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Regional Business Reports

Chapel Hill
Blue Cross Gives $10 Million to Free Clinics
The Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation plans to improve access to healthcare for uninsured and underinsured citizens by donating up to $10 million to free healthcare clinics across the state. The foundation is making the grant to the N.C. Association of Free Clinics (NCAFC) as part of a partnership between the organizations to strengthen the free health clinic network across the state. The grant, to be distributed over five years, is the largest ever to be made by the BCBSNC Foundation and the largest to be received by the NCAFC.

In addition to expanding services at existing clinics, the grant’s goal is to expand the number of free clinics and pharmacies across the state to 85, up from the current 57, and to provide statewide access. The grant is also expected to allow free clinics to more than double the number of people served annually.

“Providing healthcare for the uninsured is crucial to the well-being of North Carolina, and it is central to the mission of the BCBSNC Foundation,” says Bob Greczyn, president and chair of the BCBSNC Foundation.

The NCAFC projects that by 2009 more than 300,000 uninsured patients annually will receive $150 million worth of health services from free clinics and pharmacies, including 750,000 prescriptions. In 2002, North Carolina’s free clinics and pharmacies provided $60 million of care to more than 125,000 uninsured patients, dispensing more than 350,000 prescriptions.

Every free clinic will be eligible for a base grant from the BCBSNC Foundation as well as additional aid for service expansion, technology and programs for people with chronic medical conditions. The foundation grant will also be used for start-up aid to establish new clinics, an annual flu shot program, and planning grants and matching grants.


Raleigh
First Citizens Makes Major Real Estate Buy
First Citizens Bank has contracted to purchase the BTI Corporate Center, a 4.9-acre complex in Raleigh’s North Hills area, from Highwoods Properties. The BTI Center, which is adjacent to more than eight acres First Citizens already owns, includes a nine-story, 163,000 square-foot building and a multi-level parking deck. First Citizens Bank will continue to lease space to tenants already in the BTI complex, and Highwoods Properties will continue to lease and manage the property.

Lewis R. Holding, chair of First Citizens, says, “Our company has grown tremendously in recent years. The purchase of this office complex will help First Citizens efficiently consolidate its corporate staff in one of the premier business locations in Raleigh.”

The bank owns property adjacent to the BTI complex and in 2000 announced plans for a corporate office complex in the block. The first phase of the complex was completed the following year with the construction of a 24,000-square-foot branch and Wake area offices. Construction of an 87,000-square-foot, crescent-shaped building also is planned for the site, but no construction timetable has been announced.  — Noel McLaughlin


Kannapolis
Plans for New Business Park Bolster Economic Recovery
A town in need of some good economic news got it when plans were announced for a new $100 million business park in Kannapolis. Charlotte-based Childress Klein Properties paid $11 million for a 275-acre tract at Interstate 85’s Exit 54, commonly known as Kannapolis Parkway. Construction is expected to begin this spring and the first buildings will be available in 2005.

Plans call for 2.5 million square feet of flexible office and distribution space, plus future commercial and retail development. Kannapolis has budgeted $200,000 to extend water and sewer lines to the site. U.S. Rep. Robin Hayes has secured $500,000 in federal money to construct a bridge over nearby Coddle Creek that is necessary for the project.


Pinehurst
Golf, Tourism Leaders Hail Pat Corso on His Retirement
Pat Corso took Pinehurst Resort from financial ruin to one of the world’s premier golf destinations during a remarkable 17-year tenure that officially ended Feb. 6, three weeks after announcing he would resign to pursue other interests. “I have had the honor and privilege of leading Pinehurst for the past 17 years,” Corso said in a statement. “We raised our family here and have deep roots in the community. This is an opportunity for me to pursue a new career direction and for Pinehurst to move to the next chapter in its history.”

A replacement is expected to be named before the end of March, according to Rich Beckert, executive vice president of ClubResorts, a division of Dallas-based ClubCorp, which owns Pinehurst. “ClubCorp and Pinehurst have had the great benefit of Pat’s leadership,” Beckert said in a statement. “We are grateful for the impact he’s had on Pinehurst, its restoration as an award-winning destination and its leadership role in the game of golf.”

Corso was working for a resort owned by ClubCorp in Michigan when he came to Pinehurst in 1986 to manage the Holly Inn. He was named president of Pinehurst the following year — just three years after ClubCorp had bought the fledging resort from a consortium of banks. The then-Pinehurst Hotel (now the Carolina) was in a state of disrepair — a chef had fallen through the floor and the roof had multiple leaks — and the golf courses, including the famed Pinehurst No. 2, were in dismal shape.

Corso, with the financial backing of ClubCorp and its founder, Robert Dedman Sr., worked to restore the resort to its former glory. By the time the U.S. Open was staged in June 1999, ClubCorp had spent more than $134 million refurbishing Pinehurst and establishing a reputation as “the cradle of American golf.” That U.S. Open, won by the late Payne Stewart, was hailed as one of the most successful championships in USGA history, so much so that the U.S. Open will return in 2005, its quickest return to any course in history.

In 2000, Corso was named president of The Pinehurst Co., established to oversee ClubCorp’s five resorts — and with an eye on expansion. But a weakened economy, coupled with the effects of 9/11, crippled the tourism and resort industry and led to ClubCorp to disband the company.

“What he has done to that property with its restoration, for the game of golf and for this community is remarkable,” says Kelly Miller, president and CEO of Pine Needles and Mid Pines resorts in Southern Pines. “I consider him to be the architect of the renaissance of Pinehurst. He has done so much to promote this area and tourism in North Carolina in general. He will be incredibly hard to replace.”  — Kevin Brafford
 

Charlotte
BofA Scores Marketing Coup in Deal with Panthers
A natural extension of a long-standing relationship between Bank of America and the Carolina Panthers spurred the financial giant’s estimated $140 million decision to turn Ericcson Stadium into Bank of America Stadium. The 20-year rights agreement to rename the Panthers’ home field was announced just two days before the team upset the Philadelphia Eagles to reach the Super Bowl. It was a marketing coup, for sure, but just coincidental in its timing.

 Former Bank of America CEO Hugh McColl Jr. worked closely with team owner Jerry Richardson to finance the construction of the 73,258-seat stadium, which opened in 1996 at a cost of $187 million. “I can tell you that without Bank of America there would be no Carolina Panthers,” Richardson, a former NFL player, says.

The Charlotte-based bank already was the official financial services company of the Panthers and other pro teams, but never had put its name on one of their facilities. The existing sponsorship, which continues, gives BofA exclusive rights to ATMs in the stadium in addition to radio commercial spots and an assortment of other team tie-ins.

The Panthers had been looking for a new sponsor since 2002 when cash-strapped Swedish telecommunications company L.M. Ericsson Inc. admitted what had been rumored all along — that it would not renew its nine-year, $20 million deal after the 2004 season.

Ericsson further agreed to end the deal early if a replacement was found. “This is a special day for Bank of America and all of our associates to reinforce our relationship with the Carolina Panthers and our commitment to this city of winners,” says CEO Ken Lewis.

The marketing deal is the latest in BofA’s efforts to build its business through sports sponsorships. It’s a significant backer of the Olympics and the namesake of the PGA Tour’s Bank of America Colonial golf tournament.

The bank also sponsors 15 pro sports teams and owns the building-naming rights to the University of Washington’s basketball arena. In 2003, BofA officials say the bank spent a total of $985 million on all marketing, up from $753 million in 2002.  — Kevin Brafford


Raleigh
Plans Approved for New Convention Center, Hotel
Momentum is gaining on three major projects planned for downtown Raleigh designed to revitalize the area for residents and increase the city’s marketability as a meetings destination. The Raleigh City Council and the Wake County Board of Commissioners have agreed to a funding plan to pay for a $180 million convention center and a $20 million public subsidy for a $58 million, 400-room hotel to be constructed by Stormont-Noble Development of Atlanta.

“Befitting our status as major league destination with the NHL Carolina Hurricanes and other area professional teams, Raleigh will soon be a major player for state, regional and national meetings business,” says Dave Heinl, president & CEO of the Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau. “For decades, larger and more lucrative conventions were forced to bypass Raleigh because of the inadequate size and configuration of the existing Raleigh Convention Center and the lack of a convention headquarters quality hotel. Soon, that will no longer be the case.”

Most immediate is the 2005 scheduled reopening of Fayetteville Street to vehicular traffic. The city’s traditional main street has been a pedestrian mall for the past 27 years. The project is estimated to cost $8.9 million. The source of the money remains uncertain, although Mayor Charles Meeker says he expects the cost will be absorbed as a road project in the city’s annual budget.

Fayetteville Street’s new look will include 98 parallel parking spaces and a 40-foot-wide roadway down the middle, including the parking lanes. “Garden” and sidewalk zones will fill roughly 30 feet on each side. The street will have two lanes and two-way traffic.

In addition, the street will have granite-topped benches with room for planters or art on each end; oak and crape myrtle trees; bluestone paving in the zone where cafe tables are intended; and a still-to-be-determined signature object at the corners of each intersection.

The convention center complex will be paid for by using $85 of every $100 uncommitted revenue collected over the next 30 years from taxes on hotel rooms and prepared food and beverage. Construction on the 510,000-square-foot complex, which will include 212,000 feet of rentable space, is expected to begin next January with completion in mid-2007.

The hotel also is targeted for a mid-2007 opening. Plans show it to be a four-star Marriott Hotel with a 9,000-square-foot grand ballroom, 5,950 square feet of breakout meeting space and 400 square feet of retail space. — Kevin Brafford


Troy
Bank Opens Branches Inside Convenience Stores
First Bank is finding success in a business strategy that satisfies the banking needs of its customers along with their appetites. The Troy-based bank, which boasts of 61 branches and more than $1.4 billion assets, has teamed up with convenience-store chain Quik Chek in three towns to provide dual services in one stop.

The latest full-service First Bank branch to open is in a FuelMate Express — which is owned by Quik Chek — on U.S. 1 at the southern tip of Sanford. Earlier locations were opened in Randolph County, one in Asheboro and the other in neighboring Seagrove.

At each site, First Bank has taken over a portion of the convenience store before eventually constructing its own branch at a separate location. “This is not something that will ever dominate our growth pattern,” First Bank CEO Jimmie Garner told the Sandhills Business Times. “We do it according to our needs. If we’re in an area already and need to expand, we find this works better than building a full office immediately.”

First Bank has grown rapidly since 1997, increasing its assets more than three-fold from $400 million to $1.4 billion. Last year, it added eight branches and began operations in South Carolina for the first time after acquiring Carolina Community Bank in Dillon County. That followed by a year First Bank’s first foray into Virginia, where it had opened a branch in Wytheville.

Garner says First Bank’s philosophy of “one-on-one banking” serves its customers well. — Kevin Brafford


Salisbury
EPA Praises Food Lion for Energy Conservation
Food Lion’s commitment to controlling its energy use is paying off, as 101 of its stores have earned Energy Star recognition from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The designation means that these Food Lion stores are some of the most energy efficient retail facilities in the country. “Food Lion embraces a superior energy management strategy that is a model for all businesses to follow,” says Kathleen Hogan, director of the EPA’s Climate Protection Partnerships Division, which oversees the Energy Star program.

Food Lion became an Energy Star partner in 1998. Over the past three years, through new lighting, refrigeration and heating and cooling technologies and company-wide energy management efforts, Food Lion has reduced its energy use by more than 1.2 trillion Btu. In 2003, Food Lion saved 550 billion Btu, and cut its natural gas consumption by nearly nine percent.

In 2002 and 2003, the EPA recognized Food Lion as “Energy Star Partner of the Year” — the only supermarket company to receive the honor. “We think it’s quite an accomplishment,” says Kyle Mitchell, Food Lion vice president of construction and engineering.

The environmental impact of Food Lion’s efforts is significant. Based on EPA calculations, each of the Salisbury-based company’s stores saves as much as 86,000 kilowatts per year — enough to power nine American homes for an entire year. The energy savings at each store also prevent 190,920 pounds of CO2 emissions per year, equal to removing the pollution of 19 cars or planting nearly 26 acres of trees. —Jeff Lowrance


Charlotte
Retiring Mac Everett Pledges Continued Civic Leadership
Mac Everett expects to frequent the golf course more regularly following his retirement after a distinguished career of more than 25 years with First Union and Wachovia, but in the foreseeable future he won’t always be bringing his clubs with him. Everett, 57, worked his last day as Wachovia’s head of corporate and community affairs on Feb. 15, but has agreed to serve for the second consecutive year as tournament director of the Wachovia Championship, a PGA Tour event that drew rave reviews in its inaugural tournament last May at Quail Hollow Club.

“I have been fortunate to have had so many wonderful experiences throughout my career,” says Everett. “I am looking forward to spending more time with my family and friends, working hard on my golf game and continuing to serve the Charlotte community I love so dearly.” 

Shannon McFayden, 43, who has led Wachovia’s community initiatives program since 2001, replaced Everett and becomes the second woman on the bank’s 13-member operating committee.

Everett, who was NCCBI’s chair in 2000-01, began his career in the trust department of First Union in 1978. He’s credited with helping create the bank’s mutual fund family and headed its N.C. operations before assuming leadership of Wachovia’s corporate and community affairs following the banks’ merger.

“Mac Everett is one of the great leaders of our company, and Wachovia will benefit in years to come from his contributions,” says Wachovia CEO Ken Thompson.  —
Kevin Brafford


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