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Today In North Carolina for April 2005

IBM Names New State Executive

Barry W. Eveland, 60, the senior state executive for IBM and chair emeritus of NCCBI, retired last month after 39 years with the company. Since he first came to RTP in 1970, it grew to be the largest IBM campus in the world, home to 13,000 employees and 30 business units, ironically, none of them manufacturing, the site’s original purpose.

Rusine Mitchell-Sinclair, 52, replaces Eveland as IBM’s senior state executive and will preside over IBM facilities in the Triangle, Greensboro, Charlotte, and Winston-Salem. She will be the company’s official representative to employees and the community and handle government relations in the state.

“Rusine is enthusiastic, intelligent and has a good sense about the business and government communities,” says Eveland. “She’ll do a fine job.”

Mitchell-Sinclair, who joined IBM in 1981, came to the company’s RTP campus the same year that Eveland took the reins as senior state executive. She held a variety of service management positions with the company, most recently as vice president of strategy and implementation for IBM Global IT Delivery.

During her tenure as general manager of IBM’s e-business hosting services, she helped the company achieve No. 1 ranking in the industry, according to the Garner Group, a position it still holds.

Mitchell-Sinclair says she’s known Eveland for most of the years she’s been at the RTP site and she hopes to continue providing the “thoughtful and insightful leadership that he has, not only at the site, but in the community.” She notes that she plans to increase the company’s relationships with both businesses and elected officials in the region.

Eveland joined IBM in the Federal Systems Division in Owego, N.Y., in 1966 and moved to RTP in 1970, where he was instrumental in the expansion of the company’s site and the opening of its Charlotte facility.

Eveland held executive positions in manufacturing and supply chain management in the company’s Westchester County, N.Y., headquarters for 12 years before returning to North Carolina in 1993, where he became general manager of PC Manufacturing Operations.

In 2002, Eveland was named vice president of operations for the integrated supply chain organization, responsible for IBM’s system hardware manufacturing and distribution worldwide. “I was one of three executives who established the organization, which consolidated procurement, manufacturing, logistics, customer fulfillment, and IT, which substantially improved IBM’s supply chain costs and effectiveness,” says Eveland. He was also senior location executive for IBM’s RTP facility.

Eveland served as campaign chair for the annual fund raising drive for the Triangle United Way in 2001 and the Wake Education Partnership in 2003. As NCCBI chair in 2004-05 he set a record for the number of regional meetings attended.

Two IBM accomplishments Eveland points to in particular are the expansion of the RTP site in the late ’70s and early ’80s and the opening of the Charlotte facility in 1978. He plans to remain involved with NCCBI and the N.C. State University Board of Visitors and Engineering Advisory Council, among others. He also will remain on the boards of CT Communications and Intrahealth International. But he’ll also keep busy building a second home in Blowing Rock and sailing the Intracoastal Waterway. And then, Eveland notes, “there is the honey do list.”                              — Allan Maurer


Smog Gets Worse as Mass Transit Arrives

Charlotte’s growth and increasing sophistication have brought about another designation of which the city is not so proud. An eight-county region including Charlotte was recently added to a federal bad-air list, making it the city with the worst ozone problem in the Southeast.

The Northwest Environment Watch recently named Charlotte worst in sprawl among 15 US cities. The organization looked at the amount of rural land converted to suburbs, and the growth of low-density neighborhoods.

On the heels of bad environmental news, Voices & Choices of the Central Carolinas, a nonprofit group that was formed in the mid-1990s to help balance the region’s growth with its environment, has run out of money and closed its doors.

Governments have a reason to heed the bad news about Charlotte’s environment. The region has until 2010 to meet federal ozone standards.

The Southern Environmental Law Center has recommended that the region continue programs that link land-use planning to air quality and discourage suburban housing developments that create more air pollution because they require people to drive to work, shopping and all other destinations.

Charlotte is building a mass transit system and the first passenger train will roll in the summer of 2006. City planners are looking at new guidelines that will push high-density development near rail lines. Such Transit Oriented Zoning would impose a minimum housing density in areas right around transit stations.   —Laura Williams-Tracy



Festival Park Plaza Gets Off the Ground

Fayetteville’s city council has approved a new $5.8 million addition to the ongoing revitalization of the city’s downtown. The council approved a proposal for the Festival Park Plaza building, a 42,000-square-foot mixed-use, three-story structure.

The Raleigh-based Lundy Group is developing the building, which will include 14,000 square feet of retail space on its first floor and about 28,000 square feet of office space on the upper floors.

The Downtown Development Corp. (DDC) says the building will add 143 additional office workers and five to seven new businesses with at least $4.5 million in annual wages to the downtown mix.

In addition, a unique profit sharing arrangement means the building could produce an income stream to support other downtown development, says the DDC.

The new building will serve as a gateway entrance to the community’s Festival Park. First floor restaurants and shops will open onto the promenade, linking the two.

The DDC has recommended two other projects to the city council for review. They are: the “Capitol” entertainment project (named after the Capitol Department store previously on the site); a multi-zoned facility patterned after the nationally successful “Dave & Buster’s” franchise; and the “300 Block of Hay,” a $13.5 million mixed use development. The development would include 8,800 square feet of retail space and 42 residential units with associated private parking, says Marshall Isler, executive vice president with the DDC. The Capitol project is expected to draw up to 175,000 visitors a year.

All three projects represent nearly $25 million in downtown investment, more than four times that invested in 2004, and would create 275 new jobs and a projected additional $344,000 in property tax revenue.

They stem from the community’s “Renaissance Plan” approved in 2002 and adopted to revitalize Fayetteville’s depressed downtown market. The DDC manages and implements the plan by constructing private-public partnerships. --Allan Maurer



Bank's New Name Alters the Skyline

The skyline CCB sign that has long been one of Durham’s most identifying landmarks on the downtown Central Carolina Bank Building will disappear over the weekend of April 22-24.

 SunTrust Bank Inc., which merged with National Commerce Financial Corp., CCB’s parent company in October, plans to convert the CCB signs over that weekend. The CCB and NCF branches have operated as part of SunTrust since the merger.

The combined financial services enterprise holds assets of more than $152 billion, deposits of $101 billion, and has more than 1,720 branches from Maryland to Florida.

CCB always focused on smaller investors, but SunTrust brings much greater assets to the market. SunTrust says that gives CCB customers access to larger commercial credit lines and wider capital markets, broader investment opportunities and access to debt and equity financing and mezzanine financing, none of which NCF offered previously.



Furniture Showrooms Exhibiting New Wares

The interiors of High Point’s furniture showroom buildings have long remained a mystery to most people not directly involved in the semi-annual International Home Furnishings Market. Entry ways to the buildings are closely guarded, and many showroom facilities do not even have windows to give outsiders a glimpse of the fine furnishings and decorative accessories displayed inside.

But one of the Furniture Capital’s premier showroom addresses has bucked the tradition of conducting business outside public view and is, in fact, opening its doors to visitors. The 500,000-square-foot Showplace exhibition building made its debut during the fall 2000 Home Furnishings Market in the heart of the downtown showroom district on a site previously occupied by a Sears retail store. The contemporary glass-fronted building offers a clear view of the products on display and the activities going on inside the five-story exhibit hall.

Now Showplace is inviting non-furniture groups to take advantage of the spacious building’s display areas outside of Market times.

Joanna Easter, one of the founders of Showplace, explained that the city’s lack of a convention center was one factor in the company’s decision to solicit trade shows and conventions for High Point.

She added that “people love coming to High Point to shop for furniture so it’s exciting all the way around.”

In addition to hosting groups like health underwriters and building contractors, weddings and Christmas parties, Showplace is sponsoring its own events. A “Look What’s Cooking in the Piedmont” show is slated for May 20-22, and the first Piedmont New Car Festival will be held in December.

The cooking show next month will be a “kitchen extravaganza,” according to Showplace Event Marketing Manager Allison Akes. The event will feature gourmet foods and beverage exhibitors, she says, along with catering sources and other kitchen needs.

Area automobile dealers are enthused about the December car festival, Joanna Easter says, and are anxious to display their 2006 models inside Showplace.

Both events are open to the public with a portion of the admission proceeds going to Kyle Petty’s Victory Junction Gang camp in Randleman.  — Jerry  Blackwelder



Qubein Makes Good on Fundraising Pledge

When Nido Qubein took the helm as the new president of High Point University, he challenged the community to support the institution by raising $10 million in 60 days and pledged the first $1 million himself. Only 29 days later, Qubein told an audience at the school’s Hayworth Fine Arts Center that the campaign had already received pledges twice that amount in half the time — $20 million.

Qubein says 95 percent of the money came from High Point and resulted largely from his making personal visits to people and asking them to contribute as he had.

Qubein, 56, says the university needs from $35 million to $50 million more to upgrade buildings, dorms, and athletic facilities, establish a student life building and create new homes for the business and education schools.

As a private university, the school cannot rely on tax dollars for support. Although the university charges $24,000 for tuition and board, many scholarship students do not pay the full amount, and Qubein hopes to shift the balance to more who do.


Biotech Programs Get Another Booster Shot

 The state’s efforts to retain its leadership position in biotechnology got another booster shot last month when the Golden Leaf Foundation approved $1.3 million in grants to fund training programs at N.C. community colleges.

Golden Leaf, which is dispersing funds from the national tobacco settlement, has funded a total of 63 BioNetwork grants totaling $6.7 million during the last year. Golden Leaf provided $8.7 million in startup funding for BioNetwork as part of an overall grant to the Biomanufacturing & Pharmaceutical Training Consortium (BPTC). The BPTC includes the Biomanufacturing and Training Center at N.C. State University and the Biomanufacturing Research Institute and Technology Enterprise at N.C. Central University.

Community colleges statewide are using the latest grants to obtain equipment and technology necessary to provide specialized training for the highly regulated biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries. The industry does not hire people without the specialized training necessary to work in U.S.  Food and Drug Administration regulated facilities.

The largest single grant of $159,621 went to Haywood Community College for a classroom and lab to support biotech training. Asheville-Buncombe Technical College received $114,790 for its biotech laboratory enhancement project. Johnston Community College gets $99,400 for its BioProcess Technology program.

Separate grants also fund biotech distance learning programs and innovation fund awards. Asheville-Buncombe, Johnston, and Pit Community College reach received distance learning grants of $58,795. Grants to 13 other community colleges ranged from $9,000 to $50,000. The latest round of grants extends the BioNetwork’s impact to 80 of the state’s 100 counties.

“This funding is transforming biotechnology education and training in North Carolina,” says BioNetwork Director Susan Seymour. “Although our colleges have been providing excellent training for many years, the rapid growth of biomanufacturing industry in the state has left us struggling to keep pace with their workforce training needs.” --Allan Maurer



Innovative Urban Design Lets Town Keep Its Soul

A small town on the rural western edge of Stanly County is holding on to its hometown roots in the face of inevitable growth.

When NC 24/27 through the Stanly County town of Locust was widened in 2002, the landscape of the town changed forever. Some turn-of-the-century buildings through the main crossroads were destroyed.

But developers with a love of the town and a taste for urban design are reinventing a new town center.

The group, called Main Street Property LLC, assembled 120 acres on the northwest edge of the city and is rebuilding  downtown with the help of internationally known design firm Duany Plater-Zyberk & Co, which has an office in nearby Davidson. DPZ is known for promoting the “New Urbanism” movement.

Called Locust Town Center, the project includes a renovated 30,000-square-foot building with a hardware store and the busiest branch library in the county. City hall and the police department move to the building in April.

The project will feature apartments, retail and service businesses. The new downtown will include a town green for concerts and a farmers’ market. Over the next 10 years some 248 single-family homes priced near $300,000 will be built.

What’s fueling growth and interest by developers is the completion of I-485, Charlotte’s new outer loop.

“People have realized that we are 10 miles from I-485 and 20 miles to uptown,” says Locust town administrator James Inman. “Our goal is to grow.”

But Inman says the town hopes to avoid the sprawling growth many outer belt communities encounter, and an eight-day series of DPZ-led design meetings about the town center revealed strong sentiment among townspeople about their community.

Out of those meetings came the slogan, “Locust, the city with a soul,” and that has been adopted with a new town logo.

Though the soul remains, Locust’s identity is sure to change if growth projections bear out. The town is projected to grow from 2,500 residents to as many as 15,000 in the next 20 years.

Locust has readied itself for growth by providing plenty of infrastructure. It recently doubled the capacity of its water lines, providing enticement for developers who are hampered by water restrictions in neighboring Cabarrus County.

“I’ve authorized more housing starts in the last six months than in the last four years,” says Inman.

Developers are taking notice. One already has a gated golf-course project with 1,440 homes, town homes and apartments on the drawing board. The retirement community would offer homes ranging from $200,000 to $1 million, an 18-hole golf course, tennis courts and other amenities.

“We’re never going to be a finance

 Mecca like Charlotte,” says Inman. “We like being a suburb of the city. We take no issue with that.” — Laura Williams-Tracy



Planes and Trains Draw Record New Customers

Air travel is often one measure of a region’s economic health, so economic development officials in Western North Carolina are pleased that traffic at Asheville Regional Airport is setting records.

Officials with the airport announced that total passenger traffic in January rose nearly 40 percent over the same time period in 2004.  Total passenger traffic for January reached a record of 38,344, the highest figure for January air travel in Asheville since 1988.

The airport has added new flights to keep up with demand, including a daily nonstop flight to Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minn., on Northwest Airlines that connects Western North Carolina with the Midwest, Pacific Northwest, and Canada among other destinations. Northwest agreed to add the flight after successfully adding a new Detroit-Asheville connection.

Currently, four commercial air carriers serve the airport. For the fiscal year ended June 30, there were 240,585 enplanements and 238,125 deplanements at the airport.

But they’re working on the railroad in Western North Carolina as well. To the west of Asheville, a short line railroad located in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is receiving a $7.5 million direct loan from the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to rehabilitate its infrastructure and maintain its economic importance to the region.

The $7.5 million loan, made under the FRA Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing program, will be used to refinance existing debt and upgrade four miles of track to heavier rail and replace over 38,000 railroad ties.

The railroad will purchase and install three turntables, which are used to turn locomotives around, to increase the safety and efficiency of its operations. By refinancing existing debt, the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad (GSMR) will have more cash available for maintenance and capital improvement expenditures. It operates primarily as a tourist railroad and carried approximately 167,000 passengers in 2004.

It also handles some freight shipments along its 53 miles of track. Located in Swain County, the GSMR is one of the largest employers in the area. It employs about 46 people full-time and nearly 140 seasonal employees. The GSMR provides an estimated $50 million in economic benefits to the region annually. -- Mark Owen



CED to Hear Johnson

Robert L. Johnson, founder and CEO of Black Entertainment Television and majority owner of the Charlotte Bobcats, will keynote the N.C. Council for Entrepreneurial Development’s Venture 2005 Conference at Pinehurst Resort April 26-27.

The conference, “Where Great Minds Meet Smart Money,” is one of the CED’s signature annual events. Although Johnson will keynote the second day of the event, some attendees will be the ones jumping through hoops to convince backers to invest in their businesses. The conference includes presentations from 33 high-growth companies seeking venture backing. The companies make their presentations to an audience of 700-900 business people who usually include numerous representatives from regional and national venture capital funds.

Presenting companies at this year’s Venture Conference include the first from Western N.C., Navigational Sciences Inc., of Asheville, which is creating a global system to track containers as they move by ship and rail. Other presenters include young companies from Raleigh, Durham, Cary, the RTP, Wilmington and Yadkinville. Numerous early stage medical device and biotech companies, and information technology hardware and software companies will also pitch their wares.

Monica Doss, CED president, says Johnson “is an innovative and successful serial entrepreneur” who will “undoubtedly inspire and inform the Venture 2005 attendees.”

CED, located in the RTP, is a private, non-profit organization founded in 1984 to promote high growth companies and accelerate the entrepreneurial culture of the region.



Region's First Wet Lab Will Foster Biotech Growth

An Asheville start-up company’s difficulty in finding lab space in Western North Carolina led AdvantageWest and Buncombe County to create a new wet lab on Asheville-Buncombe Tech’s Enka campus.

AdvantageWest CEO Dale Carroll says the new lab, which is being retrofitted at a cost of $110,000 into an existing building once part of BASF’s Enka facility, will give new businesses a head-start. AdvantageWest has committed $55,000 which will be matched by Buncombe County.

Carroll says the lab project evolved from a meeting with Genesis Molecular Discovery, a company that was having trouble locating lab space. Genesis Molecular will focus on providing chemical and molecular information services to clients.  Advantage- West helped the start-up obtain a $15,000 business development award from the N.C. Biotechnology Center.

The lab is designed to attract additional life sciences companies to the area. “We now have plans that will give Western North Carolina its first world-class wet lab,” Carroll says, calling it “a solid investment.” The lab is expected to be ready by June.

Nathan Ramsey, chairman of the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners, says, “ We are building a facility that will attract employers in what is among the fastest growing industry sectors in the nation.”



Time to Take Me Out to the Ball Game

Umpires will shout “Play ball!” across North Carolina this month as the state’s 10 minor league professional teams go to bat for the 2005 season.

Only California has more minor league teams than North Carolina. The list includes two Triple A International League teams — the Durham Bulls and the Charlotte Knights — one Double A team, six Class A teams and one rookie team. One N.C. team manager says the secret of making minor league ball fans happy isn’t whether the team wins or loses, but rather, “keeping the beer cold and the hot dogs hot.”

The Durham Bulls open April 7 at home against Toledo. Affiliated with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, the Bulls average of 7,100 fans per game. The Bulls finished 77-67 last year and lost in the first round of playoffs.

The Charlotte Knights, affiliated with the Chicago White Sox, open April 7 vs. the Columbus Clippers. The team finished 68-74 last year, at the bottom of the South division.

The Hickory Crawdads won the South Atlantic Class A Championship last year. Affiliated with the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Crawdads average 2,700 fans a game. This year the team holds a “Faith Night,” for the first time June 5.

The Kinston Indians, winners of the Class A Carolina League Championship last year for the first time since 1995, open April 8 at home against Winston-Salem. Affiliated with the Cleveland Indians, Kinston sells about 2,000 tickets a game. The club has a new general manager, Marty Wheeler.

The Kannapolis Intimidators open April 7 against the Asheville Tourists. The Chicago White Sox-affiliated Intimidators average about 1,800 fans a game and unveil their new scoreboard this season as well as welcoming new owner, Dale Smith.

The Greensboro Grasshoppers, affiliated with the Florida Marlins, open April 3 in an exhibition game against the Marlins at home with a new name in a new venue, First Horizon Park, which seats 7,600. Its regular season starts April 7 vs. the Hickory Crawdads at home. The team averages 3,000 to 3,500 spectators a game. The Grasshoppers, formerly the Greensboro Bats, had a rough season last year, finishing at the bottom of the league.  For more information:

The Asheville Tourists open away vs. Kannapolis April 7 and play their first home game April 11 at McCormick Field. Ron McKee, general manager for 25 years, assumes a new role as president and CEO this year as Larry Hawkins takes on the general manager role.

The Winston-Salem Warthogs, affiliated with the Chicago White Sox, open away vs. Kinston April 8 and at home April 11 vs. Myrtle Beach. They finished 74-66 last year, making it to the playoffs where they stalled in the first two games.

The Carolina Mudcats, the state’s only Double A team, open April 7 against the Hunstville Stars in Five County Stadium, Zebulon, where they draw from 2,000 to 6,000 fans. Affiliated with the Florida Marlins, this year the Mudcats open a new fine dining restaurant called Cattails.

The Burlington Indians open June 21 on the road against the Princeton Devil Rays. Affiliated with the Cleveland Indians, the Rookie League team celebrates its 20th anniversary this year and averages a league-topping 1,400 fans. Team President Miles Wolff previously owned the Durham Bulls, which he sold in 1990. Maurer





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