presidential Debates that the school could do it.
Based on that good experience, the commission had no
qualms about returning this year.
Much has changed in
Winston-Salem in the past dozen years. In 1988, there was
no fiber optic telecommunications backbone snaking around
the campus. And one could smell the workings of the
city's largest employer, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. Today,
Wake Forest has the reputation as one of the best
Web-wired campuses in the nation. And R.J. Reynolds no
longer manufactures cigarettes downtown. In fact, two of
its old factories and research buildings have been
converted into homes for high-tech businesses.
That is the image
Winston-Salem is projecting. Just prior to the debate,
Bob Leak Jr., president of Winston-Salem Business Inc.,
will send a targeted mailing to a 400-company list and a
separate list of site selection consultants urging them
to watch the debate. We'll send them a memento from
the community and a message saying something like, `While
you are watching the debate, think of Winston-Salem,'
says Leak. I don't know that it will yield
any direct inquiries, but it will be an awareness
campaign, another reason to get them thinking about
Gayle Anderson, president
of the Winston-Salem Chamber of Commerce, says, Our
focus will be to position our community as being a
technology, business-based community. We have a task
force working to develop some media stories that could be
used as sidebars, such as the types of companies that are
here, or maybe some stories that will track with what the
candidates have on their own agendas.
The city's business
leaders know the debate is only a one-night event; the
candidates and the bulk of the press corps will blow in
one day and leave the next. But there will be 1,500
reporters and high-powered politicians in town. City
leaders are hoping that at least some of them will want
some background on what is happening in Winston-Salem.
Stephan Dragisic, convention sales manager for the
Winston-Salem Convention and Visitors Bureau, says the
city has 2,500 hotel rooms, which he estimates is more
than enough for the press, Secret Service, and campaign
entourages. We've talked with road construction
crews to make sure there is no road work going on around
Wake Forest so there will be no issues with any
motorcades, says Dragisic. We've talked with
the state Department of Transportation to make sure I-40
and Silas Creek Parkway will be looking their best. You
will see a lot of mulch.
The only event associated
with the debate that the public will be able to attend
will be MTV's Rock The Vote, which will be at
Ernie Shore Field, the city's minor league baseball
stadium. The debate will be shown on large screen
televisions set up on the field, and Rock The
Vote will be webcast by Yahoo!. Nothing is being
left to chance. Wake Forest is having a temporary
electric sub station installed next to Wait Chapel, which
will be active concurrent with electric generators.
Mint Museum Moving Uptown
North Carolina's oldest art museum
could soon have a new home in uptown Charlotte. After 64
years in the stately Eastover neighborhood, the Mint
Museum of Art's trustees have voted to move out of the
old U.S. mint building and to a new facility in the heart
of the city's growing cultural district. The dream
is within reach to have a building to enhance all the
collections we have and the ones aim to collect,
says Neill McBryde, past chairman of the museum's board
of trustees and now chairman of the expansion committee.
The strongest argument for
a move is the success of the Mint Museum of Craft+Design,
a spin-off of the Mint that opened in the former
Montaldo's building in uptown Charlotte last October. The
facility already is outdrawing visitors to the more
established museum. The craft museum is just a block from
the Bank of America Corporate Center and walking distance
from the Charlotte Convention Center and other center
city arts offerings.
The success of the
Craft+Design museum has put to rest any concerns we had
that possible museum visitors would see uptown as a
canyon of towers with too many one-way streets and no
parking, says Phil Busher, the Mint's public
relations director. We are the last major cultural
center in Charlotte that's not in an uptown site.
The Atlanta firm of
Alexander Haas Martin & Martin is conducting a
feasibility study due in early November to determine
whether the necessary $50 million can be raised by April
2001 to design and build a new museum. Consultants are
interviewing community leaders and major donors to gauge
financial support. Meanwhile, trustees are eyeing two
potential sites in the cultural district.
The Mint's goal is to
become a museum of American art. It wants to acquire
significant paintings and furniture from the 18th, 19th
and 20th centuries, and it also wants to improve the
quality of traveling exhibits it brings to Charlotte.
Because of specialized storage, security and climate
needs, officials say it's ideal to design and build a new
museum, rather than renovate an existing building.
That's how the current
facility came to be the state's first art museum in 1936.
The building now located on Randolph Road was originally
a U.S. Mint, which opened in Charlotte in 1836. Gold
coining stopped at the building during the Civil War and
never resumed. Over the next 60 years the building served
a variety of purposes, including Red Cross Headquarters
during World War I. It was scheduled to be torn down in
the middle 1930s when a group of organizers stopped the
demolition and had it moved to the Eastover neighborhood,
where it opened as the state's first art museum.
Laura Williams Tracy
Counties Consider Banding Together
Next year's legislature could
entertain a request for an eighth economic development
region to be formed in the state that would target four
northwestern North Carolina counties. A concept that has
been tossed around by officials in the Unifour area for
several years the formation of an economic
development region that would include Alexander,
Caldwell, Burke, and Catawba counties as well as several
surrounding counties was recently brought to the
table during a planning session in Caldwell County.
Officials say they would like to see the idea brought
before the state legislature.
The state now has seven
economic development regions. The four counties are in
two of those regions: Burke and Caldwell counties are in
the Advantage West Region, which includes 21 other
counties, and Catawba and Alexander are in the Carolina's
Partnership, which serves 10 counties, including
Mecklenburg and those surrounding it.
Proponents of the new
region say it would make sense to put the Unifour
counties together in one region because they are so
intrinsically linked economically. The counties share a
combined labor force because residents commute among the
counties to work. As the largest city in the Unifour,
Hickory has for the past three decades been the retail
hub of the four counties, with residents traveling to
Hickory to shop, dine and for entertainment.
Proponents also have
suggested that Watauga, Ashe, Alleghany and Wilkes
counties also be included. With those eight counties, the
proposed new region would have several colleges, plus a
major state university in Appalachian State University in
Boone, five community colleges and a major private
university, Lenoir Rhyne College in Hickory.
The counties already work
together on recruiting industry and other ventures.
Caldwell County and its county seat, Lenoir, and Burke
County and Morganton recently joined forces to create an
airport authority. We have a powerhouse economic
engine here, and we would like to be the ones driving
it, says Caldwell County Commissioner Herb Greene.
It is not that we don't think the other regions we
are part of are doing a good job.
The vastness of the
AdvantageWest region has been one reason behind the quest
for a new region. The counties that would be in the new
region are on the outer fringes geographically of the
existing region and of the Charlotte Partnership region,
they say. They also point out that the Charlotte
Partnership is the only region that has two metropolitan
statistical areas: Hickory and Charlotte. Greene says he
and other people have been talking with legislators and
hope the issue will go before the legislature next year.
I don't think we have any choice but to do
something because people who move here don't see the
boundaries between the counties, he says.
They see us as one area. Charlene H.
Gains New Direct Flights to California
Competition among airlines for
passengers at Raleigh-Durham International Airport is
booming, and Triangle techies are reaping the benefits.
In September, Southwest Airlines began one-stop service
to San Jose, Calif., a neighbor of technology mecca
Silicon Valley. One week prior, Morrisville-based Midway
Airlines announced it would offer non-stop service to the
same city, beginning Nov. 7. This is a big
deal, says Charlie Hayes, the president and CEO of
the Research Triangle Regional Partnership. Hats
off to Midway.
Robert Ferguson, Midway's
president and CEO, says the service is possible thanks to
the addition of two Boeing 737-700s, which can easily
travel the approximate 3,000 miles to San Jose. The
airline will offer two daily round-trip flights with an
introductory round-trip fare of $298. One will depart RDU
at 7:25 a.m. and arrive in San Jose at 10:25 a.m. Pacific
time. The second leaves RDU at 5:55 p.m. and arrives at
8:55 p.m. Pacific time. Kevin Brafford
Exhibit Sets Museum of Art Attendance Record
Lawrence J. Wheeler had high
expectations for the Rodin exhibition. But even the
director for the North Carolina Museum of Art was
surprised that a record 304,066 visitors took in the
exhibition April 16-Aug. 13 in Raleigh. The exhibition,
titled Rodin: Sculpture from the Iris and B. Gerald
Cantor Collection, averaged 2,842 visitors per day
during its 107-day run to see more than 110 pieces of
work from Auguste Rodin, one of the most innovative and
influential sculptors in the history of Western art.
Everyone thought I
had set an unattainable goal for the museum when I
predicted 250,000 visitors to Rodin, says Wheeler.
Not only did we meet that goal, but we far exceeded
it, and we were able to expose the museum to North
Carolina residents who have never visited us before. Just
as important, our visitors had a positive
The close of the
exhibition also marked the close of Festival Rodin, a
17-week celebration of the arts, culture, theater, dance,
music and museums of the Triangle. The largest marketing
effort for the arts in state history, Festival Rodin
included the participation of the N.C. Museum of Natural
Sciences, Exploris and the Museum of Life and Sciences as
well as other performing arts groups and cultural
resource organizations throughout the Triangle.
In order to accommodate
the demand for tickets, the museum opened its doors for
34 consecutive hours during the show's closing weekend.
The Round-the-Clock with Rodin marathon began
at 9 a.m. on Aug. 12 and included a free concert by Paris
Combo and a free fireworks and laser show. Nearly 35,000
people visited the museum during the marathon. The
previous attendance record for an exhibition at the
museum was established last year by Money to Moore:
The Millennium Gift of Sara Lee Corporation. It ran
from Sept. 12 through Nov. 7 and drew 81,090 for its 50
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