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No way out

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Up Front: October 2005

No way out

Getting there, they say, is half the fun. Getting back can be no fun. Getting away, when you must but can’t, is hell. The latter two are lessons I learned during three consecutive weeks in August.

My wife and I flew to Maine on vacation. Fog delayed our flight out of Charlotte an hour and half, so we missed our connection in Washington and got to Portland nearly five hours late. That wasn’t so bad.

Coming back, the 5:07 p.m. flight was supposed to get us home before 9. We arrived in Charlotte at 3:55 a.m. Thunderstorms had bashed New York, forcing a long delay out of Portland. Then there was a 51/2-hour layover at Dulles while the airline flew in another plane and a new crew. FAA regulations, we were told. What they can’t blame on God, folks want to lay on the government.

The following weekend I had to go to Richmond, so I took the train. It would be about as quick as driving and, with the price of gas, just as cheap. Roadbed repairs put us about an hour behind getting there. The trip back was something else. Boarding time was 1:10 p.m., with arrival scheduled for 8:10 p.m. It got there at 3 o’clock the next morning.

The train out of Washington had been nearly two hours late pulling into Richmond. Outside the Northeast, Amtrak doesn’t own the tracks it uses, leasing them from freight lines, which have right of way. Once we finally boarded, we spent most of the delay sitting on a siding outside Weldon.

Write your congressman, an Amtrak spokeswoman told me when I called to complain: This is what happens when the government gives moving freight priority over moving people. I thought about all the pissed-off folks on that train. This is what happens, some had said, when the government tries to run a railroad. For most of them, taking the train hadn’t been an option but a necessity.

Then came the next week and with it, on Monday, Katrina. My wife’s cousin and her husband live — or maybe I should say, lived — in New Orleans. It was Friday before we heard from them. “We weathered the storm with no wind or water damage,” the e-mail said. “On Wednesday, when the plumbing failed and the stores across the street were looted, we decided to evacuate.”

Nine people, two cats and a dog piled into a cargo van. The people had guns, which they showed when challenged by street thugs, who ran away. (“Don’t mean to sound like Jesse James, but it was like Blade Runner.”) They made it out, driving three hours west, where she and her husband rented a car. They reached Winston-Salem 18 hours later.

They had the means to escape, to get away, but others didn’t and couldn’t. With no choice but to stay and wait for help, many suffered and some died in ways that are inexcusable in this country. The government gets blamed for many things — too many — and it cannot be held responsible for the killer storm. But it must be accountable for much of what happened in the aftermath. And that guilt, like the toxic fuel floating on the water that drowned New Orleans, rises to the top.

“But what do you expect?” a friend asked me. “We elect people who say they believe government is bad. Why shouldn’t they prove it by governing badly?”

 

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Headquarters get ahead of themselves

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Tar Heel Tattler – October 2005

Headquarters get ahead of themselves
By Frank Maley

If Raymond Chandler had written a book about RBC Centura Banks Inc.’s Aug. 30 announcement that it was moving its headquarters from Rocky Mount to Raleigh, he might have titled it The Long Hello. The first clue came in September 2002, about a year after Toronto-based Royal Bank of Canada bought Centura Banks. That’s when RBC Centura agreed to pay $80 million to rename the state capital’s 21,500-seat arena the RBC Center.

Five months later, the bank’s president and chief operating officer moved his office to Raleigh. “Don’t read too much into this,” Scott Custer told The News & Observer, noting that CEO Kel Landis’ office remained in Rocky Mount.

But when Custer replaced Landis in October 2004, he stayed in Raleigh. The bank was struggling. It took a few profitable quarters and more executive transfers before the headquarters finally moved about 50 miles west. “I think it’s always good to declare your intentions,” Custer says. “You eliminate the doubt and speculation that’s out there.”

The bank, which has about 350 employees in the Triangle, expects to pick a site for its headquarters soon. Employment could reach 500 by 2008, when the new building will be finished. About 1,000 jobs will stay in Rocky Mount.

But give RBC Centura credit. Some companies never say they’re moving. Case in point: Lowe’s Cos. Founded in North Wilkesboro in 1946, the hardware retailer moved to neighboring Wilkesboro. Four years ago, it announced that it was planning a “corporate office expansion” in Mooresville. When asked by The Charlotte Observer, a spokesman denied that the company was moving its headquarters.

But in late 2003, press releases were issued from Mooresville. And regulatory filings began listing Mooresville as its primary address. Lowe’s calls it the “Mooresville Customer Support Center.” It’s where CEO Robert Niblock has his office, a spokesman says. “We just don’t call it headquarters.”

He doesn’t like races profiling his channel

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People – October 2005

He doesn’t like races profiling his channel
By Joe Rauch

For Hunter Nickell, it all came back to cars. He was born in Detroit, the center of the U.S. automotive-manufacturing universe. Now he’s executive vice president and general manager of Speed Channel in Charlotte, a city that claims to be the center of the racing universe.

In June, Nickell, 49, replaced Jim Liberatore, who had been in charge since Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. bought the cable channel in 2001 and moved it from Connecticut. That’s the same year that the Fox network, another News Corp. property, began broadcasting NASCAR races. But Nickell bristles at the suggestion that Speed Channel only covers stock-car racing. “We’ve got everything from Grand Prix motorcycle racing to car-restoration programming. We’re a lifestyle channel.”

Speed Channel is available in about 63.4 million households in the United States. It does not disclose annual revenue, widely estimated to exceed $200 million. Nickell has negotiated a deal to carry another motorcycle series and is working on renewing the channel’s deal to show Formula One races.

His father worked in sales and management for vendors to Detroit’s Big Three, giving Nickell a childhood opportunity to fall in love with cars. “I’m not an automotive enthusiast in the traditional sense. I don’t collect cars, but I’ve always been around them and always been continually amazed by them.” He has stayed loyal to Detroit: He drives a black 2004 Chevrolet Impala.

When he really wants to relax, he has found a new outlet: fly-fishing. “You concentrate so much on what you’re doing when you’re out in the river that everything else just melts away.” His first sports passion was hockey. “I fell in love with the speed of the game.” After getting a bachelor’s in mass communications in 1978 from Denison University in Granville, Ohio, he took a job coaching hockey and teaching English at Kents Hill, a Maine boarding school.

In 1983, he took a job in sales and marketing for cable network HBO in New York City. In 1990, he joined the staff that launched Atlanta-based Turner Broadcasting’s SportSouth, a regional sports channel. He started in sales and marketing. In 1993, he moved to operations. “Everyone was young and full of energy, and it was an idea that really hadn’t been tried before.”

SportSouth was sold to a News Corp. division in 1996 and renamed Fox Sports South. Nickell eventually became senior vice president and general manager. But the opportunity to be involved in expanding another channel was too tempting. “I saw all the same components of that 1990 startup here in Speed Channel, and that excited me.”

Far east

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Far East

Leaders discuss how to orient the region’s assets to promote growth.

Twice the size of New Jersey, Eastern North Carolina is an expanse filled with contrasts. Its seashore booms with tourism and million-dollar beach houses. But large swaths of the interior are mired in poverty, and 12 of the region’s 41 counties lost population between 2000 and 2004. So where is the East headed? That’s what Senior Editor Edward Martin asked Charles Broadwell, publisher of The Fayetteville Observer; Jim Chesnutt, CEO of Washington-based National Spinning Co.; Tom Eagar, Wilmington-based CEO of the N.C. Ports Authority; Phillip Horne, president of the Greenville-based Foundation of Renewal for Eastern North Carolina; and Darlene Waddell, executive director of the N.C. Global TransPark Authority in Kinston.

What do you see as the region’s strengths and weaknesses?

Horne: Our strengths are abundant and apparent. We’re home of five of North Carolina’s military installations. We have a significant opportunity to advance our economy as it relates to homeland security, the military and military procurement. We have 3,000 miles of mostly undeveloped coastline that’s quickly becoming developed. Our natural assets are unparalleled, and our people are known for their work ethic. Yet we are a region in transition. We have suffered the most agricultural and manufacturing job losses of any region, but now we have the opportunity to diversify our economy. Speaking of diversity, we probably are the strongest in those terms, because we are the most diverse ethnically, by gender and race. But one challenge is that we also have a more aged and unhealthy population.

Broadwell: I might add the issue of education. Our work force has got to grow and evolve as we see the economy changing. Also, being from Fayetteville, I think a lot of North Carolinians and Americans in general don’t realize what’s happening with our military — Fort Bragg, Pope Air Force Base, Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, Camp Lejeune. Our part of the state can become a military and industrial hub.

Waddell: The Global TransPark sits in the center of the bases, and that needs to be taken advantage of. The relationship between it and the ports needs to be strengthened to help not only Eastern North Carolina but the military, as well. And the military discharges 18,000 members in Eastern North Carolina every year. That certainly adds to skilled labor for the region.

Eagar: From the standpoint of ports, our concern is with transportation infrastructure — or lack of it. Look at the truck traffic we generate in Wilmington: about 435,000 annual truck moves. In 10 years, we’re going to be looking at 750,000 to a million truck moves. We don’t have infrastructure to accommodate that growth in Morehead City or at the port of Wilmington. But we certainly feel that we’re in a position — given the facilities, resources and the deep-water ports that we have — to help North Carolina grow economically.

Mr. Chesnutt, as a manufacturer, what do you think?

Chesnutt: Manufacturing has been significant in the success of this state, and at one time 30% of the jobs were in manufacturing. Now it’s 11% to 12%. One of the sad things is to ride through places like Bethel or Whitakers that years ago had apparel operations, and ladies were cutting and sewing and had employment. Those small towns are dead, dried up, gone away. Our company at one time had 2,000 employees in North Carolina, and we’re about 1,000 now. A very important issue is that we have an aging work force. In our plant in Whiteville, the average age is frightening.

What is it?

Chesnutt: Probably in the 50s. But many of the younger people applying for jobs, even if they are high-school graduates, have been taught no social skills or responsibility. Their language is foul, and when you have women 50 and 60 years old working for you, that’s a problem. The younger ones don’t understand you have to come to work every day, and they dress atrociously. In some jobs, if basic math is a necessity, you have to go back and teach them. And that older work force is expensive in terms of health care. Our average cost last year per employee was almost $5,000. Still, I think there will be manufacturing here for a long time. There’s a chance for distribution tied directly to the ports. Why do you need to take stuff to Lincolnton or Gastonia to distribute it?

Former Gov. Jim Hunt has said the East needs something like the Marshall Plan, which rebuilt Europe after World War II.

Waddell: He’s absolutely correct. It’s up to the leadership, not only in Eastern North Carolina but at the state level, to do something. That includes not only the public sector but the private. It’s going to take entrepreneurs as well as those in state government. We need a champion.

Eagar: It’s partly a question of: What is it that we want to be? What is it that we are trying to attract into this region? Do we really have a master plan or a concept of what it is we need and where we need to take it? I’m not sure we do.

Chesnutt: We certainly don’t have a national industrial policy, and I’m not sure that we have one in the state, either. Tom Thompson, the economic developer in Beaufort County, was discussing the hoops he had to get through merely to get some help out of Raleigh from the One North Carolina Fund for someone who’s coming with 150 jobs. He was beat up so bad over this much money, we almost lost it to Virginia. But there are other things near and dear to our hearts we have to deal with.

Like what?

Chesnutt: I could get kicked out of at least three towns in North Carolina for saying this. I know Greenville is proud of its airport, New Bern is proud of its airport, and Jacksonville is proud of its airport. But as a businessman, I get extorted every time I fly because we have three little airports and we need one damn big one. It costs me less to fly to San Francisco than to Charlotte.

Is there a lack of cooperation within Eastern North Carolina?

Horne: What Jim’s talking about is of great interest to us at FoR ENC. The whole issue of a master plan is what we facilitated at a summit for Eastern North Carolina in 2003. Some 600 people showed up, and they all have a vision. They’re looking for ball carriers who’ll take a grassroots-derived plan based on our strengths and challenges and coalesce it into a super-regional vision. We don’t think of ourselves as one cohesive region, and we’re competing against places in the creative- and knowledge-based economy that do. Charlotte is known for financial services. The Research Triangle Park is not just a place, it’s a brand. Unless we want to tout poverty as a brand, we need to recast ourselves and to make ourselves attractive to what Richard Florida calls the creative class. It’s all about how we define ourselves in the new economy.

Broadwell: Eastern North Carolina is hard to brand. For one thing, we have to lop off the entire coast because it’s doing so well. We straddle Interstate 95, but Eastern North Carolina to me is almost a state of mind. If you take the coast out, what the heck is it? People can envision western North Carolina — ‘Oh, that’s the mountains.’ Because we’re so diverse ethnically, geographically and otherwise — from the Sandhills to the farming belt up north — that’s a struggle. But the summit conference Phillip mentioned was a visible sign that there are some common interests. Transportation is one.

Isn’t that what For ENC is trying to do with its Inner Banks branding campaign?

Broadwell: Right. It’s trademarking the Inner Banks because the waterways — rivers, sounds, Intracoastal Waterway or what have you — course all the way up the coast. We have a complementary brand we can market between the Triangle and the Outer Banks. What about medicine and research at East Carolina University and its University Health Systems?

Horne: Many people probably don’t fully appreciate that we’ve got a health system that’s roughly 29 counties and growing that also attaches itself to a medical school that is in the top 10 for its service area and service practice. If anything has proven that regionalism can cross county lines in Eastern North Carolina, it’s delivery of health services.

Do you think Eastern North Carolina gets its fair share from the legislature and the rest of the state?

Chesnutt: We can’t get some things done that are routinely done on the other side of Interstate 95. That’s the demarcation line. The world changes when you cross 95.

Waddell: It’s apparent we don’t, because we don’t have the infrastructure the rest of the state does. We need a champion for infrastructure. That’s going to make the difference for Eastern North Carolina.

Broadwell: One danger, though, is that just we end up poor-mouthing everything. We have gotten some stuff. We’ve gotten some pork — and I’m not just talking about the hogs we raise down here. But historically we’ve probably not gotten what the Triad and Charlotte and the Triangle have. You can look at the road figures. There are good signs, but we’ve got a fight on our hands. Why aren’t we getting some of these Dell and Dole plants that are locating in Guilford and Gaston?

Chesnutt: The success of the hog industry, though, was one of the worst things that ever happened to Eastern North Carolina. People made a lot of money, and you can ride through the countryside and see a lot of new double-wides and new brick houses you would never have seen without turkeys and hogs and chickens. But the hog thing has left the perception that Eastern North Carolina is one big lagoon.

Eagar: We were talking about getting some of the political pork, and in the four or five years I’ve been here, we’ve seen a lot of Department of Transportation money coming into the southern portion of the region with the new Interstate 74/76, the Havelock Bypass and so on. And with the deepening of the Wilmington channel, work in Morehead City and the development of Radio Island, we’ll be spending about $265 million. But when we got into this discussion with the Wilmington Chamber of Commerce, we began talking about what entices high-tech industries and professionals into an area: the quality of life. When you do that, you start talking about homes, education for the children and cultural events.

Horne: We’ve got in FoR ENC what we call our Virtual Incubator Platform, which attempts to address that. It matches opportunities across a diverse geographic region that are in multiple economic sectors, whether it’s the military and procurement, travel, tourism and entertainment, real estate, or it might be in agritechnology or in biotechnology. Fully functioning, what it attempts to do is to match intellectual capital and opportunity. But on a broader scale, it’s an attempt to prepare the way for our intellectual infrastructure so that we will be more attractive to what is commonly called the creative class. That theory suggests people are not looking so much to come to work for a specific company. It’s the community where I will live, be entertained and where my children will be educated.

Broadwell: One thing that troubles me is: What’s going to happen to some of these small towns? Tobacco is going out. You’re looking at a series of ghost towns, and that’s downright depressing.

Waddell: There certainly has been a brain drain in Eastern North Carolina, but our community-college system is doing a wonderful job in educating the labor work force that needs to be re-educated. Education is always going to be a major focus.

Chesnutt: I agree. When the community colleges rifle-shot something, they are phenomenal. But there’s a lot of fluff to get numbers up and make things look good, which I have a problem with. Basket weaving and pottery decorating — I’m not sure that’s what we need to be doing in our community colleges.

Waddell: One of the military-related companies that’s coming to the TransPark, Workhorse Aviation Manufacturing, is a startup that will make structural components for aging military aircraft. The community-college system is playing a vital role training people for this company and, hopefully, others to come.

Chesnutt: We relocated a plant from Georgia to North Carolina with a completely new set of technology. They did a phenomenal job of helping us train these people and get them up to grade. But don’t be teaching half the retirees in town how to repair their lawnmower engines. Horne: Let’s return to what’s going to keep small towns from becoming ghost towns. Historically, they were microeconomic hubs. They were tobacco markets. They were commercial centers for a dispersed region. Every city operated as a microeconomic system. One of the dangers, if we don’t become creative about how we stimulate the reinvestment of, for example, tobacco-buyout funds back into the communities, is that we are going to accelerate the loss of these micro-economies. We can be a lot more creative in terms of turning to private equity and venture capital to stimulate entrepreneurship.

Broadwell: To me, today’s microeconomic system, if you think about it and where these towns were, is Wal-Mart. That’s scary.

How good is education and the work force, and what effect has the Hispanic influx had on them?

Broadwell: We have somestellar institutions, but the poverty in some areas is devastating. You brought up the first mention here of the immigrant class. Many of them work, but many are on the fringes. You see them in a county like Robeson, which is historically triracial — white, black and Indian. Now there’s a Spanish-speaking class there. So the demand on a school system like that of Robeson or Hoke is tremendous. We are going to need some money — we’ve got to bring them up from the bottom.

Chesnutt: I don’t know if we can fix the immigration thing at the state or local level — it’s a national thing. And maybe I’m too conser-vative, but my feeling is if I come here I better come with a full understanding that I’m going to learn English if I stay.

Eagar: The question I have is, though, at the college level — at UNC Wilmington, for example — how many of our graduates actually stay in North Carolina?

Horne: Unfortunately, exportation of intellectual capital out of Eastern North Carolina has helped to build some of the greatest corporations in this country. Many of the executives in the bank towers in Charlotte grew up in Eastern North Carolina. How do we incentivize intellectual capital to remain?

As to infrastructure, more than $200 million has been invested in the Global TransPark, and there’s still controversy about its value.

Waddell: The TransPark had the best year yet this past fiscal year. We were created in July of 1991, and this project has been misunderstood in a lot of aspects. We went through more than a 41/2-year environmental-impact study that projects earlier on, such as the Research Triangle Park, didn’t have to go through. So, in essence, we didn’t get off the ground until late 1998. And since then, we’ve gone through a recession and 9/11.

What’s happening now?

Waddell: Companies that are looking at it say it’s impressive. We have the infrastructure, the long runway, industrial park, educational center. But to score a major win such as Boeing or Airbus, there would have to be other things, such as rail. This is one way Eastern North Carolina could certainly be strengthened — by linking the TransPark to the port of Morehead City.

Does the Ports Authority share that positive view?

Eager: The future is bright for the Global TransPark and ports. We see tremendous growth in international trade, which will double again by the year 2020 at the rate you see today. China has emerged as a global manufacturing center. They make up about 70% of the Asian imports to North America today. The container industry is growing at a rate that will see it double again by 2015. West Coast, South Atlantic and East Coast ports are congested. Charleston’s got the old Navy yards they’re going to develop. But after that, they’re basically out of capacity. Savannah is not going to have enough capacity come 2012 to accommodate the projected growth.

What does that mean for North Carolina’s ports?

Eager: That’s why we’re moving forward with investment today in Wilmington, in addition to buying other properties, to really double again what we have. And in Morehead City, Radio Island is a tre-mendous asset. What Darlene has in the TransPark — it’s a Foreign Trade Zone — is a tremendous resource of property and facilities. It doesn’t take too much imagination to see not just major distribution centers there but even assembly-type operations.

The original concept was that the TransPark would be a global just-in-time manufacturing complex. Is that still valid?

Chesnutt: Probably not, because now labor is so cheap in other parts of the world that even assembly would be difficult to make work here. If it were difficult manufacturing that was labor-intensive, it would be somewhere else.

Eagar: The Airbus project would have been an excellent example, though, of what could have been done there. That’s the kind of project you need at the TransPark. [Airbus in June picked Mobile, Ala., for an 1,100-worker plant to build airborne refueling tankers.]

Chesnutt: And time. As a young person who had just graduated from East Carolina, I was sent in 1968 to the Research Triangle Park in a branch of North Carolina National Bank. I said, ‘I’m going to be a part of this big research park, and I’m so happy to be here.’ I would have had to stay in the same job for 30 years to have seen it come to what it is today. People just have not been willing to be as patient with Kinston.

Waddell: Economic development, as we know, is a long process. You don’t just do a little bit and think everybody’s going to come. That certainly is true of the Global TransPark.

Broadwell: The Research Triangle Park forced a region to think of itself as a region and to be more open to people who came from outside bringing new ideas and new affluence.

Will that happen in the East?

Waddell: We certainly need to embrace regionalism, but diversity is also a good thing for Eastern North Carolina. I like to think ofthe region as a family, and families squabble among themselves. But at the end of the day, I’d like to see the region pull together and embrace all of the assets it has.

Executive burnishes region’s golden arches

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People – October 2005

Executive burnishes region’s golden arches
By Joe Rauch

Bob Jackson stays on the move, whether in his job as senior vice president and general manager of one of McDonald’s largest operating regions or in his favorite sideline: running marathons. Jackson, 45, spends three to four nights a week traveling throughout the fast-food king’s Raleigh Region, which stretches from Kentucky to Georgia and from Tennessee east to the Atlantic Ocean.

The Cary resident oversees 665 restaurants — 71 owned by Oak Brook, Ill.-based McDonald’s, the rest by franchisees — with more than 32,000 employees. “I could be scouting real-estate locations for a new restaurant one day and talking to our marketing cooperatives in our individual television markets the next.”

Quite a change for a guy who quit his first job because of its travel demands. That was when he was an accountant at Ernst & Whinney in Chicago. The Gary, Ind., native started there after getting a bachelor’s in accounting in 1982 from St. Joseph’s College in Rensselaer, Ind. “My wife and I were expecting our first child, and I was living out of a suitcase. I needed something that provided a better work/life balance.” The couple’s three daughters are now 20, 18 and 14.

He started at McDonald’s in 1984, working as an accountant at headquarters. He was controller of the Tampa, Fla., Region from 1986 to 1988. Jackson then moved to McDonald’s operations management-training program, where he liked having a direct effect on results he had been tracking at the corporate level. In 1998, Jackson became market-optimization director for McDonald’s Southeast Division, which includes the Raleigh Region. Three years later, he became vice president/general manager of the Raleigh Region.

Since 2003, the Raleigh Region — one of eight in the U.S. — has ranked among the top three in sales and customers. Sales last year were nearly $1.2 billion, a 12.2% increase over 2003. McDonald’s estimates that each restaurant in the region served nearly 500,000 customers in the last 12 months, averaging almost 1,300 a day. Overall, the region had a 7.5% increase in customers — best of all McDonald’s regions. The high volume of business stems primarily from population growth in the Sun Belt and its busy interstate highways.

Jackson’s other travels occur at more precise distances — 26.2 miles. He finished his first marathon at 27 and tries to compete in two a year. His most consistent training partner has been his wife, Margaret, who ran cross-country at St. Joseph’s.

Jackson’s goal for this year is to qualify for his first Boston Marathon. “I’ll get there. I just have to put in the miles.”

Entrepreneur strikes oil in restaurants

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People – October 2005

Entrepreneur strikes oil in restaurants
By Dail Willis

When it comes to being an environmentalist, Brian Winslett walks the walk. Well, not exactly. “I mostly try to ride a bicycle,” says the 29-year-old general director and part owner of Asheville-based Blue Ridge Biofuels Cooperative. When he has to drive, he uses the nonpolluting biodiesel fuel that his company makes from used cooking oil.

In July, Blue Ridge opened the only commercial biodiesel pump in western North Carolina in Asheville. Customers bought about 1,000 gallons each week in the first six weeks. Winslett’s goal is to produce 500,000 gallons a year by the end of 2006. North Carolina is fifth among the 50 states in use of biodiesel, using 5 million gallons in 2004.

Winslett isn’t sure what led him to environmentalism. Born in Austell, Ga., he remembers fishing the Wakulla and Hiawassee rivers with his dad, who worked as a carpenter, floor installer and remodeler, and hearing his father grouse about litter.

He started college at Georgia Tech, dropped out, took a few years off and then enrolled at UNC Asheville. He graduated in 2003 with a bachelor’s in chemistry and environmental science. After college, he worked for an Asheville physician developing a fuel cell. Winslett also was active in the Asheville Biodiesel Cooperative, a group of friends making five-gallon batches of fuel. But when 300 people signed up for a biodiesel e-mail list during the annual Southern Energy & Environment Expo in August 2004, he took notice.

By October, he had a grant and enough investors to quit working on the fuel cell and start building a biodiesel plant in a 5,000-square-foot building in Asheville. Blue Ridge has five employees, 100 member-owners and a nine-person board. He won’t disclose his stake, saying only that he is the second-largest investor.

The cooperative sells biodiesel for about $3.15 a gallon, compared with about $2.99 — and rising, as of September — for regular diesel. Customers include Warren Wilson College and UNC Asheville.

Blue Ridge Biofuels gets used cooking oil — most of it free — from 25 restaurants and filters out particles and water. The oil is then heated, and lye and alcohol are added. Every gallon of filtered vegetable oil yields a gallon of biodiesel, and nontoxic glycerin is the only significant byproduct. No engine retrofitting required — not even for Winslett’s 1981 Volkswagen truck. “Forty miles to the gallon.”

Stockyard

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Stockyard

Robert Crabb Jr. is the new owner of the stock market — livestock, that is — that sets the Dow for cows across North Carolina.

When radios had tubes and sat on oilcloth-clad kitchen tables, a man could count on certain things. One was that somewhere on the dial, just before daylight, would be a farm show featuring Reno and Smiley, the Briarhoppers or some other act, their corn-pone humor and ringing five-string banjos helping to bring up the sun. And that between tunes, a solemn announcer would read yesterday’s prices from the Siler City livestock market.

That didn’t change when the farm shows and their country cutups jumped from radio to television. Even today — with cattle wearing bar codes and farmers picking up their checks minutes after the sale, thanks to computerized weigh-ins and payouts — the prices paid at Carolina Stockyards, the largest stockyard in the state, still set the market price statewide.

One difference is a new owner. Robert Crabb Jr. and a group of investors bought the stockyard last year from Howard and Harry Horney, the brothers who had owned it since 1950. “One thing led to the other,” says Crabb, 36, who grew up on a farm near Milton, a crossroads in Caswell County near the Virginia line. He began raising beef cattle in junior high school and had worked part time since 1991 as a livestock grader for the N.C. Department of Agriculture.

“We decided we’d open a livestock market in Eastern North Carolina but ran into a lot of opposition. I asked the Horneys their advice. They said the best advice they had was to buy this one.” The stockyard opened in 1948, two years before the Horneys bought it. They moved it to the outskirts of Siler City in 1972.

Last year, the stockyard sold about $40 million of livestock, slicing off commissions that averaged about 2.7%. It has 14 full-time employees, though as many as 35 work on Mondays and Fridays, sale days when the market is a blur of motion, a smorgasbord of smells, a clatter of sounds.

The gate opens at 7 a.m. Buyers and sellers flow in, driving pickups with tall livestock racks or pulling closed trailers or piloting rumbling tractor-trailer rigs. Some come early because they think prices will be better when the buyers are fresher. Or maybe they don’t mind waiting in line when they can pass the time talking. Small farmers spend most of their time alone. “They like to socialize when they get a chance,” Crabb says. “A lot of the others have cattle as a second income. They have a job down at the garage or drive a truck or whatever.”

In holding pens with boards worn smooth by millions of restless rumps — the market sold 86,673 head of cattle last year, along with 4,700 goats, a few horses and a lone llama — cows and calves low plaintively. “Hey, ya! Hey, ya!” men yell as they prod them from pen to pen into the sales ring. An auctioneer — Crabb has three — begins. “Who’ll gimme … ” On a busy Friday, 1,500 head pass through the ring. On its perimeter, buyers compete with each other with studied casualness. A nod, a blink, a twitched finger. A cow is sold.

On a good day, the folding seats around the ring are nearly full of men in gimme caps with logos of tractor manufacturers. Fathers bring their children. Crabb estimates 85% of sales are calves, bound for Midwest feedlots, where they’ll be fattened for slaughter. Dads don’t always tell their kids everything.

At the market’s Carolina Restaurant, burgers and home-cut fries are popular. The smells of onions and hot dogs mingle with those of the barnyard. Crabb has plans for this place. Carolina Stockyards has started selling stock trailers and other farm equipment. He expects to add more items, such as fencing. “We figure if a farmer has got the check in hand from his sale, if we’ve got what he needs, he’ll buy it.”

“Hey, ya!” Another cow enters the ring in a halting trot and wanders around, looking puzzled. The auctioneer begins, and in seconds its sale is recorded. The Department of Agriculture reports on 11 livestock sales a week, the two here — the only reporting site with twice-weekly sales — and nine elsewhere. “The prices here are sort of a guideline,” Crabb says. Many farmers will sell their stock or hold it accordingly.

Like the prices and volumes on Wall Street, sales from this stock market will show up in the Agriculture Department’s report. Somewhere, sometime before sunrise, some farmers might hear about it on the radio.

Snookered

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Snookered

How small farmers and big-city lawyers dug up a way to hoist Navy brass with their own petard.
By Edward Martin

Kiran Mehta casts about, scanning the folks filling rows of brown plastic seats and squeezing in folding chairs along the walls. Outside the Washington County Agricultural Center, pickup trucks are still easing into parking spaces on Plymouth’s Water Street. More than 100 people, many of them men with weathered faces wearing overalls or khaki work pants, will pack this place tonight. With their starched white shirts, dark suits and ties, Mehta and his companions stand out like neon in a church.

Bill Sexton, a cotton farmer who is chairman of the county commissioners, sits at a table up front. In the crowd is Doris Morris, wife of a commercial fisherman and president of her church circle. Ronnie Askew farms 600 acres with his 80-year-old mother. Gerda Rhodes, the local livestock extension agent, lives with her family in her homeplace, built in 1927 near the Washington-Beaufort county line.

Forty years ago, just down the road, Sexton’s dad told his own father he would convert swamp to cropland. He got a one-word reply: “Crazy.” Sexton wonders how his granddaddy would describe tonight’s meeting. Mehta, same age as Sexton but Bombay-born and Harvard-educated, is wondering, too. A Biblical passage comes to mind. Nathanael, from the city of Cana, scoffed when told a man from a nearby village claimed to be the Messiah: What good could come out of Nazareth? Mehta laughs to himself. “What good could come out of Charlotte?”

On this November night nearly two years ago, working people of two of the state’s poorest counties meet three big-city lawyers from Kennedy Covington Lobdell & Hickman LLP, a Charlotte-based firm with more than 165 lawyers in five offices in the Carolinas. Clients include Bank of America, Wachovia and Microsoft. Business, the bigger the better, is its bread and butter. Mehta, Raymond Owens Jr. and Christopher Lam get up to make their pitch.

We propose to represent Washington and adjoining Beaufort County to block the Navy from taking your farms and businesses for a jet-fighter landing field. We’ll represent the counties — Washington alone would lose 22,000 taxable acres, worth $300,000, 3% of its annual budget — but everybody will benefit. We’ll stick with you, to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary. And we’ll do this pro bono. “Suddenly we had fancy lawyers, dressed to the nines, articulate and well-educated, offering to work for free,” Washington County Manager David Peoples recalls. “A lot of people were asking, ‘Are we about to get snookered?’”

They had been warned. A rear admiral, reaching into bottomless pockets, had set the rules of engagement. “My lawyers are already working on this issue,” Atlantic Fleet commander Robert Natter had told a news conference that summer. “Those who want to throw money at lawyers to oppose us had better start throwing more money.”

Kennedy Covington lawyers, allied with a team from the nonprofit Charlottesville, Va.-based Southern Environmental Law Center, have matched the Navy salvo for salvo in a battle fought with words, wits and reams of documents, including an epic 200,000-page paper chase. The case resides in the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, where a three-judge panel is deciding whether to bar the Navy permanently from buying land for the airfield.

So far, they have prevailed in a showdown that could be the biggest pro bono case in state history. The law firm has invested more than 3,000 hours of legal work — estimated value, in excess of $1 million. And somebody did get “snookered.” Among its meanings: deceive or cheat, which is what residents feared the lawyers might do — and were certain the Navy was doing — to them. Another is, to thwart.

Held in sway is more than the 30,000 acres the Navy covets. It’s also a way of life. It can be glimpsed south of Plymouth along the straight, two-lane stretch of Highways 45 and 99. Thunderheads swell on the horizon, and the thermometer stands at 92. Gerald Allen, 62, walks in from his soybean fields after checking on his help, a full-time hand and a part-timer. He farms 2,300 acres, much of which he and his uncle began clearing in 1967 when he returned from the Air Force.

“I graduated from high school, served in the military, then came home and went to work — the American dream.” This year, he says, the tassels of his corn nearly reach the sky. “It was dry until about the first of June, then we started getting rain, just in time for it to pollinate.” The black dirt he tills is special. Some farms here — the Navy would take 75 — date to Colonial times, but many were wrestled from mire and mud by the men and women who live on them. In the 1950s and ’60s, a lumber company clear-cut thousands of acres of cypress swamp, leaving a jumble of stumps, bushes and water moccasins. Then it went out of business.

Neighbors formed a drainage district, a cooperative matrix of ditches and canals to drain the land and, when farmers reversed the flow, irrigate it. “We did it,” Allen says, “the hard way” — grubbing out roots, stumps and debris by hand. Five miles east, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1963 established Pungo National Wildlife Refuge, a 12,000-acre sanctuary where migrating swans, ducks and other waterfowl winter. In 1990, it was merged with an adjoining refuge to form the 110,000-acre Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge. “We’ve got bear, red wolves, an abundance of deer, cougar — all sorts of wildlife,” Peoples says.

Three years ago, the Navy released an environmental-impact study listing this part of Washington and Beaufort counties as one of two preferred sites for a $186 million runway and buffer zone. The airstrip would be used to practice about 30,000 simulated aircraft-carrier landings a year — most at night. Pilots would land for a split second, then roar skyward, every 15 minutes or less, hour after hour. The planes would be F/A-18 Super Hornets, the Navy’s latest fighter, louder than the now-retired Concorde jetliner, which is banned from most airports around the world because of its roar.

Neighbors would get the noise but not the economic benefit most military bases bring. “We’re probably talking about a dozen or two low-skilled jobs such as mowing grass and maintenance,” Peoples says. The economic impact of Oceana naval air station on Virginia Beach, where most of the 100-plus planes would still be based, is estimated at $2 billion a year. About two dozen fighters, the Navy says, might be moved to the Marine Corps air base at Cherry Point, about 60 miles southeast of Plymouth.

A Navy representative soon knocked on Allen’s door. “He offered to buy my land, then rent it back to me. But by then they’d told so many lies, I didn’t know what they were going to do.” The Navy was offering $1,800 to about $2,000 an acre. Farmers say it would cost at least $3,000 an acre to replace — maybe much more if there were sudden demand for 30,000 acres. Allen contacted a lawyer. “He wanted $185 an hour and a percentage of everything over $2,000. Finally, he said, ‘I’d love to represent you, but the way it works, we’d take just about everything over $2,000 that we got for you.’”

Not only landowners despaired. Washington County’s per capita income in 2003 was nearly $7,000 less than the state average of $27,785. In addition to lost county revenue — federal property is not taxed — the region could lose one of its few nonfarm sources of income: ecotourism. “From mid-September until mid-March, we get bird- watchers and environmentalists,” Peoples says. “These people want quiet, serenity and beauty. We’ve been trying to build ecotourism for years.” About 34,000 visited the wildlife refuge last year.

The two counties decided to fight. Their timing was good. Owens, shopping for a pro bono case, had approached an official at the Southern Environmental Law Center’s Carolinas office. He pointed Owens east. Washington and Beaufort counties were seeking bids for legal services. “We had a group that was going to charge us $200 an hour,” Sexton says, “and we were trying to figure where we were going to get the money to pay them.”

Short of money, residents had plenty of passion. They had set up a tent city to protest the outlying landing field — “No OLF” signs sprouted in yards across the region — and buttonholed state officials, demanding help. On the night of the big meeting, however, they weren’t sure the Charlotte lawyers shared that passion. “We didn’t know if their hearts were really in it,” Morris says. The trio sensed their misgivings. Dress wasn’t the only thing that seemed out of place here.

Kennedy Covington does environmental work, but usually for developers. In 2002, the firm represented Crescent Resources, Duke Energy’s real-estate arm, in a fight over developing the shoreline of Lake James, one of western North Carolina’s most pristine reservoirs. That’s how the firm hooked up with the Southern Environmental Law Center. “We were on opposite sides, but it ended up in a great settlement for everybody,” says Trip Van Noppen, director of its Carolinas office. “We could vigorously oppose each other but still have a courteous and friendly relationship.”

Nice guys maybe, but even their résumés raised eyebrows. Mehta, who is now 48, clerked for a federal judge in Maryland after finishing Harvard Law. He chairs the firm’s real-estate, construction, land-use and environmental litigation practice. A Wake Forest native with undergraduate and law degrees from Carolina, Owens, 52, chairs the commercial-litigation practice. Among his specialties: shareholder and partnership disputes. Lam, 29, grew up in golf country near Southern Pines. Duke undergrad, UNC Law, he’s in the commercial-litigation group.

But all three had ties to Eastern North Carolina. The audience seemed to soften as Mehta explained that his wife was from Ahoskie, a town in Hertford, one county north of Washington. On his father’s side, Owens’ family was from Tyrrell County, which joins Washington to the east. Lam’s Moore County is a contradiction in itself, golf courses and horse farms tucked among deep pockets of poverty. By the end of the evening, the suspicion was fading. And how the lawyers viewed the case was changing.

As he walked out into the damp evening along the Roanoke River, Lam suddenly realized what they had taken on. “It was more than birds and airplanes. It was people’s homes and livelihoods.”

In their offices and around a heavily burled conference table 47 floors above downtown Charlotte, the three lawyers set out to map their attack. Nobody underestimated how difficult it might be. Not only were they pitted against an opponent willing to paint opposition as unpatriotic, akin to aiding and abetting terrorists, they were wading into a political quagmire.

“It’s a high-profile case and devilishly complicated,” says David Blackwell, publisher of North Carolina Lawyers Weekly, a Raleigh trade paper. “The population base is so sparse in that area. That’s one reason the Navy’s trying to condemn the property.” Fewer than 14,000 people live in Washington County. Beaufort County is bigger, but it’s population is still less than 47,000. That’s not a lot of votes.

Kennedy Covington’s team and its counterpart at the law center — Van Noppen and lead attorney Derb Carter — didn’t doubt residents had sussed out the Navy’s motive. “All they’re doing is getting the noise out of Virginia Beach,” says Allen, one of the farmers. “The squeaky wheel gets the grease, if you raise enough Cain and have enough political pull.”

They believe John Warner, the Virginia Republican who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee, and others succumbed to pressure by residents and developers complaining about the noise at Oceana and nearby Fentress Airfield, present site of the practice landings. Some think most North Carolina leaders, including Gov. Mike Easley, abandoned them, the politicians fearful the federal commission studying base closings might view any protest as anti-military sentiment.

Others see a more convoluted scenario. The Navy initially offered to lease much of the land, then last fall began demanding owners sell it outright. When the base-closings commission unexpectedly questioned Oceana’s future this summer, it fueled rumors that the Navy had all along intended to move the air station to North Carolina. Oceana covers only 8,000 acres, barely a quarter the size of the proposed OLF site.

Ted Brown, civilian spokesman for the Atlantic Fleet in Norfolk, wouldn’t comment on whether the Navy plans to move the air station — a new, noisier fighter is due to join the Navy arsenal in 2010 — but he says it is re-examining five other sites in Eastern North Carolina, including some near existing bases in Carteret and Craven counties, for the practice field. However, he says, the Navy will carry on its court fight for the Washington/Beaufort site.

Judges don’t rule on speculation about political mot- ives. So when the lawyers file suit in January 2004 in Eastern District U.S. Court in Raleigh, they go straight for the throat: The Navy didn’t follow orders, violating the National Environmental Policy Act, which requires objective environmental-impact studies. “The Navy,” Mehta says, “simply didn’t seem to consider its own studies.”

The lawyers unearth a consultant’s report warning that a crash from striking a swan, goose or other bird is nearly certain, the only question “how severe it will be when it occurs.” In 1996, a military jet hit a bird over Roper, crashing after the pilot ejected. Jeffery Short, a now-retired Air Force officer who drew up BASH — a military program for preventing bird-aircraft strike hazards — had concluded that, in 25 years of studying them, “I can’t recall a worse place to situate an airfield for jet training.”

While others speculate that the Navy is ignoring its own studies due to political pressure, the lawyers search for evidence to prove it. Judge Terrence Boyle gives them the chance. He issues a temporary injunction in April 2004, halting activity on the airfield. The Navy appeals, triggering more legal jockeying. Two months later, Boyle orders the Navy to turn over its records pertaining to the OLF back to 2000. So begins the legal process called discovery.

The Navy’s response is to try to bury the opposition in paper. In this case it’s some 200,000 pages of documents that Navy lawyers have dumped into DVDs. Thousands of passages are redacted — blacked out — ostensibly for security and privacy reasons. There is no index. “They resisted turning the stuff over, and then when the judge made them, they did it by the wheelbarrow,” Van Noppen re-calls. “It was in no sequence, no rhyme or reasons or things you could piece together. It was just one enormous jumble.”

Lam and Owens were in court when the Navy responded. “They said, ‘Look, we’ve got six people working on this full time, and we’re going to produce the largest administrative record ever,” Lam recalls. Owens says he just grinned. “We knew that was coming. We knew we had our firm and the law center, but we knew we had to have more.”

Later that month, around midnight in her Chapel Hill apartment, UNC law student Amelia Burnet stows her books and slips a disk into her laptop computer. She’s now 27, a native of mountainous Buncombe County who wants to practice environmental law “to bring about change or stewardship in those areas.” OLF lawyers — including some from the environmental law center, where she had interned — had visited the law school and, over sandwiches and potato chips, outlined a plan. Signing up 15 to 20 volunteers, they handed out scores of disks, each containing about 320 Navy documents. Don’t make final judgments, they told them. Just flag all redacted passages and anything that strikes you as suspicious. Let us decide.

Hour after hour, Burnet scrolls page after page. An odd name appears: Robusto, John A. Robusto. It catches her eye. He has sent an e-mail mentioning “reverse engineering.” She routinely flags it — just in case — and continues. In other apartments, other students are slogging through similar documents. Another Navy expert mentions having “an uneasy feeling about our criteria and process.” Yet another officer grouses that stationing some of the jets at Oceana and some at Cherry Point is a silly political maneuver, negotiated between Warner and North Carolina’s Sen. Elizabeth Dole, that offers “zero operational benefit.” Despite Navy assurances in court that jets would not have serious bird problems, another expert suggests that swans or other waterfowl would be dealt with by “lethal and nonlethal” means. Students flag the passages and scroll on.

A few days later, sitting at the dining table of his Charlotte home, Lam pops one of the CDs into his laptop computer. Text unfolds. Dates fall in line: Alan Zusman, a member of the Navy’s team compiling the environmental-impact statement, complains to a colleague: “Don’t know about you but I have a very uneasy feeling about our criteria and process.” Robusto, another team member, complains that Natter, the cocky fleet commander, has agreed with politicians to move the landing strip. “Now we have to reverse engineer the whole process to justify the outcome.”

Lam bolts upright and yells, then grabs and hugs his wife. “We danced around the downstairs a time or two.” Later, in their Charlotte offices, he, Mehta and Owens begin piecing together a timeline showing the Navy ignored National Environmental Policy Act requirements for impact studies. In February, Boyle issues a permanent injunction barring the Navy from proceeding with the OLF.

“Maybe without the e-mails, we could have won,” Owens says. “But what they did — the epiphany — was to confirm what everybody intuitively thought: The process was politically driven.”

The fight is far from over. Any day, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., could reverse Boyle’s ruling. Even if not, Mehta says, the Navy could respond with a new round of environmental-impact studies that the courts might accept. The struggle might start all over again. Appeals by either side could carry the case to the Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, the law firm is getting something for the nothing it’s being paid: The publicity has been priceless. In June, Kennedy Covington received the North Carolina Bar Association’s 2005 Pro Bono Services Award for large firms. The Mecklenburg County Bar named Lam its first Young Lawyer of the Year.

Then there are the people Down East. They have sent the lawyers hand-knitted afghans and letters of gratitude, invited them to pig pickings and, after Jerry Beasley rolled back some of the combines and tractors in his big farm shop down near the Beaufort County line, a seafood feast.

This time, the lawyers wore jeans and sneakers. “They even brought their families,” says Sexton, the cotton farmer. “They’re just good ol’ boys around here now.”

She’s first of her kind, not of her kin, to lead bankers

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People – September 2005

She’s first of her kind, not of her kin, to lead bankers
By Joe Rauch

The label is inevitable, but Hope Connell doesn’t like it much: first woman to chair the 108-year-old North Carolina Bankers Association, the trade group that represents the 142 banks, savings and trust institutions with headquarters in the state. What matters, she says, is that she won’t be the last one to hold the one-year job.

“It shows how attitudes in the banking industry are beginning to change. I think there are a dozen women in this state who would do an exceptional job in this post. I was just the one who happened to be picked.”

That groundbreaking choice was logical. Hope Holding Connell, 42, was born into one of North Carolina’s most prominent banking families. Grandfather Robert P. Holding started as an assistant cashier at Bank of Smithfield and became president and chairman. Today, the company is First Citizens BancShares, the fourth-largest banking conglomerate in the state and the parent of Raleigh-based First Citizens Bank.

First Citizens Bank has more than 340 branches in North Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia and $11.9 billion in assets. The parent company is publicly traded but is controlled by the family, with Holdings in three of the top four executive posts.

After graduating in 1985 from UNC Chapel Hill with degrees in English and economics, she joined First Citizens Bank’s management-training program. She got her MBA from Carolina in 1990 and has been executive vice president, supervising business banking, since 2000.

She is also active in civic and volunteer work, including stints on the steering committees of the 2001 and 2007 U.S. Women’s Open golf tournaments in Southern Pines — a dream assignment for Connell, who first played golf as a child. “I just fell in love with it.” She lost interest for a while but regained it after a few months at the bank. “I realized that either I could go play, and have to play well, against the guys or I could stay in the office answering the phones.”

Connell has worked with the bankers association since 2000, when she joined its executive committee. “The NCBA is a pooling of the state’s best and brightest minds to work with the General Assembly to ensure we’re going in the right direction with the banking industry and state regulation. I’ll just be steering a much larger ship that’s already on a solid course.”

She is the third generation of the Holding family to lead it, following her grandfather and her uncle, R.P. Holding Jr. Unlike that “first woman” tag, the idea of a dynasty doesn’t bother her. “I’d be flattered to think anyone would consider me carrying on some sort of family legacy and continuing the traditions and values previous generations have passed down to me. But it’s not something I lie awake at night and worry myself about.”

She reaches peak of the Sierra Club

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People – September 2005

She reaches peak of the Sierra Club
By Cindy J. Elmore

Asked to name environmentally friendly businesses, the new president of the 750,000-member Sierra Club rattles off a litany. General Electric. Bank of America. Lloyd’s of London. Missing from Lisa Renstrom’s list, however, are the two Acapulco hotels she ran from 1983 to 1993. “I would have had to have been really blazing new trails to be running my hotel with environmental practices in Mexico in the 1980s.”

Renstrom, 45, says her environmental awareness came after she moved to Charlotte 12 years ago. As executive director of the now-inactive Voices & Choices of the Central Carolinas, she tried to foster environmentally friendly development and preservation of open spaces. Elected to the Sierra Club board of directors in 2001, she was re-elected last year and chosen as the club’s 51st president in May.

She grew up on a farm near Omaha, Neb. Her father, Carl Renstrom, owned Tip-Top Products, a hair-care company that employed about 2,000 before he sold it to Faberge in the 1960s. A year after getting a bachelor’s in business from the University of Nebraska in 1982, she moved to Mexico to manage two hotels owned by her family. One had been the site of Elizabeth Taylor’s marriage to Mike Todd, and Brigitte Bardot honeymooned there.

But the hotels, once haunts of the jet set, were struggling, mired in a land dispute with former managers. They filed civil litigation, then tried to pressure Renstrom by instigating a criminal case against her. Charged with fraud, she spent six months in a Mexican prison, without being tried or convicted, before being released when the evidence was shown to be false.

Her daughter, now 19 and a student at Tulane University in New Orleans, was an infant. The jail allowed conjugal visits and family picnics, but her confinement was nonetheless life-changing. “You face a finality of what’s important and what’s not important.” The family sold the hotels in 1992 and 1993, and she left Mexico so her daughter could attend U.S. schools. By then she was engaged to Bob Perkowitz, now her second husband, who was recruited to run a Joanna Western Mills plant in Charlotte.

Her environmental activism was more of a process than an epiphany. “Everyone is an environmentalist at heart.” During her year at the helm of the 113-year-old club, she will work to get community leaders engaged on environmental issues. An increased environmental awareness is essential, she says, to reducing dependence on foreign oil.

Many of the solutions to today’s problems can be found in technology and design, changing manufacturing processes and package design so that they waste fewer resources and spew fewer pollutants. “Companies are run by people with families. Yes, their job is to deliver a profit, but between business and government and people, we can solve these issues.”