Regional Report Charlotte March 2012
New incubator aims to charge energy sector
The Charlotte energy sector, which President Barack Obama has repeatedly praised, features such behemoths as Duke Energy Corp. and Siemens Energy Inc., a subsidiary of Germany-based Siemens AG. But economic-development officials are quick to admit its biggest flaw: a lack of startups. “It’s one of those areas that we’re probably a little more challenged in,” says David Swenson, senior vice president of Charlotte Regional Partnership. CLT Joules, the first energy-specific business incubator in the Queen City, hopes to change that.
The nonprofit will open its doors in April, providing discounted office space at Packard Place — a for-profit, nonindustry-specific incubator in downtown Charlotte — and a 12- to 24-month business-management program for startups or companies that generate less than $1 million of revenue. Co-founder Curtis Watkins, a project manager in Charlotte-based Duke Energy’s global-technology department, hesitates to discuss requirements but says, as an example, tenants won’t be solar-panel installers; they’ll be designing better solar panels. Three startups have committed to it, though Watkins won’t reveal their names until they move in. An all-volunteer board of directors, which includes Watkins, a City Council member, the chief operating officer of a Virginia-based smart-grid company, a lawyer and an accountant, will mentor them.
Watkins came up with the idea two years ago. “I had been doing some research around what other cities with large energy industries had been doing. One of the things that stood out was they all had something to attract entrepreneurs and innovators.” He approached Dan Roselli, owner of Packard Place, who donated 15,000 of the building’s 90,000 square feet of office space. When CLT Joules is more financially stable — it hopes to get most of its funding from corporate donations — it will pay rent.
$3 million to $4 million
KINGS MOUNTAIN — Fort Smith, Ark.-based Baldor Electric, maker of industrial electric motors, will invest $17 million in its plant here and add 166 jobs to its 485 to help the company meet demand for wind-powered technology. The average annual wage is expected to exceed Cleveland County’s average of $32,344, though the company did not specify an amount.
STATESVILLE — Drinkable yogurt and fruit-shake maker Origin Food Group hired about 25 workers for its new $7 million processing plant here. The company plans to double that number by 2014.
CHARLOTTE — Axum Capital Partners, a private-equity firm co-founded by former Carolina Panther Muhsin Muhammad II, acquired a controlling interest in Mount Pleasant, S.C.-based Wild Wing Cafe, a sports-bar chain with 11 corporate-owned and 21 franchise restaurants. The chain employs 2,400 workers, with 500 in North Carolina. Axum co-founder Edna Morris, a former president of Red Lobster, will be interim CEO. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
CHARLOTTE — Southwest Airlines announced it will fly out of Charlotte Douglas International Airport after purchasing AirTran, which already operates flights here. The Dallas-based airline did not announce a date for picking up the flights.
CHARLOTTE — Mint Museum hired Toni L. Freeman to the new position of chief operating officer. She previously was director of donor and business relations at Mecklenburg Citizens for Public Education.
SALISBURY — Belgian grocery-store chain Delhaize Group, which operates the Food Lion, Bloom and Bottom Dollar stores, closed 126 stores and retired the Bloom label. Only four North Carolina stores, each employing 35 to 40 workers, were shuttered. No jobs were lost at the Food Lion headquarters in Salisbury.