Business News

City of Concord Achieves Class 2 ISO Rating

Thursday, March 14, 2013

by: Peter Franzese, City of Concord

CONCORD – Many Concord business owners will have lower fire insurance costs following a recent evaluation by the N.C. Department of Insurance Office of State Fire Marshal and the Insurance Services Office (ISO). Many retail, commercial, and industrial businesses should see fire insurance rates fall by an average of five to eight percent.


Fire insurance rates are based on ISO’s Public Protection Classification Program. ISO's expert staff collects information about municipal fire protection efforts in communities throughout the United States. In each of those communities, ISO analyzes the relevant data and assigns a Public Protection Classification (PPCTM) — a number from 1 to 10, with Class 1 generally representing superior property fire protection. The City of Concord’s ISO rating has improved to Class 2, effective June 1, 2013.


The Class 2 rating places Concord’s Department of Fire and Life Safety in the top one percent in the nation. There are 48,960 rated fire districts in the United States. Concord’s PPC has been lowered three times in the past seventeen years. The classification previously dropped from 5 to 4 in June 1996, and to Class 3 in November 2004.


“I’d like to congratulate Chief Holloway for his department’s performance and for the hard work of all the department members,” said Wayne Goodwin, Commissioner of Insurance. “The citizens in Concord should rest easy knowing they have a fine group of firefighters protecting them and their property in case of emergency.”


The classification program evaluates three major components: the fire department (fifty percent of the score), water supply (forty percent), and alarms and communications (ten percent). Cities are rated on the number of engine and ladder companies, fire personnel, and equipment. Evaluation of the water system includes the amount of fire hydrants and the pressure and flow of water, which would be needed in the case of a fire. The amount of time it would take fire personnel to arrive at a location is also a large factor.


Since the classification received in 2004, the City has improved fire protection by adding Fire Station 9, located at Ivey Cline Drive and Poplar Tent Road, and temporary Fire Station 10, located near the intersection of Poplar Tent Road and Harris Road. Concord Fire and Life Safety has also made significant improvements in fire company distribution, technology, and efficiency over the past eight years. The Department has added two additional ladder companies and a rescue company since 2004. The City has also continued to make improvements in its water and emergency communications systems, and those departments scored very well, helping Concord achieve the Class 2 PPC.


“The City Council made this possible through their support and investment in infrastructure and people,” said Concord Mayor Scott Padgett. “Whether investing in fire stations and apparatus, improve water capacity, or better communications, the Council’s leadership and vision was a key element in providing this peace of mind to our community.”


Each PPC classification improvement results in an average of five to eight percent reduction in commercial and industrial fire insurance rates. Over the past seventeen years, commercial and industrial insurance rates have decreased an average of fifteen to twenty-four percent. Generally, there are no additional savings for residential properties after a community achieves Class 6.


“I am very proud of our department and the City,” said Fire Chief Randy Holloway. “This rating reflects our core value of continuous improvement and our business friendly, customer-focused environment.”


Learn more about Concord Fire and Life Safety at




An Uptick in Cabarrus economy in late 2012 bodes well for 2013

Sunday, February 17, 2013

by Karen Cimino Wilson

Source: Independent Tribune

CONCORD, N.C. -- Business investment, housing construction and employment all improved in Cabarrus County in 2012 over the previous year, setting the stage for a stronger 2013 if the trends continue, local officials and economists say.

“What we think we saw at the end of 2012 is what we think we’re seeing as the first quarter of 2013 rolls out,” said John Cox, president and CEO of the Cabarrus Economic Development Corporation and the Cabarrus Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Cabarrus County saw an increase in permitted new business investment in 2012 compared to 2011. The total new investment was $105.3 million in 2012 compared with $73.6 million in 2011, according to the EDC’s Economic Indicators report. Projected jobs created by that investment was lower in 2012 than it was the previous year with 446 jobs expected from the 2012 investment compared with 508 the previous year.

“It’s a significant increase in commercial permitting, and we have a sense of confidence about that as it relates to the economy, because when private developers are willing to risk their own capital, it’s a strong sign to us that the economy is improving,” Cox said.

Major investments announced in 2012 included S&D Coffee and Tea’s plans to open a $48 million expansion plant in Concord, creating about 200 new jobs; and Corning Inc.’s plans to invest more than $100 million in its Midland plant and create more than 70 jobs there.

Already, in 2013, year, the trend seems to be continuing. Last week, Concord City Council approved an economic development grant that will help bring a $10 million investment to Concord Mills. Simon Property Group, the mall’s parent company, plans to partner with Merlin Entertainments Group to develop a 30,000-square-foot Sea Life aquarium at the mall.

“The attraction has the potential to bring 350,000 new visitors to Cabarrus County every year,” Cox said. “They’re going to eat in our restaurants, shop at our stores, buy our gasoline, stay in our hotels.”

Housing construction market improves

Cabarrus County also experienced an uptick in the housing market in 2012, with 996 permits for construction, compared with 743 for the previous year, representing a 34.05 percent increase.

That outpaces neighboring Rowan County, which reported 128 permits for housing construction in 2012 and 88 permits the previous year

Nationally, Goldman Sachs economists report that more improvement is anticipated.

“We expect a clear improvement in the housing market in 2013,” Jan Hatzius, chief economist with Global Investment Research at Goldman Sachs, said in an interview on the Goldman Sachs website. “That’s particularly true as far as home building is concerned. Home building at this point, we think, is far below a normal level, far below an equilibrium level. The reason of course is that we overbuilt houses for most of the 2000s until 2007.”

Hatzius said the housing market is expected to continue to improve nationally in 2013.

“We had a very large housing bubble which was visible in prices and was visible in construction activity with very large amounts of excess supply in the housing market until recently,” Hatzuis said. “We have seen a fairly sharp reduction in that excess supply and that bodes well for future housing starts.”

Housing prices, though, continue to be lower than they were two years ago in Cabarrus County. The average price of a house sold in December 2012 was about $167,078, which is down 12.5 percent, or $23,919, from the average price of $190,997 reported in December 2010. The average price spiked above the December 2012 numbers in August 2011 and June 2012, but then declined again both times.

State economy expected to continue to expand

UNC Charlotte economist John Connaughton forecasted that North Carolina would have its fourth year of slow but uninterrupted economic growth in 2013, according to his quarterly forecast released in December.

“For 2013, the economy is expected to continue the 2012 pattern of modest (gross state product) growth,” Connaughton said in a statement about the report. “Continued economic instability in Europe and uncertainty about tax increases in 2013 are the main concerns and the principal reasons that growth in both 2012 and 2013 will be sluggish.

Connaughton expects the North Carolina economy to expand by an inflation-adjusted rate of 1.8 percent during 2013. Fourteen of the state’s 15 economic sectors are forecast to experience output increases during 2013. The sectors with the strongest expected growth are: business and professional services with a projected real increase of 6.2 percent; transportation, warehousing and utilities with a projected real increase of 2.4 percent; agriculture, retail, information, and other services – each with projected real increases of 2.3 percent; and durable goods manufacturing with a projected real increase of 1.9 percent.

According to local data, Cabarrus County has experienced improvement in its retail market.

Cabarrus County businesses reported more than $2 billion in taxable sales revenue through the end of October 2012, which was already an increase of nearly 13 percent over the $1.78 billion generated in all of 2011.

Meanwhile, neighboring Rowan County reported $823.8 million in taxable sales revenue through October 2012 compared with $798.9 million through December 2011, or about a 3.12 percent increase.

Unemployment rate improves

The unemployment rate also showed improvement in Cabarrus County in 2012 compared with the previous year.

Cabarrus County had a year to date average of 8.9 percent unemployment in 2012 compared with 10.1 percent in 2011. Statewide, the average unemployment rate in 2012 was 9.6 percent, which was also down from the previous year. The Cabarrus County and North Carolina rate remained higher than the national average unemployment rate of 8.1 percent in 2012.

Connaughton said the state is expected to gain 56,700 net jobs in 2013. Connaughton expects the sectors with the strongest employment increases in 2013 to be nondurable goods manufacturing at 3.2 percent, government at 2.1 percent, and retail trade at 2.0 percent.

Connaughton will present his next quarterly economic forecast report on March 12, 2013.


Concord airport director pitches charter service

Saturday, January 26, 2013

by Karen Cimino Wilson

Source: Independent Tribune

CONCORD, N.C. -- Adding a charter flight service from Concord Regional Airport to various leisure destinations has the potential to generate a local economic impact of $9.98 million to $18.26 million annually, the airport’s director told city leaders Friday.

“We have to be totally honest with ourselves,” Concord Aviation Director Rick Cloutier said. “The general aviation will never go back to pre-recession levels. We’re talking about larger commercial operators. They’re public charters. Any one of us could book a ticket on that charter and be able to use it.”

Commercial air service offers a significant economic impact, Coultier said Friday during the Concord City Council’s annual retreat.

Concord City Council gave Cloutier permission to look into offering a charter flight service from Concord Regional Airport, but actually seeing it happen is likely a ways off, Mayor Scott Padgett said.

Cloutier told council members and the mayor that nine commercial service airports in north Carolina generate a total economic impact of about $23.9 billion.

Direct impact from air service at those airports is $7 billion annually for 20.9 million passengers, Cloutier said. The average economic impact per airline per flight is $355.

Cloutier presented examples of some of the commercial charter services available.

“The first one would be point to point service,” he said.

It uses a 166-seat MD80 aircraft and flies mostly to leisure destinations. The Orlando-based service would be a strong target for a new service, Cloutier said.

“It would continue to solidify our place with the FAA as a major player,” Cloutier said.

Another potential service discussed is a service that uses a 138-seat Airbus and serves smaller east coast cities to leisure destinations.

Another service uses a 149-seat airbus based in Fort Lauderdale with higher frequency flights.

“We need to position ourselves to be able to serve the region,” Cloutier said.


A Walgreens would be positive addition to downtown Concord

Sunday, January 20, 2013

by Independent Tribune Staff

Source: Independent Tribune

The proposed Walgreens pharmacy would be a welcome addition to Downtown Concord, despite the loss of another historic building.

Concord City Council accepted Connolly Net Lease LLC’s bid of $300,000 for the vacant two-story building at 29 Cabarrus Ave. E, at the corner of Church Street. It is commonly referred to as the Helig-Meyers building, since the furniture store was the last occupant.

State law requires Concord to advertise for upset bids. If no other bids are received, Connolly New Lease would have 180 days to inspect the property and determine if it would be suitable for the drug store.

We hope the company finds it suitable.

Concord’s efforts to get more business and people downtown have been successful, but there are still missing pieces, such as store that is open seven days a week and that offers merchandise residents would need if they lived downtown or were visiting.

Walgreens fits that bill.

In an ideal world, a locally owned business would be better, but officials approached both Cannon Pharmacy and Moose Pharmacy, and neither were interested in the project.

The expense of the project may only be possible with the deeper pockets of a national chain like Walgreens. A national chain considering downtown is also an endorsement of what is already there.

The building, which was built in 1929, will have to be demolished. The city and downtown leaders will require special architectural features so that a cost-saving, cookie-cutter building won’t be possible.

If Connolly New Lease, or another developer, doesn’t go through with the purchase and development, Concord taxpayers likely will foot the bill for tearing down the building. The leaky roof and structural integrity of the building are already problems. A pile of rubble may be as close as a carelessly tossed cigarette or a homeless person trying to stay warm with a fire.

Walgreens would provide goods and services not currently available downtown and would make it more attractive for someone to live downtown. It would be a step closer to getting a residential community downtown, which leaders say is needed.

Downtown business leaders and the city have done a good job attracting Carolina Courts and establishing a stable bevy of restaurants and specialty shops to go along with Concord’s downtown mainstays that have been there for many years.

We hope the Walgreens becomes a reality. It should make other properties downtown more attractive and valuable, including the vacant Fifth Third building that shares the block with the Helig-Myers building.


George Liles Parkway to be extended in April

Friday, January 18, 2013

by Karen Cimino Wilson

Source: Independent Tribune

CONCORD, N.C. -- Work to extend George Liles Parkway from Weddington Road to Roberta Road is scheduled to start this April.

The $32 million project is part of Concord’s Comprehensive Transportation Plan and is scheduled to be completed in about two years by the N.C. Department of Transportation, giving local motorists a new and likely quicker, four-lane connection from Interstate 85 to U.S. 29 and on to Roberta Road.

“They are working on right-of-way now,” said Joe Wilson, Concord’s transportation director.

Concord is constantly looking for ways to improve the connector roads throughout the city, Wilson said. The Comprehensive Transportation Plan, which was updated by Concord City Council last week, has included a vision for George Liles Parkway for about 30 years, Wilson said.

George Liles Parkway already runs between I-85 and Weddington Road. West of I-85, the road is called Kannapolis Parkway.

“George Liles didn’t used to exist. Bruton Smith Boulevard didn’t used to exist. You had a big problem with the east-west connections,” Wilson said. “As the congestion on Poplar Tent got terrible – and it still is – Bruton Smith came along and took some of that off. The same thing happened with George Liles.”

And more improvements are part of the vision for the Weddington Road area, including proposed extensions to either end of the road, according to the report.

On Jan. 10, Concord City Council members approved changes to the city’s Comprehensive Transportation Plan that would extend Weddington Road, wrapping it around the back side of Great Wolf Lodge and connecting it all the way to N.C. 49. The changes would connect roads that don’t connect now and create an alternate route south of the existing Morehead Road.

“It’s desired because there’s property there that doesn’t have good access,” Wilson said.

“That change may spur faster development. It’s inevitable that the development will come. But if the road were there, the development would come faster,” Wilson said.

There are also plans to eventually extend the other end of Weddington Road where it connects to Rock Hill Church Road. The new section would extend north behind the Big Lots and come out on U.S. 29/U.S. 601 near the Sonic Drive-In restaurant.

“That would be a reliever for the Weddington Road and U.S. 29 (intersection),” Wilson said, adding that it’s just an idea with no funding right now. “It makes a lot of good sense. But lets say something large came in there. Then they may be the impetus to make that happen. That has a lot of implications for positive impacts and alleviating some congestion.”

Wilson said neither Weddington Road proposal is funded and there are no plans to start work on them now, but they are part of the city’s Comprehensive Transportation Plan so the city has a document to refer to when planning regionally with other organizations including neighboring jurisdictions and the N.C. Department of Transportation.

“It takes years to get a road from cradle to grave,” Wilson said. “The first step is to get it on a plan. This road has been on the plan. It’s just sort of migrated around a little bit. We continue to manipulate and change that alignment.”

Concord’s Comprehensive Transportation Plan is evaluated periodically to reflect changes in local road networks and land use, Wilson said.


Construction on Speculative Building Begins in International Business Park

Thursday, December 13, 2012

From:  International Business Park, The Nolim Group

December 13, 2012 - Concord, N.C. - 390 Business Boulevard, LLC, the joint venture between The Nolim Group, CM Black Construction Company and CESI Land Development Services has just announced that it is moving forward with its 88,527 square foot class "A" speculative industrial building at 4541 Enterprise Dr. in the International Business Park in Concord, N.C. The building, which fills a great void for available manufacturing and warehouse space, is expected to be completed in May 2013.

"In today's economy, very few developers are constructing speculative buildings, making inventory of available manufacturing and industrial space scarce throughout Cabarrus County and the region," stated Anne Johnson with CBRE, who is marketing the building on behalf of the ownership. "We are excited to be completing this project and believe that 4541 Enterprise Dr. will be appealing to a wide variety of businesses looking to relocate to the International Business Park, helping create needed jobs in the area."

For both international firms eager to develop a presence in the flourishing Charlotte economy and expanding businesses who already call this dynamic region home, 4541 Enterprise Dr. is the address that offers a strategic professional location and superb design flexibility for manufacturing, R&D or distribution uses. This class "A" building will also be constructed with future expansion capabilities in mind.

Features of 4541 Enterprise Dr. include:

  • Available for lease
  • Expandable space up to 141,000 square feet
  • Build to suit office area
  • Immediate interstate 85 access
  • 28' minimum ceiling clearance
  • 50' x 50' column spacing
  • Can be LEED certified
  • Skylights and ESFR sprinkler system
  • 4 to 14 dock doors / side loading

To learn more about 4541 Enterprise Dr. and the International Business Park visit or or contact the agents from CBRE at (704) 331-1225.

About the International Business Park
Nestled in the heart of one of the most dynamic economic regions, the International Business Park sits at the virtual crossroads of success and prestige. The diversified 500-plus acre park is located 20 miles from downtown Charlotte, along the growing I-85 corridor and near two emerging research and technology engines: the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and the North Carolina Research Campus. The Park is currently home to approximately 30 companies, including five international firms and four from the prestigious Fortune 500 list.


S&D Coffee to expand in Concord, add 200 jobs

Monday, November 19, 2012

by Ken Elkins

Senior Staff Writer, Charlotte Business Journal


S&D Coffee and Tea plans to spend $97 million on an expansion in Concord, with the project expected to add 200 jobs to its operations during the next five years.

The company will take over a pair of facilities on the west side of the city, near the Concord Regional Airport, to boost its capacity for producing coffee, tea and extracts.

S&D says it currently employs 1,000 workers.

The average annual wage for the new jobs will be $36,311, exceeding the Cabarrus average of $32,292, according to the governor's office.

S&D had looked at other locations around the Charlotte region before deciding to keep its warehouse in Concord.

“Our business continues to grow and expand at a time when many companies have struggled,” says Ron Hinson, S&D chief executive.


S&D Coffee to add 200 Concord jobs

Monday, November 19, 2012


Planned $97 million expansion fueled by ongoing growth, company official says

Read more here:

by Joe Marusak

CONCORD S&D Coffee Inc. announced a $97 million expansion on Monday that’s expected to create 200 local jobs over five years.

Founded in 1927 in Charlotte, the privately held company started by providing fresh roasted coffee to local and regional grocery stores. It now produces roasted whole bean and ground coffee, specialty coffees, hot chocolate, tea and other products. The company supplies its products to restaurants, hotels, vending machines and offices.

Headquartered in Concord since 1929, the company employs 613 workers at seven locations across the state and is among Concord’s top employers. Due to what it called significant gains in market share, S & D said its sales grew 400 percent over the past 10 years.

“Our business continues to grow and expand at a time when many companies have struggled,” Ron Hinson, S&D Coffee’s chairman, president and CEO said in a news release. “We considered locations in other states for this new round of expansion, but decided to stay in North Carolina and the Concord community.”

Salaries will vary by job, but the average wage of the new positions will be $36,311, Gov. Bev Perdue’s office said. Cabarrus County’s average wage is $32,292.

The state awarded the company a grant of up to $300,000 from its One North Carolina Fund, which requires a local match.

Also, the state Economic Investment Committee voted to award the company a job development investment grant. The company is eligible to receive a grant equal to 70 percent of the state personal income withholding taxes derived from the creation of new jobs for each of the nine years the company meets annual performance targets. The grant could yield as much as $1.56 million in benefits for the company, Perdue’s office said.

Details about S & D job openings: 1-800-950-3121, extension 5063,

Read more here:



Concord officials: Superstreet will ease traffic flow

Saturday, November 10, 2012

by Tim Reaves

Source: Independent Tribune

CONCORD, N.C. – Transportation officials want to clarify plans for a superstreet at the intersection of U.S. 29 and Poplar Tent Road in response to questions and concerns from the public.

A video posted at the Independent Tribune website showed an example of a superstreet that did not accurately represent how the one at Poplar Tent will function.

Concord transportation director Joe Wilson said the new traffic pattern, which is expected to be completed in 2013, will make traffic flow more efficient at the intersection and reduce pollution.

The crux of the system will be five traffic lights, two at the intersection of Poplar Tent Road and U.S. 29 and three U-turn signals — on U.S. 29 North and South, and McGill Avenue.

The five lights will work together to bring motorists safely through the intersection, Wilson said.

“It’s a coordinated system,” he said. “It’ll be timed so everybody can get through the intersection.”

For example, if a motorist is traveling north on U.S. 29 and wants to turn left onto Poplar Tent Road, the driver will move through the intersection and wait at the U-turn signal, which will be across from the Nationwide store. When traffic clears, the driver will be able to get make a U-turn onto U.S. 29 S, get in the right lane and complete the turn.

This “Michigan Left” system allows for a two-phase traffic light system. Currently, each light at the intersection has a left turn signal and a through signal. Between each of these eight phases, drivers must wait through short periods when all lights are red. This slows the flow of traffic, Wilson said.

The new setup will reduce waiting time because there will be fewer signal changes, he said.

“Either it’s green or it’s red,” he said.

He emphasized the timing of the new lights will be set so drivers should only have to wait at one light when they pass through the intersection.

“When you make your U-turn, you’re home free,” he said.

He added nationwide studies have shown superstreets more efficient and safer with traffic flow on busy intersections than the traditional setup.

An N.C. State University study released in 2011 showed a 20 percent overall reduction in travel time at superstreet intersections over conventional intersections. The same study showed an average of 46 percent fewer reported collisions and 63 percent fewer accidents causing injury.

About 43,000 vehicles pass through the Poplar Tent Road and U.S. 29 intersection daily.

The U.S. Department of Transportation is funding 80 percent, or about $1.04 million, of the project through its Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program. Concord will pay the other 20 percent of the cost, or about $260,000.


SBM Solar finds niche in the green-energy market

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

by Caroline McMillan


The turning point for Dr. Osbert Cheung’s solar-panel business came when he captured the attention of the U.S. military.

His company, Concord-based SBM Solar Inc., produces photovoltaic panels that use high-efficiency crystalline silicone cells found in other models. However, Cheung’s panels don’t have the glass typically found in other types. His thin-film panels are light and flexible, and they also stand up to the test of extreme temperatures.

The lightweight energy source is ideal for soldiers who spend long hours in the field. Cheung showed his product to U.S. Rep. Larry Kissell of the 8th Congressional District, who serves on the House Armed Services Committee.

Kissell then arranged a meeting between Cheung and the U.S. Marines in the California desert. They tested the panel in 120-degree weather.

Now, the majority of SBM’s panels are sold to contractors who work with the military.

“One challenge has been finding solar panel technologies that can accomplish our goals without compromising durability or sacrificing efficiency of solar energy conversion,” said Philip Keller of Colorado-based Composite Technology Development, which has used SBM’s panels for its military projects.

“This is where SBM Solar’s product excels.”

Last year, SBM began producing military-grade panels now used by the U.S. Army and Marine Corps in Afghanistan. Soldiers who used to carry dozens of pounds worth of battery packs to charge radios or computers daily can now charge their devices with the energy harnessed by SBM’s lightweight solar panel.

The staff is small with just 10 employees, but Cheung hopes to hire more.

“In the past, sometimes I couldn’t get to sleep because I was concerned about (getting) my next orders,” Cheung said. “Now I can’t sleep because I’m trying to figure out how I can get my next order done and shipped.”

Cheung talks more about his business:

On making his panels in the USA: Foreign manufacturers like SBM’s panels, too. Cheung, a Beijing native, was courted by Chinese manufacturers who wanted him to develop his product on his home soil. Cheung declined.

“I developed this technology in the U.S. and believe I should be able to manufacture (it) in the United States,” said Cheung, 59.

On persevering after rejection: Founded in 2001, the company spent five years on research and development before applying for Underwriters Laboratories certification – a requirement for companies wanting to sell their electronic goods.

After four years, four rejection letters and about $150,000 spent in application fees, SBM Solar got its UL certification in 2010.

On what’s to come: Though SBM Solar received $100,000 in federal stimulus money in 2009, the company started with mostly the financial support of family and friends.

“We struggled like any small business ... never enough money,” said Cheung, who offers consulting to other solar-energy companies.

Commercially, SBM is developing solar panels to run golf carts, RVs and air-conditioning units in 18-wheeler trucks.

SBM Solar isn’t yet making a profit, but Cheung hopes to reach the break-even point by the end of the year and turn a profit in 2013.

His goal is to develop these panels into a product that can be used for a wide range of purposes, including the shifting demands of the military.

“We constantly want to change to build a better product,” Cheung said.


Concord mayor keeps emphasis on new jobs, economic development

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

by Tara Moore

Source: Business

Mayor Scott Padgett, a former educator and popular third-term mayor, is justifiably proud of business expansion under way in Concord, most notably Oiles of America Corp.’s 48,000 square-foot, $8 million expansion in the International Business Park along I-85.

“I consider it a very significant investment. What I consider more, or even as important, is a company that’s been here since 1991 is expanding. We always like to add corporations, but I especially like to see existing corporations expanding,” Padgett said.

There are currently about 150 people employed at Oiles of America; plans call for 15-30 new jobs that will pay an average of $15 an hour once the expansion is completed in the fall of 2013.

This is Oiles of America’s third expansion since it came to Concord over 20 years ago. Cabarrus companies working on the project include BJW Architecture, CESI Land Development Services and CM Black Construction.

Two other companies located in the International Business Park are expanding: PreGel America, which opened its Concord facility in 2006, is spending $16 million on a 40,000 square feet expansion that means 10 new jobs. Bonded Logistics, headquartered in Charlotte, is leasing 127,000 square feet in Concord and will hire 20 new people.

"I’m very pleased. I think it proves that we have a good business atmosphere. One of the biggest reasons if you look at Bonded Logistics, Oiles, and PreGel, is that none of that would have been possible without Concord’s investment years ago in helping develop the infrastructure for The Nolim Group to develop the International Business Park,” said Padgett.

The park, developed by Nolim 26 years ago, is now a center of international business in North Carolina.

Still, Padgett said he’s far from being happy regarding economic development in Concord.

"We celebrate good news and are positioned well for the future,” said Padgett. “We’ve invested in infrastructure, kept property taxes low, and developed a welcoming attitude to new business.”

Padgett says that Concord is aggressively seeking jobs, which means they’re seeking new businesses.

S&D Coffee and Tea recently announced it will expand and renovate its headquarters at the corner of Weddington Road and Concord Parkway. But the location of its $35 million expansion plant that will one day employ 200 people is up in the air — leaving Concord officials competing with other jurisdictions.

What is the city doing to attract business?

Padgett says staff works closely with the Cabarrus Economic Development Corp. and the Charlotte Regional Partnership. The city also has a standard tax incentive policy for business based on the amount that a business invests.

The tax incentive policy results in a net gain for the city and the county, said Jeff Young, economic development sustainability director for the City of Concord.

A good long-range business climate is what Padgett says Concord should be focusing on, so people and business will sink roots and invest.

The elephant in the room, however, is the 2,100 acre Phillip Morris site on Concord Parkway S. The plant employed about 5,000 people when it closed in 2009.

“That’s the big one,” Padgett said. “It’s the one we’re all interested in, that I and others think about every day.”


Bonded Logistics expands to International Business Park

Thursday, September 6, 2012

by Business Today Staff

Source: Business Today

Three recent business expansions in Cabarrus County, as well as interest from international projects bode well for the county’s economy, according to Ryan McDaniels, vice president of economic development for Cabarrus Economic Development. 

He said projects from Germany, Japan, China and France have recently visited the county which is still feeling the effects of the loss of textile and tobacco manufacturers.  The Cabarrus EDC is working on 60 active projects, McDaniels said.

Bonded Logistics is expanding its operations, hiring 20 people and leasing 127,000 square feet of space in the International Business Park in Concord.  A third-party logistics and warehousing management provider, Bonded Logistics has 1 million square feet of space in the Charlotte region.

“We decided on Concord due to proximity to several of our customers who are located in that area of Charlotte.  It was convenient for them to have us nearby and we have seen demand in that area,” said Mark Andrews, vice president of sales.
The jobs will pay a salary of $13 an hour plus benefits.  Andrews said that there is and will be a significant investment in upfitting the facility as well as equipment.

McDaniels said there is currently 45,515 square feet of flex space available for lease in the business park at $7 a square foot.  Currently, there is no vacant warehouse space in the park left for lease.  In August, PreGel America and Oiles America began construction on their own expansion projects.

“Economic development activity in Concord and Cabarrus County is on the upswing,” McDaniels said.


OILES America Corporation to Expand Manufacturing Facility

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Expansion is Expected to Generate Additional Jobs in Concord, N.C.

by OILES America Corp.

Concord, N.C.– OILES America Corporation has announced that it will break ground on an approximately 50,000-square-foot expansion of their manufacturing facility at their corporate headquarters in Concord, N.C. in late August. The subsidiary of OILES Corporation of Japan located their North American corporate headquarters to Concord’s International Business Park in 1990.This groundbreaking marks the third expansion at this location.

Representative Larry Kissell, who attended the groundbreaking ceremony on August 14, announced that OILES America’s expansion will create 15 to 30 jobs in Cabarrus County. The total project, which is scheduled for completion in fall 2013, will cost approximately $8 million.

“Increased manufacturing will help carry our economy through its recovery, and OILES America’s expansion will help increase productivity and opportunity right here in Cabarrus County and throughout our region,” said Kissell. “On behalf of the people of the 8th District, we welcome the jobs created and this investment that will benefit our region immensely.  I’m honored to be a part of the groundbreaking today.”

The purpose of the project is to help increase manufacturing capacity and facilitate product line expansion. Included are increased research and development facilities and renovations to existing office and warehouse space. Additional truck docks to increase vehicular flow, as well as increased parking capacity, will be part of the exterior renovations. The project will also incorporate energy efficiency technology with the use of skylights, occupancy sensors and the potential to utilize solar energy in the future.

“With this expansion, OILES America can achieve greater flexibility, allowing us to meet global capacity aligned with our long-term goals,” remarked OILES America President Hiroshi “Harry” Suda. “Our strong design/build team draws on local partnerships developed over many years to help us achieve success and we’re thankful for the support of the City of Concord and Cabarrus County. OILES America is proud to be able to continue to contribute to the economic growth of the region.”

Preparation for the expansion began two years ago. Due to the complexity of design and construction on an occupied space, a design/build team of local subcontractors, many of whom worked on the original construction, was assembled to provide guidance throughout the process. Concord firms BJW Architecture, CESI Land Development Services and CM Black Construction are partnering on the project, with International Business Park owner The Nolim Group.

OILES America Corporation
The North American subsidiary of OILES Corporation of Japan, OILES America Corporation is an internationally recognized leader in maintenance free bearing products. In the industrial equipment market, OILES America Corporation's maintenance free bearing products offer cost effective alternatives to automatic lubrication systems, while freeing machine operators from day to day lubrication requirements. To learn more about OILES America Corporation visit


Bonded Logistics to Establish Operations in Concord

Thursday, August 9, 2012

by Ryan McDaniels

Source: Cabarrus Economic Development

Concord, N.C., August 9th, 2012— Cabarrus Economic Development welcomes Bonded Logistics to Concord and Cabarrus County. The new facility is located at 411 International Drive and offers 127,000 square feet of distribution space. Bonded Logistics plans to grow to 20 employees at the new facility.

“Cabarrus County is committed to Economic Development and strategically located for continued business expansions. This company represents a targeted sector for Cabarrus County. We look forward to working with Bonded Logistics and to continued success” said Liz Poole, Cabarrus County Commission Chair.

“On behalf of the Concord City Council, I want to welcome Bonded Logistics to our community” added Mayor Scott Padgett. “Concord continues to be a premier location for distribution companies. The improvements currently under construction such as the widening of Interstate 85 will enhance our transportation system.”

“Our Concord distribution center is the second facility we have opened in the past 9 months as we continued to expand. Michael Williams, an eleven year veteran of Bonded Logistics, has been promoted to facility manager. He will be responsible for managing the day to day operations of our Concord site,” said Mark Andrews, Vice President of Sales. “We are very excited to be up and running with our Concord operations.”

Bonded Logistics now has operations in North Carolina, South Carolina, and California.

“These additions have expanded our geographic footprint and market reach. They have also allowed us an opportunity to expand our offerings and value added services,” Andrews said.

As a warehouse service provider, Bonded Logistics simply seeks the chance to be able to provide more to our customers - many of which exceeding twenty years with Bonded Distribution – now Bonded Logistics.


Concord gets $1 million traffic grant

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

by Independent Tribune Staff

Source: Independent Tribune

CONCORD, N.C. -- Concord will receive a $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation to complete the city’s Traffic Management System, to assist in managing traffic and congestion throughout the city, U.S. Rep. Larry Kissell (NC-08) announced.

The grant will provide Concord with the resources to complete projects including the installation of 20 to 30 traffic surveillance cameras, traffic signal updates, connecting 100 to 130 signalized intersections, and implementing complete street strategies at pedestrian crosswalks and ramps.

“Clearing up congestion throughout the city will help folks get to where they need to go more reliably,” Kissell said in a statement. “Nobody likes sitting in traffic, and through these projects, Concord will run much more efficiently, saving people time and money. This is a good investment in infrastructure for our district, and I was happy to support this effort.”

Kissell worked with the city to secure funding for the specific project for months, contacting Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez through letters and phone calls and urging full consideration of Concord’s application.

“This funding is absolutely vital to Concord’s overall traffic management plan,” Concord Mayor Scott Padgett said in a statement. “We have already invested nearly $2 million into this project, and the federal funding is key to making our existing road infrastructure more efficient while improving air quality.”

Concord applied for funding through the Transportation, Community, and System Preservation Program of the U.S. Department of Transportation.


Concord featured in 'Our State' magazine

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

by Mark Plemmons

Source: Independent Tribune

CONCORD, N.C. – A full-color spread on Concord is featured in the Tar Heel Town portion of the June edition of “Our State” magazine.

“From the mall to the racetrack, Concord wants to get somewhere,” wrote Lori K. Tate, a freelance writer from Cornelius, who penned the feature for the magazine. “From the old courthouse to the downtown gardens, it wants to stay where it was. Leave it to a place named Concord to find peace in being both.”

Concord Mayor Scott Padgett said it is an honor for the city to be featured.

“I have read this magazine since I was a child. It’s an outstanding publication. People all across the state read it, and people who are former North Carolinians read it because it reminds them of home,” Padgett said.

Padgett said it is good for Concord be featured along side people like Richard Petty and Doc Watson, who have been featured in the magazine recently.

The first two pages of the article show photos by Patrick Schneider of the Historic Cabarrus County House, racing at Charlotte Motor Speedway and What-A-Burger downtown with its red neon-lit pig and sign for Cherry Lemon Sundrop.

“Even without seeing the article I know this is great exposure for our area,” according to John Cox, executive director of the Cabarrus Regional Chamber of Commerce.

The chamber and Cabarrus Convention and Visitors Bureau have participated in special advertising sections in “Our State” on several occasions.

“It has wide circulation and we’ve have always gotten good response. I know people will see this and say, ‘wow that is a place we want to visit,’” Cox said.

Michael Eury of Historic Cabarrus and Lin Barnhardt, the visual arts director for the Cabarrus Arts Council, are featured in the story with information about the Concord Museum and the art galleries downtown.

“The more people across the state and the country learn about our businesses and business atmosphere, the better it is for attracting companies to our area,” said Cox, who is attending the N.C. Economic Development Conference in Wrightsville Beach this week.

Part of Cox’s trip to the coast this week includes a tour of the River Front in Wilmington with its mayor.

“We’re talking about what people like and what makes them come to the area so that we can highlight some of those things in Cabarrus County. This article will certainly help our efforts,” Cox said.

The “Our State” article features Concord Mills, the Concord Historic District, Union Street Bistro and Great Wolf Lodge.

It also blends in some of the history of Concord and Cabarrus County, including why Concord got its name.

“Concord means agreement and friendly relations,” Tate wrote. “The town got its name in 1796, Stephen Cabarrus encouraged the founders of the county that bears his name to compromise on the location of a county seat.”

“Our State” is a statewide publication devoted to travel, history, people and places. It has been published since 1933.

More information about “Our State” and the Tar Heel Town feature are on-line at


Power plant turning trash into energy for Concord

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

by Becky Bereiter

Source: News 14 Carolina

CONCORD -- The City of Concord joins a growing list of cities turning trash into power.

Officials dedicated a new landfill gas-to-energy plant at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Landfill. The 11.5 megawatt plant turns the methane gas created at the landfill to electricity, powering more than 7,700 homes in the Concord area.

"Methane gas, obviously at the landfill, has been an issue for a long time and they are making something useful out of it," said Concord Mayor Scott Padgett.

Leaders said it's an option more communities should utilize because it's environmentally friendly and reliable, while allowing companies to still turn a profit.

"Unlike other fuel sources, you do not have to build long transmission lines and other things to bring power into the community. It's already located here," said Bart Keller with Rebublic Services.

"It's clean energy and we should be leaving this planet better than we found it,” added Padgett.

Officials said this plant is now the largest of its kind in the Southeast. It began delivering renewable power this February.


Lewis retiring as Concord Airport director

Friday, June 1, 2012

by Michael Knox

Source: Independent Tribune

Dick Lewis has over seen more than $60 million worth of improvements at Concord Regional Airport since he started working there in March 2000.

Lewis, 65, originally came to work as the assistant aviation director, before taking over as director a few years later. He is now retiring to start a new career with his own aviation consulting firm, R.K. Lewis Consulting.

In addition to running the firm, he is also the co-owner of The Speakeasy Alehouse in Concord. His son, Adam, runs the restaurant.

But for many in the community, Dick Lewis is known as the director of the airport. He helped extend the runway to 7,400 feet, allowing larger airplanes to land. He oversaw the widening of the taxi way and the addition of five hangers.

Lewis has worked to improve the airport, knowing how it has supported the community over the past 12 years he’s worked there.

Many businesses have flocked to the airport area, because of the convenience of flying out of there as opposed to Charlotte Douglas International Airport.

“If you didn’t have it, you wouldn’t have NASCAR here, you wouldn’t have Jack Roush over here, you wouldn’t have the R&D Center across the street,” Lewis said. “And Hendrick would be looking at Charlotte Douglas to fly planes and not Concord.”

The airport sees 60,534 operations annually, an airport tracking number that includes takeoffs and landings. It supports more than 469 jobs annually, according to a UNC Charlotte.

A recent study showed that the economic impact of the airport is $158 million a year in Cabarrus County.

“I think the best thing we’ve done over the last 12 years is stay ahead of the customers,” Lewis said.

Lewis has handled many of the improvements at the airport, but he actually got involved by chance. He had been a planning director in Florida and was appointed assistant city manager.

“And along with the position came the airport, because nobody else wanted it,” Lewis said with a laugh. “The airport intrigued me, because there’s always action, always activity and always looking at things to do.”

Lewis had to juggle his airport work in Florida with his other duties. Eventually he looked for a full-time position with an airport, which led him to Concord.

He started at the Concord Regional Airport in March 2000. Since then he has worked to expand the airport’s impact on the Cabarrus economy – and to establish the facility’s global reach.

“This may be located in Concord, North Carolina, but its impact brings people from all over the world, “Lewis said. “We have planes take off here and land in Europe.”

Many of his staff said they will miss him, including Trey Smith, who has worked at the airport for several years.

“He’s always out here and he’s always available,” Smith said. “He’s got a big influence.”


Speedway sees uptick in attendance and spending

Tuesday, May 22, 2012


by Michael Knox

Source: Independent Tribune

CONCORD, N.C. – Races at Charlotte Motor Speedway have always meant big bucks for Cabarrus County, but the recession has cut into attendance in recent years – and local businesses have felt the impact.

While local business owners say their race business is still down this week, speedway officials say there are signs that better times are at hand.

Past studies by the North Carolina Motorsports Association estimate the economic impact of May’s NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race and Coca-Cola 600 weeks to be about $230 million, according to a 2009 Charlotte Motor Speedway press release

While NASCAR’s popularity and race attendance have dropped from the sport’s peak several years ago, analysts say Cabarrus residents should keep in mind that the sport remains hugely popular – and the speedway’s economic impact is still enormous and far-reaching.

Donna Carpenter, president and CEO with the Cabarrus County Convention & Visitors Bureau, said the tourism created by the races is a major impact on the area.

There are about 2,700 hotel rooms in Cabarrus County, and Carpenter expected them to all be filled by the time the races finished next weekend.

“We are at pace with our expectations,” Carpenter said. “There are lags, but we expect those lags to be filled with last-minute reservations.”


Racing still drives Cabarrus economy

Racing in the area helped make Cabarrus County rank No. 12 in travel among North Carolina’s 100 counties.

Motorsports is a $6 billion dollar industry in North Carolina, according to a Charlotte Regional Partnership statement.

According to a study done in 2005, around the peak of NASCAR’s popularity, the motorsports industry generated a total of 19,799 jobs in the Charlotte Regional Partnerships area, which is made up of 12 counties, including Cabarrus, Mecklenburg and Stanly.

In that region almost $462 million was spent just on marketing. And NASCAR teams in that area alone spent about $1.8 billion in the region in 2005.

Just one business that benefits from the races in Cabarrus County is the NASCAR SpeedPark at Concord Mills.

Steven Earnhardt, sales and marketing manager for NASCAR SpeedPark in Concord Mills, said the race fans that flow into Concord make up a large customer base in May.

“One of our largest days of attendance falls on race week, the day before the Coke 600, so we really do benefit from being part of such a strong racing community and being so close to the races,” Earnhardt said.

John Cox, president and CEO with the Cabarrus Regional Chamber of Commerce, agreed.

“Each one of the Cup races -- and we have three -- puts $100 million into our local economy,” Cox said. “Most of that is in Concord, Cabarrus.”

Cox added that his group did a study 10 years ago that showed there were 100 vendor industries in Cabarrus County that work directly with Charlotte Motor Speedway. Some of those businesses include printing and graphics designers, fabricators, event planning companies.

“And it just spins off from there,” Cox said. “Motorsports is a huge part of our economy.”

He said that one of the top 10 taxpayers in Cabarrus County is Charlotte Motor Speedway. Cox added that other major taxpayers, such Embassy Suites and Great Wolf Lodge, are here as a result of the speedway.

“Not only are they great companies and well run, but because the motorsports industry is here and they put thousands of room nights a year into these properties,” he said.

Carpenter agreed. “They are not just an asset during race time,” she said.

Beyond the dollars, Carpenter said the NASCAR image is an important one to Cabarrus County.

“Racing is our brand, it is what people know us as,” she said. “It’s who we are and what puts us on the map as a visitor destination.”


Businesses say traffic is down

While NASCAR and the speedway remain major contributors to Cabarrus County’s economy, several local businesses say those economic-impact figures are outdated and that they are noticing less race traffic coming through the area.

Linda Morris, owner of Winner’s Circle Camping & Parking, and has been operating the campgrounds for about 20 years.

“We started out doing real good business, we have filled up, we have filled the pasture up, but now we barely get enough to put into the parking lot,” she said.

For the customers who do come out, Morris gets $150 per customer for both weekends of the race in May if they get a spot with electricity. For a spot with no electricity hook up for that same time is $75. Plus they get $10 for cars that park in the lot.

Morris said the number of visitors is down, but it’s still worth their time to set up the campground.

“As long as you make a little bit of money that’s something you’ve made,” she said.

Morris doesn’t count how many campers visit, but said she used to fill up 14 acres of property with campers, but now might only use eight acres. Even her regular customers that she could count on have had to start skipping the May races.

And she has a good idea why, and it’s nothing to do with losing interest in the sport.

“The gas and the overall economy,” Morris said. “I think mostly gas. Because race fans are race fans. If there is any way they can get here they’ll get here. But the gas is killing them.”

Sudhir Kapadia, owner of Speedway BP Express on Morehead Road, said he’s also seen the race traffic drop off.

“This economy is down,” he said. “There is no crowd right before the one day race.”

Kapadia doesn’t track how many people come through his store, but he said he can tell a difference in the traffic.

“What the crowd used to be right now is at 35 percent,” he said.


Speedway sees rebound under way

 Just hold on, because those crowds are beginning to come back, said Scott Cooper, vice president of communications for Charlotte Motor Speedway.

“While the recession … is still having an impact, we’re very optimistic that there are much better days on the horizon, and we’re seeing some of that now,” he said.

“We’re seeing improved spending with our corporate business, our at-track advertising, our infield corporate hospitality spending,” he said. “Entertainment revenue on the corporate and business side is well ahead of what it was this time last year.”

Ticket sales are running slightly ahead of last May, Cooper said.

The nature of NASCAR racing – coupled with the passion of its fans – makes it unique among sports. It’s not a one-day attraction. Race fans come early and stay late, and they spend money every day they’re here, Cooper said.

“Campers are here for two weeks,” he said. “They visit area shops, they visit the (NASCAR) Hall of Fame, they eat in area restaurants and shop in area stores.

During 600 week, there are an estimated 20,000 campers on the grounds of the speedway.

For local business owners, race traffic may be off from its peak, but business still walks through the doors.

Eric Bremner, the owner of Iron Thunder Saloon & Grill, said the races affect his business, with traffic keeping regular customers away, but he still gets a decent crowd because of the race.

“You get a lot of people out of town that come here,” Bremner said. “Races are a good thing for the city overall.”



Charlotte MSA growth 2000-10 outpaced nation

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

by Dave Yochum

Source: Business Today

"The Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia MSA has distinguished itself as an economically viable destination in which innovation and entrepreneurship are valued and rewarded. This helps add definition to the incredible growth rate we’ve experienced over the last decade," said John Cox, CEO of Cabarrus Economic Development. "I predict more of the same."

If you thought Charlotte grew unusually quickly during the decade between 2000 and 2010, you were right. Among urbanized areas with populations of 1 million or more, the Charlotte region grew at the fastest rate in the nation—-64.6 percent. Next up were Austin, Texas, at 51.1 percent, and Las Vegas, at 43.5 percent.

The Charlotte and Austin areas also had the highest rates of land area change, increasing by 70.5 percent and 64.4 percent, respectively. The population within the nation's 486 urbanized areas grew by 14.3 percent from 2000 to 2010. For any given urbanized area, however, population increase may be attributed to a combination of internal growth, outward expansion to include new growth, and outward expansion encompassing existing communities that previously were outside the urbanized area.

The nation's urban population increased by 12.1 percent from 2000 to 2010, outpacing the nation's overall growth rate of 9.7 percent for the same period, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The Census Bureau released the new list of urban areas today based on 2010 Census results.

Urban areas — defined as densely developed residential, commercial and other nonresidential areas -- now account for 80.7 percent of the U.S. population, up from 79.0 percent in 2000. Although the rural population -- the population in any areas outside of those classified as “urban” — grew by a modest amount from 2000 to 2010, it continued to decline as a percentage of the national population.

The Census Bureau identifies two types of urban areas: “urbanized areas” of 50,000 or more people and “urban clusters” of at least 2,500 and less than 50,000 people. There are 486 urbanized areas and 3,087 urban clusters nationwide.

The nation's most densely populated urbanized area is Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, Calif., with nearly 7,000 people per square mile. The San Francisco-Oakland, Calif., area is the second most densely populated at 6,266 people per square mile, followed by San Jose, Calif. (5,820 people per square mile) and Delano, Calif. (5,483 people per square mile). The New York-Newark, N.J., area is fifth, with an overall density of 5,319 people per square mile. (See sortable lists.)

Of the 10 most densely populated urbanized areas, nine are in the West, with seven of those in California. Urbanized areas in the U.S., taken together, had an overall population density of 2,534 people per square mile.

The New York-Newark area continues to be the nation's most populous urbanized area, with 18,351,295 residents. Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim is the second most populous (12,150,996), followed by the Chicago area (8,608,208). These areas have been the three most populous since the 1950 Census, when urbanized areas were first defined; however, at that time, Chicago was the second largest. Los Angeles became the second most populous urbanized area in 1960, and the order of the top three has not changed since.


Hunger Games set designers relied on local antique store

Monday, March 12, 2012

by Michelle Boudin

Source: News Channel 36

The hotly anticipated movie, The Hunger Games, premieres Monday night in Los Angeles but won't be released to the rest of the country for two more weeks.

But NewsChannel 36 got a sneak peek at much of what you'll see on the set because it was shot here in town.

Just across the street from the railroad tracks in Concord--in an old mill--is a treasure trove of stuff. Row after row of antiques, 88,000 square feet.

“I was amazed at the stuff they bought,” said Janna Baker.

Baker runs the depot at Gibson Mill and this summer welcomed some unusual customers.

“In the beginning I thought it was going to be a little independent movie that nobody would watch," she said.

Boy, was she wrong.

“To see it's all over the news now. They just said it’s gonna be a little movie!”

Much of The Hunger Games was shot inside the old Phillip Morris plant in Concord, and set designers shopped at the mill just down the road.

“They wouldn’t care about the price, they just wanted them,” Baker said. “They come in the door guns barreling. They just brought big carts, piling crap in. It was unbelievable. They probably came and did six purchases.”

Baker said they spent $50,000 and stopped back in for things at least 20 times.

“Everything they bought was primitive, dark, damp, rusty, crusty. Anything dark or drab is what they bought.”

Now she's just anxious--like everyone else--to see it on the big screen.


Concord NASCAR business is all ears

Friday, March 9, 2012

by Michael Knox

Source: Independent Tribune

In a tiny lab in Concord, NASCAR drivers such as Jeff Gordon, Carl Edwards and Danica Patrick can be found undergoing a strange procedure — having molds made of their ears.

Now, while that might sound a bit bizarre, it makes perfect sense when you realize the lab is located inside the racing communications company, Racing Electronics, which provides radio systems to NASCAR fans, as well as the drivers.

NASCAR drivers can often be found walking into the Concord office to have ear molds made in order to get the communications gear they need that will fit them perfectly.

Racing Electronics provides the radio equipment, as well as the “harness” or wiring system that runs through a NASCAR ride, connecting a driver to his team for vital communication while racing.

It’s hard to miss the company’s work if you’re a racing fan. Just the other day a front page photo taken from Daytona showed a crew member wearing Racing Electronics gear.

In addition, Racing Electronics provides gear for NASCAR fans to listen in on their favorite teams during a race.

Bruce Silver, the founder of Racing Electronics, is now the president and CEO of the privately held company. He knows what it’s like to be a race fan getting to hear the chatter between a driver and his team.

The germ of the idea that would become Racing Electronics first formed in 1986. Silver was a sales manager for a car dealership in New Jersey. One of his customers owned some dirt-track race teams and had a Busch Grand National (now Nationwide) team.

At a race in Syracuse, N.Y. in October 1986, Silver sat in the grandstand with a team radio from his friend’s crew.

“And I just held onto it for most of the race,” Silver said. “When things got going I listened in and I thought it was amazing that people could listen in and listen to the teams communicate.”

Silver said he still remembers that race and hearing the driver, Jimmy Horton, as he was leading the race, chasing after a $100,000 win.

“He said, ‘I’m coming in. Get me out fast and I will win the race,’” Silver said. “And the emotion that was there, the emotion of what I heard, sent a chill up my spine.”

In fact, Horton did win the race, Silver said.

“And I felt a part of it by listening to it and being able to hear that,” he said.

It would be a few years before Silver took that experience and ran with it to form Racing Electronics. But around 1987 he started fooling around with scanners and headsets and tracking down the radio frequencies of various teams.

By October 1988, he was at another race in New Jersey and saw other people listening to their own scanners. But they were frustrated they couldn’t find frequencies of the teams or decent headsets.

“On the way home from the race the concept of Racing Electronics developed,” Silver said.

Of course he never expected it to become a full-time career. He just thought it would be a nice side project to earn a little extra money. He placed a tiny advertisement in Area Auto Racing News in November 1988 and sold his first order the week the ad came out. He didn’t get a lot of response at first. Until people started placing orders to have the Racing Electronics headsets in time to enjoy the races in Daytona.

“And that was the start of it,” he said.

Racing Electronics started off as a mail-order business, until about 1990 when Silver had merchandise carted to the various race tracks. Before long he realized it was time to leave New Jersey and set up shop in Concord, in the heart of NASCAR country.

“Having the business located in Concord is probably the best thing we’ve ever done for this company,” Silver said. “We were very disconnected being up in New Jersey and the connection of being here and the easy access of the teams — being able to walk right into our show room and our shop, come into our ear mold lab and have their ear impressions taken, it’s just been very rewarding to the company.”


Since forming Racing Electronics, Silver has watched the company grow. He declined to discuss sales or financial details, but he did say in the past 10 years the company has grown from about 40 employees to about 80.

The company’s growth has gotten the attention of business leaders in the community, and Racing Electronics recently received the small business of the year award from the Cabarrus Regional Chamber of Commerce.

John Cox, president and CEO for the chamber, said Silver’s work has been a benefit to the community.

“In many respects NASCAR is a universal language and many people speak it—and when they hear it on race day, it’s usually through one of Bruce’s headsets,” Cox said.

“He is a true entrepreneur in that he created this industry from a dream and availed himself of Opportunity North Carolina Funds to hire some folks he otherwise couldn’t have hired.”

And Silver is about to add at least five more jobs by the end of the year. He had two companies in China who were under contract to produce the headsets. But Silver has taken the equipment out of one location and plans to be in full production by the end of 2012, making a line of headsets here.

Racing Electronics is located on 18,000-square-foot piece of property and will grow even larger, with Silver looking for a manufacturing facility to move some of the production to.

“Our big focus now is to bring production back from China,” Silver said. “Currently some parts come in from China and everything is assembled here. My goal is to dramatically reduce it and put American citizens back to work.”


While Silver is watching his business grow thanks to race fans, he is also quick to point out his business does so well because all of his employees are also race fans themselves.

In fact, Silver is not just a race fan, but he often climbs behind the wheel of a race car himself. He started competing in the Legends Racing series in 2007 after two employees encouraged him to drive.

“And it only took one race,” Silver said. “It only took one practice actually. Anyone who has ever driven in a race car and competed knows that it’s not what it seems to be. It’s a very addictive sport and it’s more fun than anybody can imagine.”

He runs in about 60 races a year in the Masters Division series, driving his #53 Racing Electronics 1934 Ford Legends car.

Some people might think a man could get burned out on being involved in the corporate end of racing as well as being a driver. But for Silver it’s his “golf game,” he said.

“When I get in my Legends car it’s total focus on driving and performing,” Silver said. “I don’t think about business. I don’t think about other daily trials and tribulations going on. It’s about racing.”

And Racing Electronics looks to be a part of NASCAR for some time to come.

“I’m a race fan,” Silver said. “The people that are in this business are race fans. We like the competiveness of this. It’s our lives.”


Local company excited to see their work in 'Hunger Games'

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

by WCNC Staff

Source: News Channel 36

CONCORD, N.C. -- ButlerBuilt Professional Seat Systems is going to get to see several of their hand crafted seats on the big screen this month.

In late March, the shop is going to see their chairs, their work in "The Hunger Games," the movie that is set to be the biggest blockbuster of the year.

"The Hunger Games" is a story of kids in a post apocalyptic world forced to fight to their death.

The movie was shot in Charlotte, Shelby and in Concord at the old Phillip Morris plant. ButlerBuilt is just a mile from the plant and set designers showed up at the shop this past summer.

"The art director and one of the prop people came down, described what they needed," ButlerBuilt manager Gary Platenburger said.

The chairs were a perfect fit for one of the scenes in "The Hunger Games," so the prop director ordered a dozen of them.

Several of the workers at ButlerBuilt are excited to see what their finish products look like on the big screen.

"I've got a funny feeling I'll be sitting there with a bucket of popcorn and I'll be going that's them, that's them," said Platenburger. "Everyone else will be telling me to shut up."


I-85 project praised as example for country

Saturday, February 18, 2012

by Karen Cimino Wilson

Source: Independent Tribune

Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez spoke in Concord, calling the three projects involving Interstate 85 and Interstate 485 in Cabarrus and Mecklenburg counties examples of efficient and creative design, construction and financing that should be used an example for future projects across the nation.

Mendez joined N.C. Department of Transportation Secretary Gene Conti and N.C. Department of Transportation Engineer Barry Moose, who oversees Division 10, Concord Mayor Scott Padgett and officials from Blythe Construction and Lane Construction – the two contractors working on the projects.

The three projects total $423 million and are expected to improve safety and reduce traffic congestion along the major east-west commercial route serving Cabarrus County and its Charlotte area neighbors.

The three projects are: the $140 million project to complete I-485, the Charlotte Outer Loop; the $92 million I-85 interchange with I-485; and the $125 million I-85 widening project between Bruton Smith Boulevard/Concord Mills Boulevard and N.C. 73.

All three projects had been delayed for years. When Gov. Beverly Perdue took office, they weren’t scheduled to start work until 2015. Now all three projects are on schedule for completion in 2014, Conti said.

The projects feature the state’s first turbine-style interchange where I-85 and I-485 meet and a pair of double-crossover or “diverging diamond” interchanges designed to reduce risky left turns among drivers and cut traffic jams by as much as 60 percent.

“It’s going to relieve one of the worst bottlenecks in the state,” Mendez said.

The N.C. Department of Transportation estimates that the innovative interchange designs reduced the cost of the projects by more than $50 million.

Mendez’s visit follows President Barack Obama’s budget release on Monday, which includes $305 billion over the next six years to rebuild America’s roads and bridges, a 34-percent increase over the previous authorization.

Mendez said he wants to learn more about the turbine design used in the I-85/I-485 interchange because it saved $25 million over the original design of a four-level stacked interchange.

“The fact that you were able to save about $25 million – that’s something we need to think about on a national level,” he said.

“Every state could learn from what’s happening here,” Mendez said.

Mendez said he’ll talk about the turbine and “diverging diamond” interchanges used on these projects when he visits other states. He also plans to highlight other examples of ingenuity he’s seen on the projects in Cabarrus County including the use of a temporary bridge to reduce the impact of the road work on traffic.


Perdue touts highway projects

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

I-485 loop, I-85 widening could be done by Dec. 2014

by Lukas Johnson

Source: The Charlotte Observer

State and local officials say the major highway projects under way in the area will keep Cabarrus County, Concord and Charlotte moving forward.

At a news conference Jan. 9 at Lane Construction Corp.'s Concord office, Gov. Bev Perdue said the N.C. Department of Transportation will finish the Interstate 485 loop, widen Interstate 85 in Cabarrus and build three interchanges that are firsts for North Carolina.

When Perdue took office, these projects were scheduled to begin in 2013. The projects were accelerated through a process called Design, Build, Finance, which brought in lower bids and saved the state $130 million. It also added about 400 jobs.

Officials now say the I-85 widening in Cabarrus should be finished in November 2013, and the I-485 loop should be finished in December 2014.

About seven miles of I-85, from Bruton Smith Boulevard to N.C. 73, will be converted from a four-lane to an eight-lane freeway. The turbine interchange being built at I-485 near Mallard Creek Church Road is one of only a handful in the nation.

The diverging diamond interchanges, being built at the I-85 crossings of Poplar Tent Road and N.C. 73, also are firsts for the state.

"After being in and out of Charlotte the way I've been the last 10 years, it made no sense to me at all that we wouldn't figure out a way to put these projects together and expedite them," said Perdue. "If we sat around waiting for the old way of doing things to allow us to do these three projects, I'm not sure we would have started in 2016 or 2017.

"Two years ago we said we'd figure out a way to get over the last hurdles for these three major projects and that we'd try to do them around the same time, so that folks who live in this area could actually see progress on the problems they encounter every morning and every evening going to and from work."

Local leaders say the projects will help move goods and people more efficiently and make it more attractive to businesses looking to relocate.

About $180 million worth of traffic projects are being completed in Cabarrus County, said John Cox, president and CEO of Cabarrus Economic Development and the Cabarrus Regional Chamber of Commerce.

"When you have $180 million circulating through the economy, no matter the source, it's always good," said Cox. "When you get to move goods and commerce to businesses faster, that's better for business.

"When vendors have an easier opportunity to get to your business, you're going to do more business. Ultimately, the people who win are the citizens of Cabarrus County, the citizens of North Carolina and businesses in this region."

The projects, officials say, are long overdue.

"The widening of I-85 has been a transportation improvement project for 20 years," Cox said. "We've been saying for two decades 'we want it, we need it,' and now we just have to bear with situation. (Traffic problems during construction are) just a momentary blip, but that's the price that major metros pay for the kind of growth that we need and that we need to continue to see."

Officials also praised the innovation behind the projects. NCDOT officials are forecasting about 200,000 trips a day to go through the turbine interchange.

"This certainly is an exciting time. I've been with DOT for 26 years, and it's been a long time since we've had this much construction going on in a concentrated area all at one time," said Barry Moose, division engineer for NCDOT Division 10, which covers Cabarrus County. "The turbine interchange will enable traffic to flow at freeway speeds, 60-plus miles per hour, without conflict."

Jen Thompson, also with NCDOT Division 10, said the goal is to keep traffic moving during construction.

"If you've noticed with the I-85 project, we've shifted traffic to the outside, but we still have two lanes running," said Thompson. "Once the inside lanes are done, traffic will shift again while the outside lanes are completed.

"This is an integral corridor," added Thompson. "It's a critical need that we have - not just for Charlotte, but for the whole state - to keep traffic and goods moving on I-85.

"We're also trying to secure money right now to widen the next section of I-85, which would take you up to exit 63 into Rowan County."   



Solar-powered system shines in Concord

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Downtown parking deck gets covered parking, 252 solar modules

by Lukas Johnson

Source: The Charlotte Observer

The city of Concord's first solar-powered project is up and running.

A ribbon-cutting event was planned for Jan. 10 to honor the renewable energy technology that sits atop the downtown parking deck.

More than 250 solar modules make up three carport-style units. The "ultra-durable" system is expected to last decades. There are no moving parts and it syncs with the local utility grid through an inverter.

Steve Osborne, Concord's deputy director for planning and neighborhood development, said the project could serve as an educational tool for the public while promoting the city's commitment to renewable energy.

"Almost everyone says the same thing: 'It's a cool project,'" said Osborne. "It's very progressive and this is the future."

Costs for the $497,500 project were spilt by the city and private investor Stefan Gleason, owner of Hyperion Energy LLC. Concord used $245,482 in grant money from N.C. Department of Commerce's Energy Division.

The entire system's energy production power is roughly 80,000 kilowatt hours per year. That's the equivalent of taking eight 3,000-square-foot homes off the power grid.

"The direct benefit is it provides renewable energy," Osborne said. "It also created local jobs and everything up there is 100-percent USA-made and manufactured. But the fact that it's owned by the private sector on a government building also is pretty cool."

It also provides covered parking.

"For absolutely zero Concord taxpayer dollars, we got covered parking for more than 30 spaces and it cost nothing," said Osborne. "If the taxpayers were asked to do this, it would cost a couple hundred thousand dollars."

Argand Energy Solutions, which specializes in solar installations for commercial customers, installed the system and said the lifespan of the solar panels is 25-40 years. Hyperion Energy will own and maintain the system.

Gleason, 39, moved to Charlotte this summer. He also owns real estate, but this is his first solar project.

"I knew that I wanted to invest in solar because I believe energy prices are going to go up a lot - I think they're going to skyrocket in the coming years," he said.

He learned about the Concord project while researching potential solar projects through the N.C. Sustainable Energy Association.

While the project isn't unprecedented, it does make a statement about investing in renewable energy, Gleason said.

"Concord was pretty innovative in putting this project together," said Gleason. "I'm quite impressed. They wanted to build something to do with renewable energy and get covered parking, and they figured out how to do it without using any local tax dollars."

Gleason, who has a power purchase agreement with the city of Concord, will sell the energy created by the system to the city for about 5.5 cents per kilowatt hour. He estimated the system will generate about $7,500 per year at current power prices. Gleason will lease the space from the city for $600 per year.

There won't be any cash flow in the short-term but Gleason said he could possibly pay off his investment in as little as five years.

"These kinds of projects are called tax-equity investments, and accelerated depreciation and renewable energy tax credits are what make these projects economically viable," said Gleason. "Someday, they will be profitable without incentives.

"I think solar is a fascinating technology because it allows people to become more self-reliant. You can put solar on your roof and be self-sufficient. We need to look for more ways to be self-reliant and manage traditional energy sources as costs continue to rise."   


Concord airport getting $5 million grant

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Source: Salisbury Post

As part of the N.C. Department of Transportation’s commitment to improving aviation in North Carolina, the N.C. Division of Aviation awarded $5.46 million in federal block grant funds to Concord Regional Airport for a capital improvement project.

The funds will be used to strengthen the existing taxiway and aircraft parking apron. As larger and heavier aircraft use the airport, the increased pavement strength will be needed to support the extra weight.

“Concord Regional Airport is one of our state’s busiest general aviation facilities,” said Division of Aviation Director Richard Walls. “The project will allow the airport to further expand its operations and better serve this region.”

These funds came from a $22.8 million Federal Aviation Administration block grant that the Division of Aviation received at the end of September and will administer. The Division will award multiple sub grants through the program to general aviation airports across the state for a variety of capital improvement projects.

Concord Regional Airport has an approximate $110 million a year total impact on North Carolina and supports more than 860 jobs, based on a 2006 statewide economic impact study.

Since Gov. Bev Perdue took office in 2009, the Division of Aviation has awarded more than $125 million in funding to state airports. These funds enable airports across the state to provide improvements that support economic development and job opportunities.

For more information on North Carolina aviation, visit


Concord to break ground on Carolina Courts facility

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

by Ben McNeely

Concord will break ground next Thursday on a new sports facility that is expected to bring thousands of people to the downtown area next year.

Carolina Courts said in October it intends to build a 47,000 square-foot athletic facility on the old city maintenance yard on four acres between Corban and Cabarrus avenues. The $3.9 million facility is expected to open in September 2012 and create about 50 full-time equivalent jobs.

Mayor Scott Padgett called the announcement “a game changer.”

“Everybody that has a business in downtown Concord will gain from this,” Padgett said. He also credited City Council for investing in the downtown area through the years.

“If downtown had been unhealthy, this wouldn’t have happened,” he said.

The groundbreaking ceremony will be Thursday, Dec. 8 at noon, at the project site near Cabarrus Avenue between Spring and Yorktown Streets.


Concord parking deck installs solar panels

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

by Sarah Pisciuneri

Source: News 14 Carolina

A Concord parking deck will soon be more than just a place to park. It will be where the city is getting alternative energy. While the Cabarrus Avenue parking deck is getting solar power panels on its roof top, the panels will also provide 32 covered spaces for drivers.

"They have to drive all the way up, their cars get hot," said Deputy Director of Planning and Neighborhood Development for Concord, Steve Osborne.

So while most people are avoiding the top level of parking decks, people visiting Downtown Concord won't mind level four of the Cabarrus Avenue parking deck, under solar power panels.

"What used to be a very hot area to park, especially in the summer, is now going to be covered. It's going to be cool. It's going to be different," said Osborne.

But the panels won't be powering the deck, it will go to Concord homes.

"The more power that's sold back on the grid that's that much less that has to be produced and it's off setting the carbon footprint," said Osborne, who says it could not have been done without the help of Stefan Gleason, a private investor in the project.

"It works for everybody and so it's pretty smart," said Gleason.

By matching the state grant the city received earlier this year for the $500,000 project, the city won't need to use money from tax payers while reducing energy costs long term.

"In essence, in a small way, it's helping increase the supply of energy, which will hopefully keep a lid on prices to some degree," said Gleason.

And while the benefits of the panels may not be felt for a few years, it can be seen in just a few short weeks.

"You can bring school kids up here or adults, it doesn't matter, and actually see how the project works and how it goes together, and feel it and touch it, it's really cool," said Osborne.

Helping transform solar power from an alternative source, to a primary source.

The panels will produce more than 80,000 kilowatt hours of electricity a year, enough to offset the energy use of about four homes.


Lake Norman, Cabarrus companies plug into energy sector

Thursday, October 20, 2011

by Reid Creager

Source: Business Today

While Charlotte is building a reputation as the energy capital of the Southeast and beyond, innovative companies in the Golden Crescent are also leaving an unmistakable imprint on the industry — and the economy.

Lake Norman, Cabarrus and nearby environs are home to an energy cluster that’s peppered with companies on the cutting edge of energy technology. They’re not only helping other industries unlock the key to more sustainable energy solutions, they’re making strides toward changing attitudes, priorities and even laws that will dramatically transform how we utilize our resources — all while bringing jobs and the potential for more expansion in a burgeoning business sector.

The momentum got some real juice in 2007, when North Carolina became the first state in the Southeast to adopt a Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard (REPS). Renewable fuels have to account for 12.5 percent of utility retail sales by 2021.

The state’s commitment to renewable energy, and the presence nearby of Duke Energy and many other corporate giants in Charlotte, are built-in advantages for green energy in the Golden Crescent. It was enough to lure Lime Energy to Huntersville from its Chicago headquarters in August — an event noteworthy enough that the company was welcomed to the region at a Sept. 7 Charlotte reception featuring Gov. Bev Perdue.

A national leader in planning and providing clean energy solutions, Lime is the biggest such presence in the area with more than $100 million in annual sales and 25 years’ experience in the field. It works on clean energy solutions for Fortune 500 clients, governments at all levels, major investor-owned utilities, global energy service companies, and educational and health care institutions. Lime is currently developing a landfill-gas power plant in Punta Gorda, Fla.

“We are not just advisers,” says Chad Solomonson, Lime’s vice president of marketing. “We are the one-stop shop for understanding energy-saving potential but also doing the design and implementation, and validating after the fact.”

With a strategic boost from its N.C. presence, Lime plans major acquistions as part of its goal to become a $500 million company. Lime currently has about 100 N.C. Employees — and according to Solomonson, it’s just getting started here.

“There was a lot of growing momentum with larger entities in this area,” he says. “We feel that connection with those companies and have made a lot of investment here as well. ...

“We have been in this area for awhile, operating around certain projects and some companies acquired by Lime that were headquartered here. We eventually plan to extend our reach as far north as Raleigh. We are so excited about how the state has embraced our company.”

For Olee “Joel” Olsen, renewable energy generation isn’t just a mission; it should be the law of the land. The fact that utility companies don’t profit much by selling renewable power generated by someone else is of little concern to O2 Energies’ managing director — who recently completed a 900-kilowatt, $5 million solar panel project on a Christmas tree farm in Newland, N.C., that will provide enough energy to power 120 homes.

Two years ago, Olsen worked closely with lawmakers and the North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association to have the first Renewable Energy Feed in Rate legislation introduced in the state. Olsen says the legislation — later converted to a study bill — is the fastest way to grow the renewable energy industry in North Carolina.

Olsen isn’t stopping there. This year, he says, he was behind three additional bills that were submitted to lawmakers — a solar jobs bill that would increase the state’s solar requirement of utilities’ total electrical sales from 0.2 percent to 0.4 percent by 2018; a sales bill that would allow customers to be able to buy solar-generated electricity from a third party; and legislation that would increase the amount of solar that could be used in the facility itself and the coverage sold to the grid.

None of the bills made it out of committee, but Olsen remains undaunted and optimistic.

“We’ve had a great relationship with the new leadership in the state, but we feel maybe it takes more time for new leadership to understand the widespread benefits of solar,” he says.

The Avery County Christmas tree farm project is part of Olsen’s quest to get the state to realize that solar could become one of the biggest industries in North Carolina. His project will cover about six acres of the 38-acre farm. Olsen’s panels are guaranteed for 25 years, but developers say the installations could be insured for up to 50 years.

Olsen notes that convincing people of the benefits of solar is essential at every level: “Our biggest challenge (in the Avery County project) was securing the financing. After Aquesta Bank in Cornelius, our primary lender, was able to understand how solar works, they’ve been a very big partner since.”

Osbert Cheung is also a pioneer of sorts in that his company — SBM Solar — recently became the first company in the world to get the prestigious Underwriters Laboratories certification for the Concord company’s non-glass, rigid, crystalline silicon photovoltaic solar panel module. For a while, it was the only company with that distinction.
“We’ve had a few other companies follow our lead, but it’s good to be the first,” Cheung says.

Cheung says SBM uses polymer as much as possible to replace glass. The company is the recognized leader in research, development and manufacturing of patent-pending, non-glass solar technology for uses that include traditional roofing, BIPV (Building Integrated PhotoVoltaic), marine, portable military and disaster relief.

Cheung is proud of his product’s use for the military. “Congressman Larry Kissell helped promote my product and truly believes in it,” he says. “He introduced my product to the military. Whenever a foreign delegation comes to town, he has them come and see my technology.”

SBM has posted a dramatic YouTube video (  that demonst rates the shatterproof nature of its product. “The Marines are realizing that renewable energy saves not just money but soldiers’ lives,” he says — adding that like his counterparts, his biggest challenge is getting skeptics to understand the benefits.


Carolina Courts plans large indoor sports complex in downtown Concord

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Thursday, October 13, 2011 3:00 pm

by Dave Yochum

Source: Business Today

The founders of a sports complex that has prospered in Indian Trail are expected to enter into a partnership with Concord and build a 47,000 square foot indoor facility on the city's old Corban Avenue maintenance yard downtown. Carolina Courts operates a similar indoor facility in Indian Trail with five basketball courts that can also function as volleyball courts. More than 150,000 visitors come to  Carolina Courts for tournaments, clinics and camps each year.

The new building will be constructed on land that is currently owned by Concord, which is expected to sell the property to Carolina Courts. A purchase price was not disclosed, but the land, just to the west of the historic downtown area, qualifies for assistance through the Brownfields Economic Development Initiative. BEDI is administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development with the goal of turning environmentally contaminated industrial and commercial facilities into useful, jobs-generating projects.
A slam dunk?
Without naming Carolina Courts, Peter Franzese, Concord's official spokesman said: "It will be a game changer for Downtown and the community as a whole will greatly benefit."
The new business will create multiple positions both full-time and part-time, including coaches and staffers. The Carolina Courts web site says the company is "always accepting resumes and applications."
The Corban Avenue site was out of play for a few years while a private businessman, John Falkenbury, worked on plans to build an active senior living facility with about 118 units. Falkenbury pulled out of the project in January of last year because of the economy and the volume of paperwork, he said.
Dream team
Officials in Indian Trail heaped praise on Carolina Courts and the people behind the operation, co-founders Ron Esser and Scott Chitwood. "They're good stewards and a great asset to our community. I'm proud to have them here," said Robert W. Allen, a member of the Indian Trail Town Council. He said Carolina Courts is a "big draw" for nearby business and hotels. "They bring 150,000 to 200,000 visitors annually," he said. Carolina Courts, which is in the process of expanding the Indian Trail facility, has more than a dozen basketball tournaments during two days in November and December.

Mayor Scott Padgett has called a special meeting of the Concord City Council to "consider items related to a brownfields redevelopment project that will result in a new business locating adjacent to Historic Downtown Concord." The City Council will hold a special meeting to receive information from staff and the business owners, and consider action on related items. Neither Padgett nor Carolina Courts officials would discuss the project.
Carolina Courts, which operates year-round, partners with local hotels for blocks of rooms for tournaments. It offers adult and youth basketball and volleyball leagues as well as open gym opportunities on a weekly basis. Carolina Courts' web site is


Cabarrus Family Medicine earns national recognition

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

by Robin Gardner

Source: Independent Tribune

Cabarrus Family Medicine-Concord is one of 49 Carolina HealthCare System's medical practices that was recently recognized by the National Committee on Quality Assurance, a private non-profit organization dedicated to improving health care quality and standards.

The recognition is called “The Physicians Practice Connection- Patient Centered Medical Home.” Practices that received recognition are a part of the NCQA’s Patient-Centered Medical Home (PCMH) 2011, an program for improving primary care with a specific criteria set. The program gives practices information about organizing care around patients, working in teams and coordinating and tracking care over time.

“This recognition validates the hard work of the medical professional at our practices to create an environment that places patients first, and makes them a full partner in their medical care,” Paul Franz, CHS executive vice president, Physicians Services Group, said.

The differences patients will see in a “medical home” environment include improved access to care through several avenues, including easier appointment making capabilities, a greater responsiveness from the staff in responding to messages left by patients, a greater use of email and online resources and better chronic disease management.

“We were recognized for achievement as a patient centered medical home,” Dr. Mark Robinson, a family medicine physician at Cabarrus Family Medicine-Concord, said. “There is a series of nine standards that range from access and continuity of care to chronic disease management and electronic prescribing.”

Robinson explained that there are really no uniformed standards for medical practices to follow, and new patients in search of a good physician or medical practice get most of their information from word of mouth to evaluate local medical practices. Now there is recognition for those who follow a strict set of standards.

“The challenging thing about understanding 'medical home' is a lot of it is 'under the hood’ -- under the hood of the car that people expect to be in place,” Robinson said. “With 'medical home' you have to prove that you are doing messaging in a timely manner, that you’re providing chronic disease care, meeting certain goals and electronic record keeping to track that care.”

If physicians better use the technology available to them, they will have a greater ability to track referrals to specialists and ensure reports are received in a timely manner and that lab results are tracked and reported quickly to the patients.

“This is a way for insurance providers to see who is presenting excellent care. The two great big things we see with medical home is decreasing unnecessary emergency room visits and decreasing unnecessary hospital visits,” Robinson said.

Robinson said that if an insurance company is paying for care, they want that care to be the best possible and have the best possible long term outcomes.

“The patient-centered medical home promises to improve health and health care. The active, ongoing relationship between a physician in medical homes fosters an all-too-rare goal in care: staying healthy and preventing illness in the first place,” NCQA President Margaret E. O' Kane said in a press release about the recognition presented to Robinson's practice.

CHS believes that these are the essential ingredients to health care reform that will provide better services and better patient care.


Solar Mat by SBM Solar

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

This portable solar mat from SBM Solar weighs just 13 pounds.

Devices like this are crucial for troops out in the field. Normally they have to carry battery packs to charge radios or computers, packs that can weigh nearly 100 pounds.

The solar mat frees up space for more important things, like ammunition.

Published by:  CNNMoney


Celgard to receive more incentives after expansion announcement

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

by Karen Cimino Wilson>

Celgard will receive another incentive grant from Cabarrus County worth up to $1.69 million for the third expansion of its new manufacturing facility project in Concord in the 18 months since it was first announced.

In July, Celgard announced the third expansion, which involves an additional $105 million investment and 250 more jobs in Concord during the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the company’s Concord Manufacturing Facility.

The latest expansion brings the total number of jobs at the plant in Concord to 573, according to Ryan McDaniels, Vice President of Economic Development for the Cabarrus Economic Development Corporation.

Celgard, LLC, is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Polypore International, Inc., and is the largest U.S. lithium battery separator producer and one of three major global suppliers. Celgard battery separators are components of lithium-ion batteries, which are used in electronic devices such as cell phones, digital cameras and Electric Drive Vehicles such as the Chevy Volt.

In January 2010, Celgard announced plans to expand production at its Charlotte plant and build a new facility in Concord for a total investment of $100 million. The company received $49 million in stimulus grants from the U.S. Department of Energy that are included in that $100 million.

In November 2010, Celgard announced plans to invest $32 million in additional capacity at its Charlotte facility. In March 2011, the company announced plans to add $65 million to its investment in the Concord plant. The July announcement was the third expansion of the project.

Cabarrus County commissioners voted 3-2 to approve the tax incentive grant. Commissioner Chairman Jay White, Vice Chair Liz Poole and commissioner Bob Carruth voted in favor of awarding the incentive grant, which gives Celgard an 85 percent tax break on property taxes worth up to $1.69 million. The company is required to create the jobs promised to receive the tax break, White said.

Commissioners Larry Burrage and Chris Measmer voted against the incentive grant.

“I think government should get out of private business,” Burrage said. “If a company is going to be a money-making operation, private investors will keep it going. To me, it’s morally and ethically wrong to do what’s been done and I can’t vote for it and that’s all I have to say.”

Measmer said he thought Celgard prematurely announced its expansion if it intended to acquire more incentive grants from the county. Measmer quoted incentive grant policy, which states that grants should be awarded to companies that otherwise would not locate or expand locally.

“I think it was a little presumptuous on the governor’s behalf and the company’s behalf to celebrate this knowing it was dependent on our vote today,” Measmer said Monday.

“In my mindset, having a celebration two our three weeks ago celebrating these jobs does not tell me they did this because of the grant,” Measmer said.

Measmer said he also was against the tax incentive because Celgard has already received tax incentives for previous investment on the same project in Cabarrus County including a cash payment from Concord and Cabarrus County totaling $700,000.

John Cox, President and CEO of the Cabarrus Economic Development Corporation, defended incentive grants, stating that they are legal and useful tools in attracting businesses and much needed jobs to the county.

“We do think that it is important that counties in America, and that counties in North Carolina that want to be competitive, maintain incentive grants as one of the tools of recruiting businesses,” Cox said.

“I would hate for us not to have the opportunity to continue to negotiate with the companies in good faith,” he said.

Concord City Council also approved a $1.1 million city tax incentive grant for Celgard at its meeting Thursday. Celgard also requested a One North Carolina Fund Grant from the N.C. Department of Commerce, which will be allocated to Concord and then given by the city to Celgard. The state grant requires a local match.


Woodson University announces partnership for customer service program

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

by Jessica Groover >

Source: Independent Tribune

Woodson University hopes its students will help fill some of the 400 new jobs Connextions, Inc. has to offer at its site in Concord.

The university announced Tuesday that is has a new partnership with Connextions, Alliant Personnel Solutions Inc. (APSI) and Mike Minter Workforce Development Program for its new Customer Sales Specialist Certificate.

The new certificate program will also be the first of the university’s to be housed in its new downtown Concord location. The program will begin on Aug. 29, and continue each week during the fall semester.

Woodson University President A.L. Fleming said the university hopes to train 250 people from August to December.

The week-long training runs Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The cost is $795 for the week.

Students will be dually enrolled at Woodson University and in APSI and the Mike Minter Workforce Development Program, which helped create the curriculum, Fleming said.

Once students complete the program and pass the examination, those who are interested will be on a list of candidates provided to Connextions, said Todd Baxter, chief operations officer for the company, which provides technology and services primarily in the health care industry.

“The intention is the program will assist individuals to be gainfully employed in customer service,” Fleming said.

Connextions will also provide data about Woodson’s graduates after they complete the program, Fleming said, and the students may use their credit hours toward its bachelor’s degree program in Christian Management and Leadership.

The partners said Tuesday that they were excited about the opportunity to work together.

“We came here because we felt the workforce was strong,” said Todd Baxter, executive vice president of consumer solutions for Connextions. “When you do this on this kind of scale, it’s very important to have partners.”

Part of Woodson’s focus is establishing and cultivating relationships in the community, said M. Cole Jones, vice president for development at the university.

“I’d like to call this one of our first collaborative initiatives,” Jones said. “We want to reach out and create partnerships in innovative ways.”

The university began offering classes earlier this year and is still moving forward with earning accreditation from the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools and the Montessori Accreditation Council for Teacher Education, Fleming said.

In May, Woodson University acquired the rights to purchase the former Bethel School building in Midland.

About 25 members of the community and government were at this week’s press conference to hear the university’s latest announcement and expressed their excitement about it.

“This is really good news for us,” said Concord Mayor Scott Padgett. “We’re all about jobs, and now, we’re going to the next step.”


'Hunger Games' filming in area continues

Thursday, August 4, 2011

by Associated Press

Source: The Star, Cleveland County NC

CHARLOTTE (AP) — Shooting of the movie "Hunger Games" is headed to Concord.

WCNC-TV reported that production of the movie about a young girl who joins a survival contest to save her community was in Charlotte on Wednesday.

Trucks carrying lights and other production equipment lined a street outside Knight Theater. Signs around the area directed the crew to the set inside the theater.

Shooting was expected to move to Concord on Thursday.

"Hunger Games" is based on the novel of the same name and is expected to be released in March. It stars Woody Harrelson, Donald Sutherland and Lenny Kravitz. Jennifer Lawrence plays the lead role of Katniss Everdeen, the girl who joins the survival contest.


Electric vehicles to drive more growth for Celgard

Friday, July 29, 2011

by Ken Elkins

Source: Charlotte Business Journal

A Chevy Volt was parked at a charging station at Celgard’s Concord plant Monday as the company announced it would spend another $105 million on its new facility.

The Volt is the first of what is expected to be a flood of mass-produced electric cars that will hit the market by 2015. Those vehicles are the driving force behind Celgard’s latest growth plans — which follow three previous expansions at plants in Charlotte and Concord.

The company manufactures specialty membranes used predominantly in the lithium-ion battery industry for consumer electronics.

The 250 employees who will be added over the next two years at The International Business Park at Concord facility are dedicated to production of battery membranes for the auto industry. The 150,000-square-foot plant, built by Myers & Chapman, recently opened.

“We have a brightly promising future yet to come,” Mitch Pulwer, president of Celgard, told a crowd of 150 gathered for the grand opening of the plant. N.C. Gov. Bev Perdue and U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu also attended.

The industry’s capacity of battery membranes is already committed to clients, says Celgard spokesman John Mozena of StarrConstand Business Communications of Detroit. More production is needed as electric cars become mainstream.

When the latest expansion is complete, Celgard will have $227 million invested in the Concord plant, where an estimated 550 employees will work.

Employment figures are estimated because Celgard doesn’t disclose exact work-force numbers between its two Charlotte-area plants.

The Concord plant is expected to start production in two months and will be at full capacity in the first quarter of 2012.

Marcus Childs, who joined Celgard in 1998 after a stint with the former Springs Industries Inc., is the Concord plant manager.

Celgard will provide at least two Volts for employees’ trips between the company’s Charlotte-area plants. Employees’ hybrid vehicles also have a special place at Celgard Concord. Lightning bolts painted on the concrete show parking spaces reserved for those vehicles.

Regulatory filings show Celgard has teamed with Korean conglomerate LG Corp. to make membranes for the Volt’s lithium-ion batteries.

North Carolina aided the Concord expansion with a $2.3 million job-development grant. An additional $500,000 comes from the One North Carolina Fund, which assists the state in industry recruitment and expansion. Perdue says it’s all about “green-collar” jobs. “Celgard is an innovative North Carolina company that is helping us realize the promise of a greener economy.”

The new jobs will pay $37,912 on average, excluding benefits. The Cabarrus annual average wage is $32,448.

Celgard, a subsidiary of Charlotte-based Polypore International Inc. Robert Toth, Polypore chief executive, says Celgard is “capitalizing on the growing demand” for battery-powered vehicles. The company is the only major battery-separator supplier manufacturing in the United States.

Perdue says it’s good for the state’s employment rolls and economy to use incentives to keep companies such as Celgard in the state. “In North Carolina, we are turning green into gold.”



Gov. Perdue Announces 250 jobs with Celgard

Monday, July 25, 2011

by Chris Mackey>

Source: Office of the Governor

CONCORD – Gov. Bev Perdue and officials from Charlotte-based Celgard LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Polypore International, Inc. (NYSE: PPO), today announced plans to expand production capacity in Concord and hire an additional 250 employees.

The project was made possible in part by state grants from the Job Development Investment Grant and One North Carolina Grant programs. To meet the targets established in these performance-based grants, the company plans to create 250 jobs and invest a total of $105 million in Cabarrus County over the next two years.

“Celgard is an innovative North Carolina company that is helping us realize the promise of a greener economy,” Perdue said. “We are able to create these ‘green collar’ jobs, and other skilled jobs across the state, because we have invested in education and built an educated, skilled workforce.”

The company is a global leader in the development and production of specialty membranes used predominantly in the lithium battery industry. The expansion is designed to increase production capacity to supply lithium battery manufacturers focused on the Electric Drive Vehicle industry. The company currently employs approximately 600 people in North Carolina.

While salaries will vary by job function, the overall average wage for the 250 new jobs will be $37,912 not including benefits. That is higher than the Cabarrus annual average of $32,448.

“We are excited about our plans for an additional expansion of our Concord facility,” stated Celgard President, Mitch Pulwer. “Celgard and our parent company, Polypore, are truly global, but we feel right at home in the Charlotte-Concord corridor. We are thankful for the support we have received from Gov. Perdue, the North Carolina congressional delegation, and county and local governments that will enable us to continue our investments in production capacity and create jobs here in North Carolina as we prepare to meet the increasing demand of the Electric Drive Vehicle market.”

The state’s Economic Investment Committee today voted to award a Job Development Investment Grant to Celgard. JDIGs are awarded only to new and expanding businesses and industrial projects whose benefits exceed the costs to the state and which would not be undertaken in North Carolina without the grant.

Under the terms of the JDIG, the company is eligible to receive a grant equal to 65 percent of the state personal income withholding taxes derived from the creation of new jobs for each of the 11 years in which the company meets annual performance targets. If Celgard meets the targets called for under the agreement and sustains them for 11 years, the JDIG could yield up to $2.3 million in maximum benefits for the company.

The company also has been awarded $500,000 from the One North Carolina Fund, which assists the state in industry recruitment and expansion by providing financial assistance through local governments to attract business projects deemed by the governor to be vital to a healthy and growing state economy. One North Carolina Fund grants require a local match, and this grant is contingent upon approval of local incentives.

In addition, up to $766,000 could be added to the state’s Industrial Development Fund for infrastructure improvements in economically distressed counties. When a JDIG is awarded in the state’s most economically prosperous counties such as Cabarrus, 25 percent of the grant is allocated to the Industrial Development Fund to encourage economic development in less prosperous areas.

Other partners that assisted with this announcement include: The N.C. Department of Commerce, N.C. Community Colleges, Cabarrus County, City of Concord, and Cabarrus Economic Development.

Through Gov. Perdue’s JobsNOW initiative <> , the state continues to work aggressively to create well-paying jobs, train and retrain its workforce, and lay the foundation for a strong and sustainable economic future.

For more information about Celgard, visit <> .  For information about job opportunities, visit


U.S. News & World Report ranks Carolinas Medical Center as Charlotte area’s top hospital

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

by Jennifer Thomas

Source: Charlotte Business Journal

Carolinas Medical Center ranks as the Charlotte metro area’s best hospital, according to U.S. News & World Report’s annual list of the best hospitals in America.
The publication also gives national recognition to CMC’s services in orthopedics and pediatric nephrology, a specialty that evaluates and treats young patients with kidney disease.
No Charlotte-area hospitals were named to the magazine’s Best Hospitals national honor roll. That national list recognized 17 hospitals, including Duke University Medical Center in Durham, which ranks No. 9.
The hospitals that are rated best among the 16 in the Charlotte region are, in order:
1. CMC, the 874-bed flagship hospital of Carolinas HealthCare System .
2. CMC-NorthEast in Concord, also a Carolinas HealthCare facility.
3. Gaston Memorial Hospital , which is part of CaroMont Health in Gastonia.
4. (tie) CMC-Mercy, the Carolinas HealthCare hospital in Charlotte’s Elizabeth neighborhood.
4. (tie) Presbyterian Hospital , located on Presbyterian Healthcare’s main campus in midtown Charlotte. Presbyterian Healthcare is owned by Novant Health Inc. of Winston-Salem.
The 22nd annual Best Hospitals rankings showcase 720 hospitals nationwide and cover 16 medical specialties in 94 metro areas.
Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore earned the nation’s top ranking, followed by Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.

Concord seeks money for taller airport tower

Friday, July 8, 2011

Current building is 36 feet tall; replacement would reach 120 feet

by Lukas Johnson

Source: The Charlotte Observer

Concord Regional Airport Aviation Director Richard Lewis said design work is under way for an estimated $3 million air-traffic-control tower project.

The Concord City Council recently approved the airport's request to seek funding for the project, and construction of the new 120-foot tower could begin as early as this year, said Lewis.

The current tower, about 36 feet tall, puts the eye level of air traffic controllers 11 feet below the end of the runway, said Lewis.

The new tower would create an improved sightline for controllers monitoring aircraft, especially when larger planes potentially block smaller ones from view. It also will improve operations and safety, and increase controllers' comfort.

"The benefits will be safety, more space for the controllers, and it will enhance security for the facility," said Lewis.

Plans are to build the tower next to the south end of the building that houses the current tower. After the new tower is built, staff may use the current tower to coordinate fueling and other tasks.

The general aviation commercial airport handles 60,000 flight operations per year with users ranging from Gov. Bev Perdue to military generals and the Marine One helicopter. Sixty percent of those who use the airport are members of local NASCAR teams. Concord's S&D Coffee is another major user.

On average, the airport deals with a couple of accidents per year, said Lewis, but those generally are caused by operator error or mechanical or instrumental problems, he said.

Improperly working landing gear and a pilot trying to land in thick fog contributed to at least two crashes. "If, in fact, the tower had any contribution to (accidents), there would have been changes already," said Lewis. "There has been no accident - and I've been here 11 years, pretty much the history of the airport - that the tower has ever been (a cause of)."

Lack of funding could slow the development of the tower, but Lewis said he expects it to be built within two to five years.

"Everybody from the city manager to the City Council to the state DOT to the FAA knows we need a tower," said Lewis.

The airport competes with other regional airports, including Monroe, Salisbury and Stanly County. Without the new tower, the airport would remain a prominent competitor, but the problem of an inferior workplace for employees would still be an issue, said Lewis.

"Our profit probably is not in our bottom line," said Lewis. "Our profit is in the economic impact on the community. The last analysis was that we had a $110 million annual economic impact on the community."

Ryan McDaniels, vice president of economic development for Cabarrus Economic Development, said the airport is a key development driver for Concord, Cabarrus County and the Charlotte region.

"The airport has grown rapidly in a short time, becoming the fourth-busiest airport in North Carolina," said McDaniels. "This growth has led to larger aircraft with more capacity and weight. By adding a new control tower, the airport will be able to safely respond to the needs of this increasing activity."

Charlotte Douglas International Airport currently is the seventh-busiest in the world in terms of operations, said McDaniels.

"Concord Regional Airport will only increase in importance as the preeminent alternative for corporate and general aviation," said McDaniels. "This strong mix of a major international airport and a regional airport is vital as we grow our existing businesses, and recruit new businesses to the area."


Celgard announced grand opening for Concord facility

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

by Ben McNeely >

Source: The Independent Tribune

Celgard will host a grand opening of its Concord facility in the International Business Park on July 25.

The company, which makes separators for lithium-ion batteries used for electric vehicles, is expected to create 200 jobs at the Concord plant.

Celgard said it would expand its operations in the Charlotte region last year, after recruitment efforts from state and regional officials convinced them to stay in North Carolina.

The company received a $49.2 million grant from the U.S Department of Energy in August 2009 to expand their manufacturing operations. It matched that grant with $50 million of its own money.

To keep Celgard in North Carolina, state commerce officials, backed by Gov. Bev Perdue, offered the company up to $4.6 million in tax benefits through the Job Development Investment Grant program, provided Celgard creates and keeps new jobs in 11 years.

In addition, the state awarded Celgard $955,000 from the One North Carolina Fund, a state economic development fund.

Concord and Cabarrus County offered Celgard local tax incentive grants, including $700,000 in upfront cash for site improvements at Celgard's facility in the International Business Park.

The company employs about 700 people worldwide, 500 of whom are located in North Carolina, according to a release.

“We are excited about our expansion efforts and the folks we've hired in the past year or so for the Concord and Charlotte facilities,” said Mitch Pulwer, Celgard's president, in a statement. “Celgard and Polypore are truly global, but we feel right at home in the Charlotte-Concord corridor.


Gov. signs law making stock car racing state sport

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

by Ben McNeely >

Source: The Independent Tribune

There’s a state song, state flower, state bird and even a state dog.

Surrounded by schoolchildren and flanked by NASCAR Hall of Famers on Tuesday, Gov. Bev Perdue made stock car racing the official state sport.

The bill signing, held at Charlotte Motor Speedway Tuesday, signaled the end of a rough budget season for the Democratic governor, who had her veto of the state budget overturned by a Republican-controlled legislature.

“In these depressing budget times, finishing the legislative session that we’ve just finished, it’s really cool to do something fun,” Perdue said. “You couldn’t have kept me from coming here today.”

The bill was the brainchild of fourth- and fifth-grade students from Lake Norman Elementary and Mount Mourne IB School in Mooresville. It’s been in the makings for two years.

“In fourth grade, we study North Carolina and the symbols of our state,” said Sara Collin, a fourth-grade teacher at Lake Norman Elementary. “The students discovered there wasn’t a state sport.”

The students considered basketball as a potential state sport, but during their studies, they researched the origins of stock car racing and NASCAR, said Dawn Creason, spokeswoman for Iredell-Statesville Schools.

For students Sierra Bice, 11, Derrick Easter, 11, Billy Witherell, 10, the process to get a state symbol made official was a learning experience.

“We learned about the economic impact of it, the tracks in North Carolina, the state symbols and a lot of very interesting stuff about our state,” Easter said.

With the help of N.C Rep. Grey Mills and others, the kids visited the General Assembly in April. Along the way, they visited many tracks across the state, including Charlotte Motor Speedway.

To either side of Perdue sat recent Hall of Fame inductees Bobby Allison and Ned Jarrett.

“Well, it’s like being in the Hall of Fame, a real honor,” Allison said. “I had a feeling it was going to be big. In fact, the plea to my mother to sign the paper to where I could race when I was 17 was that, ‘Mom, this is going to get good.’”

Motorsports in North Carolina is a big industry -- $6 billion big, according to the North Carolina Motorsports Association. More than 20,000 jobs directly and indirectly related to motorsports and most of them are centered in Cabarrus and Iredell counties. Ninety percent of the NASCAR race teams are located in North Carolina. And with the addition of the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, it solidifies the state’s hold on stock car racing.

“I continue to say (stock car racing) was born and bred in this state,” Perdue said. “We believe that motorsports and NASCAR belong to the people of this great state.”

While Perdue was in Concord Tuesday, more than 200 bills are sitting on her desk in Raleigh, waiting for her review.

The Associated Press reports the governor usually has about 30 days to review bills, but with the Republican-controlled General Assembly coming back to work in mid-July, Perdue will have less time to make her decision to either sign the bills into law or veto them to send back to the legislature.

Perdue has used her veto stamp a record seven times this year, including on the two-year budget plan. But the legislature voted to override her veto and make the $19-billion budget official.


Concord Airport seeks city match to grant for new control tower

Thursday, June 9, 2011

by Karen Cimino Wilson>

Source: The Independent Tribune

Concord Regional Airport has asked Concord City Council to match a grant that would help pay for a new air traffic control tower.

The airport, which has been expanding to allow larger aircraft including 737s to land there, needs a taller air traffic control tower, city officials said.

“The tower is too short. We need a taller tower with more space,” said Dick Lewis, director of aviation for the city.

The airport is eligible for a $150,000 block grant between the city and the North Carolina Department of Aviation. The city would have to provide a matching grant of 10 percent or $16,667.

The funds will be used for continued design of a replacement air traffic control tower at a location to be determined. Due to Federal Aviation Administration Security regulations, the location of the proposed taller tower has to be changed to meet a 300-foot bomb blast radius requirement, according to city officials.

Lewis said the current tower is a level one tower and is not as busy as some of the other towers in the area.

“We’re in a great spot because (air traffic controllers) try to retire out of Charlotte and then they come up here,” he said about staffing the tower.

Concord Regional Airport, near Interstate 85 and Poplar Tent Road, has 7,400 feet of runway and recently overlayed and strengthened its runways to support aircraft landing weights of up to 129,000 pounds.

Because it is a general aviation airport, it’s mainly charter and private aircraft that take off and land at Concord Regional – corporate jets and small, single-engine planes. Yet it’s also one of the busiest general aviation airports in the country.

Lewis said the airport has about 62,000 departures and arrivals a year, on average and 7,500 reported passengers. A good number of those passengers are race teams.

Being home to NASCAR’s air force is one of Concord Regional’s niches.

Several drivers and owners – including Jack Rousch, Mark Martin, Rick Hendrick, Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Burton, to name a few – either own or lease hangars at the airport and house their personal planes there.

From an economic development standpoint, the airport has paid for itself, Mayor Scott Padgett said last month.

“When Electrolux came to Charlotte, their executives flew into our airport,” Padgett said. “Even when new investment is not directed to Cabarrus County, we still get the benefit because of that airport.”

The city and county also gets tax revenue from the planes and the hangars at the airport.

Concord Regional opened in 1994, and the city has been making upgrades as it could feasibly could. It extended the runway to allow for heavier aircraft, like 737s, larger private jets and turboprop airplanes, to land there. But other upgrades are needed, like a new air traffic control tower.

Lewis said the airport needs a 60-foot tower, which would cost about $3 million, and an expansion of the current terminal building, mainly to accommodate passenger screening.

Online editor Ben McNeely contributed to this report.

Contact reporter Karen Cimino Wilson: 704-789-9141.


CMC-NorthEast readies for $264.4 million tower

Friday, June 3, 2011

by Jennifer Thomas, Staff writer >

Source: The Charlotte Business Journal

CMC-NorthEast expects to set a new timetable this fall for building a $264.4 million bed tower on its Concord campus.

That project has been delayed for about two years amid the economic downturn and management changes at the hospital. But now the timing is right to move forward, says Phyllis Wingate-Jones, hospital president.

“We very much believe that having great facilities is part of how we need to position the hospital in the future,” she says.

She anticipates the eight-story tower will be completed within three to five years. It was originally slated to be complete in mid-2013.

The facility will house cardiac, maternity, oncology, renal and interventional radiology services and nuclear medicine. It also will have general medical and surgical beds.

Wingate-Jones notes several other projects have been under way during the bed-tower delay to improve access to care at the 457-bed hospital, which is part of Charlotte-based Carolinas HealthCare System.

For example, CMC-NorthEast broke ground last fall for CMC-Kannapolis, a $17 million free-standing emergency department. It is scheduled to open in January.

Also, the Gateway Medical Office Complex on Copperfield Boulevard is being expanded.

And CMC-NorthEast completed a $40 million surgery-center expansion last November. That facility includes six new operating rooms, boosting the center’s total to 17, as well as additional recovery bays for patients, notes Lisa Tadlock, executive director of surgical services at the hospital.

The new rooms, each measuring 870 square feet, provide surgeons with about 15% more space. That will help accommodate complex procedures and larger equipment, Tadlock points out.

She says CMC-NorthEast performed about 11,500 surgeries last year. She expects 2% growth in surgical procedures this year.

CMC-NorthEast also has added a 32-bed post-surgical floor, which opened in March.

The capital projects are part of the hospital’s plans to bolster its facilities and services to meet the tertiary-care needs of Cabarrus, Rowan and Stanly counties, Wingate-Jones says.

“We have a big piece of work ahead as it relates to construction,” she says.

Major renovations for three of the hospital’s oldest patient wings also are planned, as are upgrades to the Mariam Cannon Hayes Center.

Parts of the hospital date to 1937.

CMC-NorthEast also is developing clinical programs and recruiting medical professionals with expertise in the neurosciences, cardiac and cancer care, as well as programs targeting obesity.


Making Fifth Third a key player in N.C.

Friday, June 3, 2011

What top business and civic leaders are saying about key issues in the news

by Adam O’Daniel, Finance editor >

Source: Charlotte Business Journal

Bob James likes to tell people that Charlotte closed down Tryon Street and threw a party the day after Fifth Third Bank moved its local headquarters uptown.

On the one-year anniversary of the move, Tryon Street shut down again. After all, Speed Street is an annual festival uptown.

Still, James, president of Fifth Third Bank in North Carolina, says he’s celebrating the bank’s successful move into the former IJL Building — now known as the Fifth Third Center — and its coinciding push to expand in North Carolina. The Cincinnati-based bank bought Charlotte-based First Charter Corp. in 2008 and has since added staff, increased lending capabilities and is building new branches.

In a recent interview with the Charlotte Business Journal, James said more growth is planned. Fifth Third has raised its marketing profile, including becoming the official bank of UNC Charlotte basketball.

James wants to add branches here and in Raleigh. And he’s eyeing an expansion into South Carolina via acquisition. Following are edited excerpts.

A year ago, you said moving uptown would raise your profile in Charlotte. Has that happened?

It really has. Not just the move itself, but having the name on the building and the parking deck has raised the profile of the bank. It sends a message to the market that we’re a real player, uptown and willing to mix it up with the big boys. It has helped us an employer as well; helps with recruiting. Our employees love working uptown. It has got so much energy. You go out at lunch and you run into clients and other bankers and people you know.

Part of your growth strategy is to add branches. How is that going?

We have one under construction now that will open in June. It’s off Wilkinson Boulevard near the Wal-Mart. That’s unique because that will be a LEED-certified Silver designation. We’re going that route with a lot of our new branches. We hope to have the former Zink location (in the lobby of the Fifth Third Center) open in the fall, maybe third quarter.

We have one in Raleigh that we expect to open in June or July. We’re actually looking at another opportunity in Raleigh that would be inside another store that I can’t identify right now. We own or control eight other locations in Raleigh that we hope to build on in time. Then we own or control four other locations here. We’ve also bought some former Wachovia buildings and relocated offices, one off Pineville-Matthews Road that’s really nice, and another one in downtown Concord.

Bank of America is shrinking its branch network by up to 10% as customers go online. How do you feel about that trend?

That’s a great question. First of all, the customer still likes the branch. They don’t dislike ATM or online or mobile banking. They like them all. And so if you make them available, they’ll use them all. But we’ve found the more complicated the transaction, the more face-to-face time they want to have. Just checking a balance? They can do that online or at an ATM. But if they’re applying for a loan, a mortgage or something, they want to sit down and have a discussion. The branch is still very much alive.

We’re building branches in growth markets. You won’t see us build branches in small towns in western North Carolina. You won’t see any more of that. We’re building in Charlotte because we want to grow our market here. We have 34 branches in the Charlotte MSA. The next bank up in terms of market share has 60. So we have a way to go. In Raleigh, we only have five, soon to be six. We’d like to have 25 branches in Raleigh. The projected growth there over the next decade is 19%, so you’ve got to build to keep up.

If you look at what Bank of America is doing, the markets they’re exiting are small towns with no growth. They’re focus building in Chicago, San Francisco and they’re still building branches in Charlotte.

You’ve mentioned South Carolina as a place you want to do business. When will we see a Fifth Third branch presence there?

Sooner than later. We’re actively looking in Greenville-Spartanburg to hire commercial bankers. Our goal is to get a loan-production office open this year. Branches will follow. But as you know, we have to have a charter. We’re not likely to charter a bank in South Carolina, so we’d look for an acquisition. Our team is actively starting to look for a merger partner in those markets. We want to be in Greenville-Spartanburg. Maybe Columbia and Charleston. And if we could do something in Raleigh to pick up eight to 10 branches there by acquisition, that would be great.

Speaking of acquisitions, Wells Fargo will integrate all the Charlotte Wachovia branches this fall. As a competitor, how do you prepare for that?

I think it’s going to be a non-event, frankly. They have done such a good job and taken such a long time to do this and saved the biggest market for last. We’ll just do what we do best every day and be ready to talk to people. Maybe try to plant a seed that if your bank is changing maybe it’s time to change banks. Hopefully, people will take a look at Fifth Third. We’ve already benefited from that merger. We were fortunate enough to hire some Wachovia people that wanted to look around.

Your parent company, Fifth Third Bancorp, repaid TARP and increased its dividend earlier this year. Does that at all help you day-to-day in Charlotte?

It is a plus. There were still questions now and then about whether we had repaid TARP. There was an aura that you must be weak if you haven’t repaid TARP. We could have repaid it at any time. We just had to negotiate it with the Fed. And we have increased our dividend. That’s all very positive, and we can talk about that with people here in the market.

Are you still focused on working through bad loans, or are existing clients in better shape now?

In our middle-market commercial portfolio we have very few delinquencies and zero problem loans. In our business-banking segment (small business), it’s cleaner than it has been — really no major issues. Where we still have some problems is residential real estate — lots, land, those things. We’re still working some things out. But it’s so much better than it was. I guess we reached our peak here in February last year. Everything has been coming down since then.

Has loan demand improved?

There’s a lot more optimism out there. But the weakest segment is still small business. They’re still struggling. And they need more foot traffic coming in the door, not more loans.

If small businesses don’t need more credit, what are you doing to help that customer?

We are trying to find ways to do credit. We have dedicated small-business lenders. But we’re also trying to find other solutions to help them. It might be payment systems, our credit-card processing or our new segment of small-business bankers that are going out and meeting with businesses with under $3 million in revenue to try to find ways to help them.

Really, it’s kind of funny because the ones doing OK that are credit-worthy are playing the wait-and-see game instead of expanding. And the ones wanting to borrow just aren’t credit-worthy. And you can’t lend for payroll.


Concord alters rules for economic grant

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Concord officials list recession as reason for changes to grant rules

by Karen Cimino Wilson>

Source: The Independent Tribune

Concord City Council recently made a change to the city’s Economic Development Grant Program that will help businesses cope with recession conditions and make qualifying for grants less dependent on the economic health of a business’ landlord.

Council members voted unanimously in May to eliminate a provision in the city’s Economic Development Grant Program that requires applicants for grants to have a five-year lease if they do not own their location.

Economic Development Grants have been awarded to both owners and lessees, as provided for by the city’s grant program. The ongoing economic downturn has resulted in the bankruptcy of some industrial/commercial landlords, according to city officials.

Tenants that have been awarded incentive grants have no control over the financial status of their landlord. Some tenants are financially strong, but have landlords who are not.

City staff recently recommended that the Concord City Council revise the Economic Development Grant Program to allow grant agreements between the city and a tenant grant recipient with no connection to the landlord.

The elimination of the five-year lease requirement also allowed Concord to award an Economic Development Grant to FlyRight, Inc., in May.

FlyRight Inc. is an existing business in Concord located at 7275 Westwinds Drive near Concord Regional Airport. It offers initial, recurrent and ancillary flight training in Federal Aviation Administration approved full motion simulators.

As an FAA-approved 142 Flight Training Center, FlyRight has achieved the highest level of accreditation from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration. Their programs are insurance company approved and based on leading-edge training knowledge.

FlyRight was created to serve the advanced training needs of professional and owner pilots. In 2008, FlyRight was awarded an Economic Development Grant as a lessee based on their Phase 1 investment of $4 million. At that time, they proposed a future Phase 2, which is the basis of their current grant request.

The Phase 2 investment in additional flight simulation equipment totals approximately $8 million, as anticipated in 2008. Investment planned is in personal property. No investment is proposed in real property.

“Because FlyRight is a lessee, they don’t own their building,” said Jeff Young, business and neighborhood services director for Concord. “The policy did require the signing of a five year lease between the lessee grant recipient and the city.”

Concord City Council member recently asked if any local landlords had gone bankrupt after their tenant received a grant, but the answer is that there haven’t been.

Two other changes also were made to the policy. One strengthens language pertaining to job creation. The other adds a provision to accommodate delays caused by valuation appeals that may necessitate extending the time limit for a grant recipient to pay all applicable city taxes and receive all applicable grant payments from the city.

Contact reporter Karen Cimino Wilson: 704-789-9141.


Unemployment down in Cabarrus, Rowan

Friday, May 27, 2011

by Independent Tribune Staff

Source: The Independent Tribune

Unemployment rates in Cabarrus and Rowan counties are down, according to the most recent statistics released by the N.C. Employment Security Commission.

Cabarrus County, which has a labor force of 82,588 people, reported a 9.4 percent unemployment rate for April. That number is down from the 9.8 percent unemployment rate reported in March of this year. In April 2010, unemployment was 11.5 percent.

Rowan County reported a 10.8 percent unemployment rate for April, which is down from 10.9 percent the previous month. In April 2010, the rate in Rowan was 13.1 percent. Rowan County has a workforce of 67,956 people.

Unemployment rates decreased in 73 of North Carolina’s 100 counties in April. Rates increased in 10 counties and remained the same in 17.

Mecklenburg County’s unemployment rate dropped from 9.9 percent unemployment in March to 9.8 percent in April. Its rate is down from 10.9 percent unemployment in April 2010.

“Rates continue to decline across North Carolina as nearly half of North Carolina’s 100 counties are back below 10 percent,” ESC Chairman Lynn Holmes said in a statement. “Growing jobs and getting people back to work continues to be a collaborative effort of Gov. (Bev) Perdue and our economic and workforce development partners.”

North Carolina had 36 counties that were at or below the state’s unadjusted unemployment rate of 9.5 percent.

The number of workers employed (not-seasonally adjusted) increased in April by 6,751 to about 4 million. The number of people unemployed decreased by 10,036. The number of unemployed people in April was 424,502 workers, compared with 434,538 in March.

Currituck County had the state’s lowest unemployment rate in April, at 5.6 percent. Meanwhile, Scotland County had the highest unemployment rate, at 15.8 percent.


Local food movement emerges quickly, author says

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Concord's Aaron Newton gives advice on local food and sustainability

by Brittany Penland>

Source: The Charlotte Observer

The rule in Aaron Newton's house is that one must know the first name of the person who raised an animal before one can eat it.

For the 36-year-old Concord native, living a sustainable lifestyle and focusing on locally grown and raised food began seven years ago.

"I was blogging and doing some amateur journalism regarding energy issues and environmental issues," Newton said. "It just kept coming back to how environmentally destructing some of our (farming) practices are and how much energy they require."

Newton, a former land planner, challenged himself that within five years he would produce more calories per year than he was consuming.

"It was not necessarily just eating what I grew in my yard, which is an unreasonable goal for almost everyone, but putting more into the system than I was taking out," Newton said.

In 2006, fellow farmer and author Sharon Astyk approached Newton with the idea of co-authoring a book on sustainability, and Newton jumped on board. In 2009, "A Nation of Farmers: Defeating the Food Crisis on American Soil," was published. That year, Newton also met his calorie-producing goal.

The book gives advice on local food systems and living sustainably and suggests solutions to the food crisis problem.

Along with advice mentioned in his work, Newton said the first change people can make in order to live more sustainably is to educate themselves by reading longer volumes on the issues.

Second, he said, give back to the community. Lastly, he said, start to examine eating habits.

"Really take a hard look at what you are eating, where it's coming from, what's in it that you may not know, and who your money is going to support when you buy food," Newton said. "That examination may lead you to make changes in what you put in your mouth and what you buy for your family."

Today, Newton's motivation to continue to live a sustainable lifestyle comes from his two young daughters.

"If you were to go to my house right now, and we were to scrounge around in the kitchen, I am certain we would find a can of pineapples from Hawaii. We are definitely not perfect," Newton said. "I tell people it is a journey not a destination."

Aside from eating locally, he said his family is also conscious of the amount of energy they use.

To make the shift to an energy-efficient home, Newton said he has sealed and reinsulated his home and has also been driving down the amount of kilowatt hours of energy used.

"It's great for the environment, also a fun little project for the family, saves money and makes you less vulnerable to economic shifts," Newton said.

In his career, Newton has worked full time at the Elma C. Lomax Incubator Farm in Cabarrus County, which is a three-year-old farming program that helps gardeners make the leap to market farming.

Currently, he is the local food system project coordinator for Cabarrus County and works with a team of 23 council members to coordinate all local food efforts.

"We are a victim of our own success right now, and the flood gates are opening. People are paying attention to what they eat, the food demand for local foods is going up, but there aren't yet enough people who are working on the development of a local food economy," Newton said. "So my goal is to step back and try to structure a system that engages more people."

Compared to areas like Chapel Hill and Asheville, Newton said, Cabarrus County is at least a decade behind in sustainability efforts. However, the county is catching up quickly.

"People in Cabarrus County have taken it upon themselves to hopefully become the leaders in the Charlotte region at organizing this local food movement," Newton said.

Last year, Newton mentioned that Cabarrus County was named institution of the year by the Carolina Farms Stewardship Association.

"I would say that the wind is at our backs, and it may have just caught up with those who set sail a little earlier," he said.


Craft beer comes to Concord

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Specialty store offers many brews in historic district

by Lukus Johnson>

Source: The Charlotte Observer

Concord native Robert Burrage Jr. and his family - founders of the iconic Cabarrus Creamery - have lived in the area for six generations. So when out-of-towners visit his 15-month-old craft beer store and say they never knew downtown Concord existed, it stings a bit.

The 39-year-old owns Lil' Robert's Place, a specialty store on Union Street that excels in the sale of craft beer by the bottle and on draft. Craft beer refers to distinctive, flavorful beer brewed using traditional methods on a small scale and often with unique ingredients.

Burrage's 3,800-square-foot venue doubles as a gallery for area artists, and musicians of all ages can showcase original music during open mic night events at 5-10:30 p.m. each Wednesday. It also serves lunch and dinner.

It is the first business of its kind in Cabarrus County, and next month Burrage will find out if the N.C. Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission will grant him permanent beer, wine and liquor sales permits. His temporary permits expire June 12.

If the commission grants Burrage the permits, he will operate as he has been. If not, Burrage may move his store where rent is lower, restructure his store or, possibly, stop serving beer on draft, which is why hundreds of patrons visit Lil' Robert's Place.

"I have more customers come here from Charlotte - for me - to buy beer and listen to the music, and some have said they didn't even know downtown Concord existed," said Burrage, who is setting out to offer the largest craft beer selection in the area.

As of last week, Burrage had more than 500 beers from around the globe for sale by the bottle. He said his store's beer offerings are comparable to that of Brawley's Beverage in Charlotte.

Businesses like Bruisin Ales in Asheville, City Beverage in Winston-Salem and Peabody's Wine and Beer Merchants in Boone already cater to consumers who follow craft brewers and their beers. Some say Lil' Robert's Place has similar potential and could create tourism traffic for downtown Concord by drawing from a growing niche market.

"Given the popularity of craft beer across the state and country, Lil' Robert's Place is a great way for our visitors and residents to experience that trend locally," said Donna Carpenter, president and chief executive officer of the Cabarrus County Convention and Visitors Bureau. "Asheville is gaining recognition as a great place for local beer on a national scale - the city was just named Beer City USA for the third year in a row - and that's pretty close to home for us in Cabarrus County. I'm thrilled that historic downtown Concord has a great option for beer enthusiasts - whether they happen to be locals or visitors."

Brian St. Clair is a sales representative with Tryon Distributing, a statewide distributor of craft beers. He said Lil' Robert's Place is ahead of its time for the area. It's one of his top-10 clients in the Charlotte area.

"The rest of the state seems to get it," he said. "Craft beer sales throughout the nation are continuing to rise but (Cabarrus), to me, is a few years behind. There is nothing of this quality in Cabarrus County."

Burrage, who has a bachelor's in business administration from Pfeiffer University, admits his business doesn't fit the norm but he wanted to create a job for himself that revolved around selling craft beer.

"I don't want to serve liquor," said Burrage. "There are bars for that in either direction from my place. I want to be a place where you can come in, have a couple drinks, listen to good music, buy a six pack and go home. I don't want a late-night crowd..."

"For the majority of state, if you have liquor by the drink, you can get a beer, wine or liquor permit," said Burrage. "In Concord, in order to get a beer or wine permit, a business owner has to have all three permits."

The city's liquor permits require his business sell certain type of foods, mainly entrees and appetizers prepared on site, said Burrage. Food sales also must make up 30 percent of total sales. Burrage also had to make seating for at least 36 people.

If the commission approves the permits, Burrage will have to continue to keep up with his food sales or the commission could revoke the permits.

"As a restaurant, I meet all the requirements but when you add in the retail portion, I might fall short," said Burrage. "I'm not planning on going anywhere, but I'm being realistic in my thoughts and, come June, I might have to do something.

"I just don't want people to think that I gave up or I failed. If it doesn't succeed, it didn't succeed because of government regulations. The plan works. The demand is there."

Lil' Robert's Place

What: The specialty craft beer store sells more than 500 local, national and international beers by the bottle and features eight draft varieties that change daily. It also hosts open mic night for all ages each Wednesday (original music only). Art from local artists hangs on the walls, and lunch and dinner are served. Where: 25 Union St. S., Concord.

When: 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays; 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Wednesdays and Fridays (last call is at 10:30 p.m.); 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturdays; closed Sundays and Mondays.

Details: 704-795-2337 or

Fox Charlotte in Downtown Concord

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Previewing the Spring Into Arts Festival Saturday, May 21st

by Jon Wilson

Source: Fox Charlotte

CONCORD, N.C. - Downtown Concord will turn into a festival on Saturday when the 6th Annual Spring Into Arts Festival kicks off on Union Street at 10am.  Wiilson was with Concord's Mayor Scott Padgett along with some of the artists and vendors that will be participating in the event.  The festival will include a music stage, artists  walk, kids zone and food, food and more food.

Again this year Concord will continue their monthly "Union Street Live" summer concerts the third Monday of each month beginning Thursay, May 19th and continuing through Thursday, September 15th.  The bands will be playing on the Historic Courthouse Lawn from 6pm until 9pm each night.  The event is family friendly and admission is free.


NASCAR, corporations use Concord airport as gateway

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Despite its size and challenges, Concord airport sees a lot of traffic on its runways.

by Ben McNeely

Source: Independent Tribune

Race teams lined up on the tarmac just outside the terminal at Concord Regional Airport on Thursday.

They were boarding planes to head to Dover, Del. for the races this weekend. Most of those planes, once they dropped their passengers off, would turn right around and come back to Concord.

On Sunday, the planes, some owned by the race teams, some chartered, would fly back to Dover to bring home the race teams.

It may sound excessive, but it happens every week. And it’s put Concord Regional Airport on the map.

“NASCAR traffic accounts for about 60 percent of our business,” said Aviation Director Dick Lewis. “We decided a long time that we weren’t going to be a commercial airport. We would find our niche.”

Being home to NASCAR’s air force is one of Concord Regional’s niches.

Several drivers and owners – including Jack Rousch, Mark Martin, Rick Hendrick, Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Burton, to name a few – either own or lease hangars at the airport and house their personal planes there.

NASCAR, itself, has a hangar right next to the terminal. The other hangar it owns is at Daytona, Florida.

For a general aviation airport, Concord Regional offers a good deal of customer service on a budget considered shoestring compared to commercial airports. There are no security checkpoints, for example, because it’s a general aviation airport and the federal government doesn’t pay for them, Lewis said.

Its operating budget mainly comes from aircraft fuels sales, averaging out to about $8 million a year, Lewis said. It also gets revenue from renting out space in its massive hangars or leasing plots of land where hangars are built.

Because it is a general aviation airport, it’s mainly charter and private aircraft that take off and land at Concord Regional – corporate jets and small, single-engine planes. Yet it’s also one of the busiest general aviation airports in the country.

Lewis said the airport has about 62,000 departures and arrivals a year, on average and 7,500 reported passengers. A good number of those passengers are race teams.

From an economic development standpoint, the airport has paid for itself, Mayor Scott Padgett said.

“When Electrolux came to Charlotte, their executives flew into our airport,” Padgett said. “Even when new investment is not directed to Cabarrus County, we still get the benefit because of that airport.”

The city and county also gets tax revenue from the planes and the hangars at the airport.

Concord Regional opened in 1994, and the city has been making upgrades as it could feasibly could. It extended the runway to allow for heavier aircraft, like 737s, larger private jets and turboprop airplanes, to land there. But other upgrades are needed, like a new air traffic control tower.

Lewis said the airport needs a 60-foot tower, which would cost about $3 million, and an expansion of the current terminal building, mainly to accommodate passenger screening.

Since 737s can land at Concord Regional, passengers and their luggage have to be screened. Lewis and his staff are forced to set up fold-out tables on the tarmac, in the open air, where screeners can eyeball luggage.

Parking lots are also an issue. When race teams fly out, they leave about 500 cars behind, and the airport only has 300 parking spaces.

“Sometimes the guys that drive 4x4 trucks get creative,” Lewis said, pointing to a truck parked on the grass near the tarmac.

Despite the challenges, Lewis said he prides himself on the job his staff does.

“We need to do the best we can for our customers,” Lewis said. “We have customs services here so you can leave Concord and go anywhere in the world.”

Those challenges could be eased with the Democratic National Convention coming to Charlotte next year. Already, organizers have told city leaders that dignitaries, celebrities and federal law enforcement would probably use the airport next year, Padgett said.

The city will also have to negotiate with Homeland Security on airspace issues during the DNC, Lewis said, since the airport is 13 miles from uptown Charlotte.

Lewis said he has to fight for every federal tax dollar for any upgrades at the airport. Having federal officials, who control the purse strings, flying into Concord Regional next year could change some minds and bring federal money for upgrades.



Connextions to add 1,200 jobs

Thursday, April 21, 2011
by Will Boye

Connextions Inc., a Florida business that specializes in call-center services for major health-insurance companies, plans to open a facility in Charlotte and expand its operation in Concord, creating about 1,200 jobs for the region. It’s the largest local jobs announcement so far this year.

Orlando-based Connextions plans to hire approximately 800 employees for a 61,000-square-foot facility in Forest Park, an office park off Arrowood Road. The development has become a magnet for call-center tenants that include Zenta Mortgage Services and the American Red Cross.

And in Concord, Connextions will add about 400 new hires to a facility that currently employs about 600.

The company expects to start construction of its new space in Charlotte this week and will be hiring in May, says Todd Baxter, an executive vice president with Connextions.

The company looked at several cities in the Southeast and had stronger incentive offers from other states, Baxter says. Connextions ultimately chose Charlotte for the new facility because of the skilled labor pool in the region, he says.

The company provides call-center services for some of the largest health-insurance companies in the country. The health-care market now generates more than 50% of Connextions’ revenue and has been a major source of its growth in recent years.

Depending on sales activity, employees at the Charlotte facility could earn between $40,000 and $50,000 per year, Baxter says. The N.C. Department of Commerce has approved an on-the-job training program in support of the new facility, which could offset up to $100,000 of labor costs for Connextions during the early phases of its operations.

Connextions has 3,000 employees at call centers in Orlando, Indiana and Concord, where it has occupied space at The International Business Park at Concord since 2006.

The Charlotte Chamber and the Charlotte Regional Partnership assisted Connextions. Louis Stephens of Jones Lang LaSalle represented the company locally, and John Culbertson of Cardinal Real Estate Partners represented the property owner, an affiliate of real estate investment company Fairway Investments.


The Old Creamery in Concord gets eco-friendly makeover

Sunday, April 3, 2011
by Kathy Chaffin

As a boy growing up in Concord, Harris Morrison remembers riding his bicycle to the Cabarrus Creamery to buy ice cream.

He’s not the only one who is sentimental about the creamery. “It’s definitely a landmark building that figures prominently in the lives of locals,” he says. “Many people have fond memories of the building, in particular, coming to get ice cream with their families and friends.”

Morrison of Harris Morrison Company LLC — a real estate, development, investment and brokerage firm – is spearheading renovations to the facility. “Almost everybody that I’ve talked to is happy to see the building saved,” he says. “The older people like it for nostalgic reasons, and I think the younger people like it because old buildings are hip.

“The exposed brick and the edgy modern look on the inside is really desirable, and we have modern amenities throughout. It mixes the old with the new.”

Harris Morrison Co. has moved its headquarters to the 45,000-square-foot mixed development site, called “The Old Creamery at Church and Peachtree.” An open-air courtyard joins the two facilities, creating a gathering place for events.

In renovating the Cabarrus Creamery building and adjacent Coca-Cola Bottling Co. structure for office, restaurant and retail space, the company tried to make it as environmentally friendly as possible.

Morrison says doing what was best for the environment was one of the factors in renovating the buildings instead of tearing them down and building new. “Anytime anyone can recycle a building,” he says, “I think that’s the most environmentally sound thing to do.”

Renovating the buildings instead of demolishing them meant they didn’t have to transport the debris off site and bring in new building materials, requiring more fuel and adding more pollution to the county’s already poor air quality.

“We buried debris from our demolition onsite,” he says, which saved the transportation and extra fuel that it would cost to haul that off. Then by burying the material on site, we took the dirt that came out of the hole and used it to backfill against the building which saved even more in fuel and energy costs.”

The company installed a white reflective roof as part of the renovation, which tends to deflect heat rather than absorb it, along with insulated windows, energy-efficient heat pumps and air conditioning units and drought-resistant landscaping, which requires no irrigation.

Construction on the Cabarrus Creamery building began in 1936, followed by the Charlotte Coca-Cola Bottling Co. in 1940. The creamery eventually bought the Coca-Cola facility and used it as part of the creamery operations until it closed in 1999. The two buildings remained vacant for about 10 years.

Renovating the two buildings will cost Harris Morrson Co. approximately $3.6 million when complete. The Cabarrus County Board of Commissioners approved an economic development grant for the project, giving the ownership group an 85 percent tax credit totaling almost $100,000 over five years.

For more, visit


Doug Herbert moving shop/warehouse, BRAKES to Concord

Wednesday, March 30, 2011
Doug Herbert Performance is moving its warehouse and the BRAKES non-profit operation from Lincoln County to a site adjacent to Charlotte Motor Speedway.  The high performance warehouse, which had been located in Lincolnton since 1991, supplies performance products to the motorsports industry with products for drag racing, circle track and street performance from  aftermarket manufacturers. The Herbert Performance High Energy Engines division builds and supplies engines to teams and individuals in all forms of motorsports from NASCAR to NHRA Top Fuel.  The Front Runner Sportswear division manufacturers custom printed apparel for race teams, businesses, car clubs and sports teams. Herbert also started BRAKES, which provides free driver training to teenagers, after his two sons were killed in a car accident on Jetton Road in Cornelius two years ago.  About the move, Herbert said: “We were looking at ways to be more efficient, streamlined and customer focused and I’m certain that the move will deliver on those objectives.” Herbert lives in Cornelius.

Concord officials reduce footprint requirements for incentives

Sunday, March 13, 2011
by Karen Cimino Wilson

Current market conditions and the recession have made marketing new office and industrial space built on speculation more difficult, according to Concord city officials.

To help improve the situation, Concord City Council decided last week to change its rules for economic development incentive grants. The council unanimously approved an amendment to its economic development grant incentive program that lowers the amount of square-footage required to qualify for a grant.

To qualify in the past, Concord required developers to have at least a 100,000-square-foot project. Now projects of 80,000 square feet or larger are eligible for the incentive grants.

“It's still a substantial investment and it's more in keeping with the market,” said Jeff Young, economic development director for the city.

The city also requires speculative buildings to include a minimum capital investment of $1.5 million, have a minimum ceiling height of 26 feet and include storefront glass entryways. Those requirements will not change under the amendment approved Thursday by the Concord City Council.

The grants for speculative buildings are equivalent to an 85 percent discount of real and personal property taxes paid. The grants are awarded for three years. Incentives begin from the date of the completion of the shell building and receipt of a certificate from the Cabarrus County Building Inspections department.

Concord City Council also approved an incentive grant for a speculative project Thursday night following a public hearing.

The 390 Business Boulevard, LLC, will receive an 85 percent break on city property taxes for three years. The investment for the project is estimated to be $6.3 million. The 390 Business Boulevard project was previously approved by the city in 2009, but the original site was purchased by Celgard. The new site would also be in the International Business Park, 4541 Enterprise Drive. The project would not have been eligible for a tax incentive grant under the old ordinance because the proposed project is 88,527 square feet.


Downtown Concord Development director hunts for new shoppers

Friday, March 11, 2011
by Dale Cline

With experience as a downtown manager, consultant and a small business owner, Diane Young seems uniquely qualified as she delves into her new role as executive director of Concord’s Downtown Development Corp.

Her first day on the job was last Oct. 18. She found herself in familiar territory.

“The approach I used (in my first job) in Alabama is the same approach as we use in Concord and have been using for 21 years,” Young said. 

But while Young relies on two decades of experience, she also focuses — and encourages downtown businesses to join her — on modern tools like social networking to increase the presence of downtown and its businesses in the community.

Her experience as a self-employed consultant and small business owner provide insight to the challenges of downtown property and business owners.

“I can relate to what they have gone through and are going through with the downturn in the economy … having that balance sheet before your eyes when you’re going to bed at night,” she said.

“There’s anxiety, and a tendency for them to pull back.”

Along with having been a business owner and property owner, she also served three years on the planning board in Salisbury, where she lives with her husband and their two teenage children.

With that comes an insight into helping business owners and prospective businesses owners work through municipal ordinances, each of which is different and offers its own particular challenges.

Starting the job in October left Young feeling as though she was running to catch up, with the holiday shopping season and downtown promotions that accompany it already in full swing.

“There was a Union Street Live concert the first week and our Candy Crawl the second week,” Young said. “Promotions take a bit of time. I was working through that calendar while … going into businesses, shaking hands and getting to know as many people as possible.”

Young said she didn’t hear a lot of “you need to be doing this,” just a lot of anxiety about the Christmas shopping season. “With the economy tanking the year before, businesses everywhere-not just downtowns-needed a good shopping season. That’s what they were most concerned with.


Moving forward

Most important in the effort to bring more shoppers and diners downtown is presenting downtown as a unified shopping district.

“I would like to see more joint promotional campaigns, more joint advertising,”


Concord college will be region's 1st to offer pharmacy tech degree

Sunday, March 6, 2011
Cabarrus College of Health Sciences is only Charlotte-area school to offer the degree.

by Joe Marusak

Starting this fall, Cabarrus College of Health Sciences will be the only institution in the Charlotte region to offer an associate's degree in pharmacy technology for those interested in becoming pharmacy technicians.

College Provost Meg Patchett announced recently that the college received approval to offer the degree.

She said the program resulted from discussions with hospital and community pharmacy workers who identified a growing need for such an associate degree.

Cabarrus College of Health Sciences is on the Concord campus of Carolinas Medical Center-NorthEast. It has 514 students enrolled in six associate's degree and three baccalaureate completion programs.

It also offers associate's degrees in medical assistant, nursing, occupational therapy assistant, surgical technology and associate in science. Baccalaureate completion programs are offered in health services leadership and management, medical imaging and nursing.

Pharmacy technicians work under the direct supervision of licensed pharmacists. They perform such jobs as packaging medications, preparing IV admixtures, helping dispense and deliver medications, maintaining patient profile records, managing inventory and providing customer service.

The pharmacy technology degree is a 69-credit-hour program that includes online, hybrid and traditional classroom courses, college spokesman Mark Ellison said.

An optional certificate in health services leadership also will be available for technicians pursuing lead technician or management roles, he said.

The pharmacy technology curriculum and admissions requirements are at

Interested students are encouraged to apply by April 1 for the fall program. Submit applications online at Details: 704-403-1555.


County, cities among largest in the state, census finds

Sunday, March 6, 2011
by Karen Cimino Wilson

Population growth in the greater Charlotte region has impacted Concord and Kannapolis, bumping both cities up in the rankings of North Carolina’s 20 largest cities, according to U.S. Census data released last week.

Concord increased from the 14th to the 12th largest city in the state over the last 10 years, showing a 41.2 percent increase in population to 79,066 residents. That’s an addition of 23,089 residents in one decade, making Concord’s growth rate one of the fastest in the Charlotte region and in the state.

Huntersville recorded the only growth rate faster than Concord’s in the Charlotte region with an 87.4 percent increase in population, which equated to 21,813 new residents. Other cities that grew faster than Concord included Fayetteville, Raleigh and Cary.

Charlotte grew by 35.2 percent to 731,424 residents, remaining the largest city in North Carolina.

Kannapolis’ population grew by 15.5 percent, or about 5,713 residents, making it large enough to call itself one of the top 20 largest cities in North Carolina with 42,625 residents. Kannapolis was the 21st largest city in the state in 2000 and was 20th as of 2010.

Concord and Kannapolis  city officials say growth was largely in single family homes built in the early part of the decade, slowing drastically after 2007 as the housing market crash began.

“The vast majority of the growth that we’ve seen in Concord has been in new housing starts rather than in annexations of existing housing,” Concord City Manager Hiatt said. “Most of that took place from 2000 to 2007.”

Hiatt said the major challenge for Concord was in managing the growth and improving housing standards.

“At one time the city and the county were on different wavelengths on the quality of the infrastructure. Now they agree that it is of a certain standard so it doesn’t put the burden on the taxpayers,” he said. 

Cabarrus County  also grew as a whole, increasing in population from 131,063 to 178,011. It is now the 11thlargest county in the state. It was the 14th largest in 2000. Locally, only Mekclenburg, Gaston and Union counties are larger than Cabarrus County now.

Concord City Council member Jim Ramseur said he wasn’t surprised by the growth because the latest estimates reported that Concord had just over 80,000 residents.

“When I was first elected in 1995, Concord’s population was 33,017,” Ramseur said in an e-mail. “During the years following, we experienced an unprecedented increase in population. I always said


MedCenter Air moves flight crew to Concord airport

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Carolinas HealthCare System has relocated a medical helicopter to Concord Regional Airport from Charlotte Douglas International Airport to improve patient service.

“Having the helicopters dispersed is actually better in terms of getting critically injured or ill patients where they need to go in the shortest amount of time,” says a spokesman.

The system’s MedCenter Air also stations helicopters in Hickory and Rock Hill.

The health system has three fixed-wing aircraft for long-distance patient transport. Carolinas HealthCare has neonatal and pediatric teams for child transport.

Flight crews are on constant duty.

Charlotte-based Carolinas HealthCare is the largest health-care system in the Carolinas. It owns, leases or manages 33 hospitals and has more than 48,000 full- and part-time employees and 1,500 physicians.