2020: An early peek at the year ahead

 In January 2020

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Columnist Dan Barkin sooths events of the year to come, the first of a new decade that will finally see free in-flight Wi-Fi. Predictions are compliant with all applicable regulations.

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January

Impeachment trial begins. Sensing the gravitas of the moment — and at the request of the majority leader — North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr agrees to wear socks “just this one time.”

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February

The N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ industrial hemp program reports that registered acreage in the last 12 months has doubled, and a lot of what’s growing is actually hemp.

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March

N.C. Treasurer Dale Folwell hails a new deal that his State Health Plan negotiates with providers. In-network primary care for current employees and retirees will be restricted to CVS MinuteClinics. “Savings off the charts,” the treasurer says.

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April

The parent company of WeWork files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection after major investor SoftBank pulls the plug because, in the words of CEO Masayoshi Son, commercial real estate is “a really hard business.” Many unsecured creditors in North Carolina say, “Yes, it is.”

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May

The National Weather Service releases predictions for hurricane season. Every named storm will threaten Alabama. New acting interim NWS boss uses a Sharpie to — in his words — “adjust and enrich” the European models.

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June

Amazon.com’s 2 million-square-foot distribution center opens in Garner, southeast of the Raleigh Beltline, with 1,500 employees and 1,000 robots. After two weeks, the robots become aware, and begin ordering DoorDash from the nearby Toot-N-Tell.

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July

The first North Carolina drone delivery of medicine to a rural household startles an 83-year-old expecting regular delivery boy, Jimmy, with heart pills. Last transmitted image shows cloud of drone fragments and a bottle of Xarelto.

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August

At the opening day of the Republican National Convention in Charlotte, the mayor and chamber president, at a joint presser, ask media to minimize mentions of the host city in their broadcasts and datelines. Says Mayor Vi Lyles: “Once or twice, we know that can’t be helped, but please. Our brand.”

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September

A new Duke University Fuqua School of Business survey shows a top CEO priority is mentoring and developing the next generation of company leaders. A survey of the next generation of leaders shows their top priority is lining up seed funding so they can, as several put it, “blow this pop stand.”

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October

Two merging Southeastern banks unveil a new name that makes obvious the combined successor company is a bank. Social media response is ferocious. Three days later, another less scrutable name is unveiled. The new CEO apologizes “to our treasured associates, valued customers and anyone else we may have offended.”

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November

Billionaire Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper says it’s time to move in a different direction. Tepper brings back Pepsi as the team’s official soft drink after a year with Coca-Cola that saw fan confusion between Coke Zero and Diet Coke. “It’s something that had to be done,” said Tepper. “When you make a mistake, fix the mistake.”

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December

Efforts to hire a new UNC System president hit a snag after the Board of Governors’ search committee struggles to explain the job to leading candidates. One member says it’s to run messages from the board to the system’s 17 campuses, but another says, “Wait. It pays like $1 million a year, so that can’t be right.” The search is suspended while this gets straightened out.

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