Regional Report Charlotte March 2011
Defying conventional wisdom
It didn’t take long for the glow of Charlotte winning the 2012 Democratic National Convention to give way to sweat over exactly how the city would pull it off. “The spotlight quickly turned into a heat lamp,” jokes Will Miller, acting executive director of Charlotte in 2012.
Now, the committee must raise the private money — about $50 million, Miller says — needed to put on a good show. Unlike many fundraisers in the Queen City, where much of the money often comes from a few wealthy donors, party caps on individual donations will force it to cast a wider net in the region and beyond.
What the city will get, organizers say, is an economic infusion of at least $150 million and increased visibility. “We’re already having some positive impact from meeting planners who are taking a new look at us — now that we’ve landed this one — for other conventions they might bring to town,” says Tim Newman, CEO of Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority.
The city also is counting on publicity and goodwill from the convention to inspire business relocations and bring jobs. “Inquiry activity has picked up in our chamber [of commerce],” says Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx, “and I think that will only continue as people learn more and more about our city.”
Not everyone believes the rosy predictions. Victor Matheson, associate professor of economics at College of the Holy Cross in Massachusetts, co-wrote a 2008 study of conventions and their economic impacts. He says models do a good job of calculating event-related spending but don’t account for disruptions of routine spending as locals stay home to avoid the crush of visitors. Attendance at Broadway shows, for example, dropped 20% year-over-year during the week New York City hosted the 2004 Republican National Convention, he says. “If these things really are $150 million, when you look at things like employment and income and retail sales, you should expect these big spikes, and we typically don’t see them.”
There’s also no proof businesses and jobs follow in the wake of conventions, he says. “There may be some residual advertising effect associated with that. The fact that no one has been able to capture it and measure it particularly well suggests that it’s probably not very big.”
Asked for an example of a convention bringing new businesses and jobs, several Charlotte leaders mentioned United Parcel Service Inc. moving its headquarters to Atlanta in 1991, three years after that city hosted the Democratic National Convention. But UPS spokeswoman Susan Rosenberg says the move was motivated primarily by a lower cost of living for employees and better transportation. “Never once did I hear anything about [Atlanta] having held the convention.”
For conventioneers, The Charlotte Observer website posted a list of 10 “can’t-miss spots that will make you feel at home in the Queen City.” They’re fine fare for visitors as well as home folk. But must-see marvels?
• Freedom Park: You probably have a park near you. Visit it when you get home.
• Crowder’s Mountain: The worn-down stub of an ancient mountain range, it’s neighboring Gaston County’s second-highest peak, towering 800 feet over the surrounding landscape.
• Charlotte Symphony Summer Pops concerts: Did you leave the last pops concert you attended thinking you must see another?
• Carowinds amusement park: Not usually mentioned in the same breath as Disney World.
• Lake Norman: Unless this is your first time outside New Mexico, you’ve probably seen a lake before.
• Fourth Ward: Condos, businesses, a park and old renovated houses. Nice, but no Charleston.
• Minor-league baseball parks: Nothing screams “major-league city” like minor-league stadiums.
• U.S. National Whitewater Center: Easier than schlepping to a real whitewater river but not nearly as scenic.
• NASCAR Hall of Fame: Since it’s getting far fewer visitors than projected, a good place to avoid the crowds.
• Museums on South Tryon Street: Like the Hall of Fame, they’re shiny and new, with some things you’d see nowhere else. But the Louvre, they ain’t.
CHARLOTTE — Accounting firms Dixon Hughes, based in Asheville and Winston-Salem, and Goodman & Co., based in Virgina Beach, planned to merge March 1. Dixon Hughes Goodman will be based here. With about 1,700 employees, it will be the largest accounting firm based in the South and No. 13 in the nation.
CHARLOTTE — French technology and consulting company Capgemini plans to open an office here in the second quarter and hire 550 workers within three years. It will support the company’s banking, insurance and capital-markets clients.
CHARLOTTE — FairPoint Communications emerged from 15 months in Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The telecom, which operates in 18 states, shed $1.7 billion in debt, leaving it with about $1 billion.
CHARLOTTE — Nucor promoted John Ferriola, 58, who had been chief operating officer of steelmaking operations, to president and chief operating officer. Dan DiMicco, 60, CEO and chairman, relinquished the title of president.
CHARLOTTE — Morgan Stanley plans to eliminate 60 jobs here as it consolidates the headquarters of its private bank in Purchase, N.Y. No timetable was given. About 140 will continue to work at the company’s wealth-management operations here.
SALISBURY — N.C. Business Court Judge Ben Tennille upheld $4.4 million in additional taxes and $1.3 million in interest for Delhaize America, the parent of Food Lion. However, he ruled that the state Revenue Department’s $1.2 million penalty against the company is unconstitutional. The state says Delhaize hid earnings by establishing “abusive tax shelters.”
A consortium led by Charlotte-based Chanticleer Holdings bought Atlanta-based Hooters of America from the estate of its founder. Terms weren’t disclosed. Hooters of America is franchisor and operator of more than 450 Hooters restaurants in 44 states and 29 foreign countries. The deal includes 120 company-owned Hooters and 41 Texas Wings restaurants.