Charlotte biz leaders line up behind Tillis

Plus: AvidXchange creates mirror image of its HQ; The Atlantic weighs in on Charlotte's economic mobility; Did BB&T CEO reveal Hearst Tower name change?

Good morning! Today is Friday, July 19, 2019.

Need to subscribe? Sign up for free here (charlotteledger.substack.com).

Like what you see? Forward to a friend or share on social media.


Big local names are backing the incumbent Republican against upstart primary challenger

Some of the Charlotte area’s most prominent business leaders are backing Republican Sen. Thom Tillis in his bid for re-election next year, according to financial disclosure forms filed this week.

The list of major Tillis supporters includes big names such as developer Peter Pappas, Cato Corp. CEO John Cato, Coke Consolidated CEO Frank Harrison, former Atrium Health CEO Michael Tarwater, Charlotte Checkers owner Michael Khan and former NASCAR team owner Felix Sabates.

With Democrats holding a decisive 9-2 edge on the City Council and total control of Mecklenburg’s board of country commissioners, you hear a lot about Charlotte being a Democratic city. But the Tillis support suggests there are still plenty of deep-pocketed Republican backers in our midst. (Or at least a few dozen.)

Tillis has a commanding financial lead over his primary challenger, Raleigh businessman Garland Tucker:

  • Tillis raised $1.9 million in the second quarter and has $4.4 million cash on hand.

  • Tucker — who entered the race in early May — has raised $1.04 million. He loaned his campaign $700,000. He has $108,000 on hand, according to the most recent campaign finance report.

The winner of the March 2020 primary will face the winner of the Democratic primary, which has several candidates. We’ll examine their financial backers, too. Just not today.

Tillis’ financial reports from this year list 79 Mecklenburg donors who contributed at least $1,000 in this election cycle. Tucker has just one (Charlotte homemaker Aleanne F. Kennelly, who donated $2,000 on May 31).

Partnership with politics newsletter: The list of donors was produced in collaboration with Steve Harrison of WFAE 90.7, Charlotte’s NPR News Source. If you’re into politics, you should know that Steve has an awesome weekly newsletter called Inside Politics that goes deep into local and statewide political issues. You can sign up for it here.

Tillis’ big Mecklenburg donors, with titles, donation amounts and donations in the current election cycle (“YTD”):

  • William Clay Adams, president of Adams Beverages of N.C., $2,000 on March 31

  • Chris E. Ashworth, retired, $2,800 on May 23 ($3,000 YTD)

  • Richard Bates, investment banker with North Inlet Advisors, various donations totaling $1,800 YTD

  • John R. Belk, former president and COO of Belk, $4,600 on April 8 ($5,600 YTD)

  • Kimberly D. Belk, homemaker, $1,000 on April 8

  • Ericka Cain, self-employed insurance, $2,500 on June 17

  • William Cain, executive with Financial Independence Group, $2,500 on June 13

  • John Cato, president/CEO of Cato Corp. $1,000 on March 5

  • Regis A. Clifford, professor with St. John’s University, $1,000 on Feb. 8 ($1,500 YTD)

  • Derick Close, CEO of Springs Creative, $5,000 on March 21

  • Paige Cohen, dealer with Volkswagen of South Carolina, $1,000 on May 26

  • Edward L. Curran, CEO Emeritus with Northwood Office, $4,350 on March 5 ($5,858 YTD)

  • George S. Dewey, president/CEO of Aston Properties, $1,000 on Feb. 28

  • Mary Browne Dewey, homemaker, $5,600 on March 4

  • George H. Edmiston, investment consulting with Carolinas Investment Consulting, $1,000 on June 3

  • William B. Elmore Jr., vice chairman of Coca-Cola Bottling Co., $1,000 on April 26

  • Jeffrey Epstein, self-employed real estate, $1,000 on May 22

  • William Kirk Eskridge, CEO of TruNorth Global Corp., $5,600 on May 13

  • Jay Faison, president of Clearpath Action, $5,400 on June 24 ($13,600 YTD)

  • Olga Faison, board member of Charlotte Ballet, $2,800 on June 24 ($8,200 YTD)

  • John C. Fennebresque Jr., healthcare executive with Gusto Global, $100 on Feb. 14 ($5,200 YTD)

  • Zachariah Gerger, retired physician, $1,000 on May 5

  • Kenneth Gill, CEO of CPI, $5,600 on March 21 ($6,850 YTD)

  • William Gorelick, retired investor, $1,000 on May 6

  • Rashid Hallaway, partner with HHQ Ventures, various donations totaling $6,100 TYD

  • Edward H. Hardison, retired, $1,000 on March 11 ($1,350 YTD)

  • Frank J. Harrison, CEO of Coca-Cola Consolidated, $1,000 on March 31

  • Lea P. Haynes, attorney with Robinson Bradshaw & Hinson, $1,000 ($2,000 YTD) on Feb. 28

  • Ivan Carl Hinrichs, retired, $5,500 on March 19 ($19,000 YTD)

  • Thomas P. Hollowell, retired, $2,700 on Jan. 17

  • Benne C. Hutson, attorney with McGuire Woods, $100 on Feb. 18 ($1,100 YTD)

  • Charles Izard, manager with Brown Brothers Harriman, $2,700 on June 6

  • Michael Kahn, owner of Empire Distributors and Charlotte Checkers, $5,600 on April 30

  • Wendy Kahn, homemaker, $5,600 on April 30

  • Graeme M. Keith, chairman with The Keith Corp., $1,000 on March 12

  • Susan Kelly, retired, various donations totaling $1,100 YTD

  • Fred W. Klein, senior managing partner with Childress Klein Properties, $3,800 on Feb. 28

  • Eric Laxer, MD with OrthoCarolina, $1,000 on May 5

  • Jerome L. Levin, CEO of Lebo’s, $1,000 on June 20 ($1,100 YTD)

  • Claire J. Mahoney, homemaker, $2,800 on Feb. 27

  • George R. Mahoney, retired, $2,800 on Feb. 27

  • Phillip R. Mahoney, mortgage banker with American Security Mortgage Group, various donations totaling $2,800 YTD

  • Neill G. McBryde, lawyer with Moore and Van Allen, $1,000 on Feb. 27 ($1,450 YTD)

  • John Martin McCoy, real estate with Fulcra Enterprises, $1,000 on Jan. 19

  • W. Edwin McMahan, retired state legislator, $500 on March 15 ($2,125 YTD)

  • Scott Menaker, dentist, $1,000 on June 4

  • Jeffrey S. Merrifield, senior vice president of Shaw’s Power Group, $1,000 on Jan. 10

  • Ivan C. Mothershead, retired, $2,500 on March 22 ($5,500 YTD)

  • Jacob Palillo, owner of South Creek Construction, $5,600 on May 29

  • Peter A. Pappas, developer, Pappas Properties, $2,800 on March 14

  • David Joseph Pasek, retired, $1,000 on May 4

  • Saraj G. Patel, manager at Trini Management, $1,000 on March 21

  • Bailey W. Patrick, attorney with Merrifield Patrick & Vermillo, $1,000 on March 31

  • Edwin B. Peacock, president of Pomfret Financial Company, $1,000, on March 11

  • Rodney C. Pitts, executive with Southern Elevator Co., $2,800 on May 17 ($4,300 YTD)

  • Larry Polsky, owner of L&J Associates, $1,000 on May 9

  • Paula Pridgen, vice president of Southern Loans, $500 on March 12 ($1,000 YTD)

  • George Rohe, self-employed accountant, $1,000 on May 17 ($4,150 YTD)

  • Felix Sabates, self-employed car dealer, $100 on June 30 ($5,500 YTD)

  • Kenneth Samuelson, president of The Morehead Group, $800 on June 11 ($3,000 YTD)

  • Lawrence Schwartz, self-employed M.D., $1000 on May 3

  • Glenn Sherrill, CEO of SteelFab, $2,500 on May 17 ($3,000 YTD)

  • Sherry E. Skains, homemaker, $2,800 on Feb. 26

  • Thomas E. Skains, former CEO of Piedmont Natural Gas, $2,700 on Feb. 26 ($4,400 YTD)

  • Kevin Carithers Smallwood, general manager with Empire Distributors of N.C., $1,000 on March 27

  • Jeffrey M. Strain, executive with North Highland, $1,000 on March 18 ($1,555 YTD)

  • Paul Simon, Paul Simon Co., $1,000 on May 21

  • Leo Spector, physician at OrthoCarolina, $1,000 on May 6

  • Ralph Strayhorn, attorney/consultant with Cape Point, $1,000 on March 21

  • Michael Tarwater, executive with the Leon Levine Foundation, $1,000 on May 22

  • David R. Tate, chairman/CEO with Healthgram Inc., $2,700 on March 31

  • Susan Tillis, branch leader with Allen Tate Realtors, various donations totaling $5,600 YTD.

  • David Thompson, consultant at Edgepoint LLC, $1,800 on March 31 ($3,500 YTD)

  • Charles L. Travis III, architect with Housing Studio PA, $1,000 on June 26

  • David Dockery Ward, VP platform & technology relationships with LPL Financial, $1,000 on June 24

  • Juan Wu, president of Panorama Holdings, $2,500 on May 3

  • Landon R. Wyatt III, partner with Childress Klein Properties, $2,800 on Feb. 27

  • Samuel Zimmern, physician at Atrium Health, $1,000 on May 5


AvidXchange HQ expansion: Room for 1,200 more workers — with bistro, volleyball, cardio stations

If you were skeptical about the recent news that Charlotte is becoming a thriving tech city, Thursday’s news that AvidXchange is building a second HQ building in Charlotte should erase any doubt. Charlotte’s tech companies are so big that a single HQ building is inadequate.

AvidXchange, which makes financial software for businesses, says it is building a second HQ building that’s a replica of the first, connected with “a central hub including coffee café and bistro style food service for all employees.” The new building will accommodate an additional 1,200 employees on the site north of uptown of what used to be known as the N.C. Music Factory but is now the AvidXchange Music Factory.

You’re not seeing double: AvidXchange announced a second HQ facility that’s a replica of its existing 201,000 s.f. building, completed in 2017.

Xboxes, volleyball, cardio stations: Since this is a tech company we’re talking about, the existing building “is equipped with amenities like Xboxes, shuffleboard, multiple gyms and basketball courts,” the Observer reports. The $41M expansion announced Thursday will allow the company to include an “indoor basketball and volleyball courts with second-level track” and “additional fitness center and cardio stations.” Whew.

The AvidXchange news adds to the recent dizzying pace of tech expansions in Charlotte, including Lowe’s establishment of a 2,000-worker tech hub in South End and the planned relocation and expansion of LendingTree from Ballantyne to South End.

Noteworthy: Those announcements are all the more remarkable because the U.S. economy is showing signs of slowing down, and economists fret about a recession in the next year or two. All these tech expansions signal that these companies believe their businesses will weather any financial storms and think they are solid for the long run.

Amenities such as on-site dining, fitness centers, Xboxes and basketball courts are seen as essential to attracting smart young workers.

Economists: Charlotte and Triangle are N.C.’s economic stars

A remarkably thorough assessment of North Carolina’s economy is out this week from Wells Fargo’s economics team. The headlines: the state’s growth is decelerating, like most of the country. But the Raleigh and Charlotte areas are increasingly attracting newcomers and are adding jobs at a brisk pace.

Economic reports aren’t always riveting, but this one is worth reading. It provides a helpful step back from the day-in, day-out news cycle and catalogues a lot of Charlotte’s greatest recent hits in attracting companies and also examines the state’s challenges. If you’re a numbers geek, you’ll also enjoy the charts.

A few highlights from the report:

Urban areas thriving: “The Charlotte and Triangle regions comprise a growing share of the state’s employment base and the lion’s share of its growth. … The ascendency of North Carolina’s largest metros reflects a nationwide, and indeed global, trend that goes well beyond the well-noted rural-urban divide. The rise of knowledge-based jobs and the growing importance of agglomeration, spillover effects and superstar firms have encouraged human capital to concentrate in a few leading metros, at the expense of many midsize metro areas and rural economies.”

Charlotte’s population surge: “Only a handful of large metro areas show a meaningful gain from net migration since 2010, and Raleigh and Charlotte both rank in the top 15. By contrast, North Carolina’s other large metro areas have not been nearly as successful attracting new residents. Net domestic migration to the Charlotte area, which is the number of people moving in minus the number of people moving away, added 204,273 residents, and accounted for the bulk of its 352,216-person increase since 2010. The Queen City’s younger population also helped generate a 100,545-person natural increase—births minus deaths—and the region gained 45,794 new residents from abroad.”

Stronger second half of 2019: “We are looking for North Carolina’s economy to gain momentum during the second half of this year. Nonfarm employment appears to have hit a soft spot in much of the state. Some of the slowdown may be related to some lingering dislocations from last year’s hurricanes, particularly in Eastern North Carolina. … Charlotte’s most recent data put it on track to add about 30,000 jobs. Part of that strength will fall on the South Carolina side of the metro area, which is rapidly attracting businesses from Charlotte and elsewhere.”


The Atlantic examines Charlotte’s economic mobility

The Atlantic is out this week with a long profile of Raj Chetty, the Harvard economist whose 2013 study ranked Charlotte 50th out of 50 cities on economic mobility. That ranking surprised local civic and political leaders, who are laboring to improve the ability of those born into poverty to move up the economic ladder.

Charlotte receives a lot of ink in the piece, which will appear in the Atlantic’s August issue. And like Chetty’s study itself, the depiction of Charlotte is less-than-positive.

The article calls Charlotte “one of America’s great urban success stories.” But from there, it looks closely at some of the troubles, which Chetty is working to solve through his organization, called Opportunity Insights:

In Charlotte, where Opportunity Insights hopes to build its proof of concept, the atlas reveals swaths of bleak uniformity. Looking at the city, you first see a large bluish wedge south of downtown, with Providence Road on one side and South Boulevard on the other, encompassing the mostly white, mostly affluent areas where children generally grow up to do well. Surrounding the wedge is a broad expanse in hues of red that locals call “the crescent,” made up of predominantly black neighborhoods where the prospects for poor children are pretty miserable. Hunger and homelessness are common, and in some places only one in five high-school students scores “proficient” on standardized tests. In many parts of the crescent, the question isn’t What’s holding kids back? so much as What isn’t holding them back? It’s hard to know where to start.

The full piece, called “The Economist Who Would Fix the American Dream,” is available here. It’s long.


In brief

  • New details on Wilcox: WCCB’s Morgan Fogarty with more details on why the CMS school board suspended Superintendent Clayton Wilcox this week: “Multiple sources tell WCCB Wilcox has repeatedly blown off meetings with key community leaders, made unfunded promises to parents, particularly those in the language academy program, and has failed to consistently provide required monthly reports to the school board on the suspension rates of kindergarten through second grade students.” The board also agreed to spend $30,000 on a PR firm that specializes in crisis communications, WFAE reported. The school board meets this morning to discuss Wilcox’s fate. Brace yourself for a new superintendent search.

  • “The old Hearst building”: Is Charlotte’s Hearst Tower going to be renamed? In his company’s earnings call this week, BB&T CEO Kelly King said, “We did announce our new headquarters building in Charlotte, which is one of the tallest buildings in Charlotte, if you’re familiar with Charlotte, the old Hearst building.” BB&T is merging with SunTrust bank and moving the HQ to Charlotte. The new bank will be named Truist Bank. The shareholder vote is set for July 30.

  • Deer-resistant airport fence: The City Council is expected to approve a $3M contract on Monday to replace 33,000 feet of perimeter security fence at Charlotte’s airport. “Increasing a fence’s height to 10 feet results in the near-elimination of deer attempting to jump over the fence,” the city says in council agenda documents. The council is also expected to approve a $4.4M contract to assess the environmental effect of a fourth parallel runway.

  • Business incentives: At a Monday meeting, the city is expected to approve $6M in financial incentives for Lowe’s, which is promising nearly 2,000 jobs in South End in five years; and $51,000 for Cognizant Technology Solutions, which anticipates adding 300 jobs in five years in the University City area.

  • Bus proposals: Three developers have submitted bids to the city to redevelop the Transportation Center site uptown across from the Spectrum Center, CATS said. The proposals from WPTP Brevard LLC, BPR Properties and Crescent Communities have not been made public. WPTP Brevard is affiliated with White Point Partners, which bought a parcel of land across the street in the spring. (Biz Journal/paywall)

  • Financial indictment: A south Charlotte financial adviser has been indicted on charges of wire fraud, identity theft and filing false tax returns, the Observer reported, citing court documents. Prosecutors allege Sampson Pearson sold life insurance and annuities but submitted fake loan applications and annuity-distribution requests, defrauding Northwestern Mutual and at least 10 clients out of $570,000.

  • BofA’s record profit: Bank of America posted 2Q profit that beat analysts’ expectations on the strength of its consumer bank. “The bank delivered record first-half profit,” CNBC says.

  • Guest worker violation: The Biltmore Estate in Asheville paid $31,000 in back wages and penalties for abusing the government’s guest worker program. The Labor Department said the tourist attraction rejected a qualified U.S. citizen for a job as a cook then hired a foreign worker for the job under the H-2B visa program. (Observer)

  • Ledger milestone: We’re proud to announce that the Ledger hit its 1,000th email sign-up this week, just four months after starting. Thanks for reading.


Food and booze news

A weekly wrap-up of the week’s eating and drinking developments

  • Yet another brewery: Legion Brewing is opening a fourth location in Charlotte next year, in South End’s Atherton Mill, to be called the “Trolley Barn Fermentory.” The restaurant and brewery will have a “street food booth, a salad and green bowl booth and a high-end wood-grilled meat booth,” the Observer says. (Team coverage: Observer, Agenda, Charlotte magazine)

  • New eateries and shopping: Optimist Hall, a redeveloped mill in the Optimist Park neighborhood between uptown and NoDa, will open Aug. 1. It will have a mix of restaurants in food-hall style plus shops. (Team coverage: Agenda, CharlotteFive, Charlotte magazine, Biz Journal)

  • Health-food restaurant in Phat Burrito space: Flower Child opens July 30 in South End. The fast-casual chain “features bowls, salads and wraps made with responsibly sourced health foods like sustainable salmon, grass-fed beef and organic non-GMO tofu.” It has a “‘Yoga Mat Parking’ basket” near the entrance. Menu includes a “fresh coconut that you can have sliced to order” and “a number of gluten-free, dairy-free or vegan selections.” (Agenda)

  • French mystery solved: When the Myers Park French bistro Aix en Provence closed last month, local dining publications were mystified why a restaurant ranked among the city’s best would shut. Now, the restaurant’s owner is explaining why: Reservations were down 25-30% compared with three years ago. “I think the Charlotte market is like this: A new thing opens, everybody just shifts to the new openings,” co-owner Patrick Garrivier told the foodie website Unpretentious Palate (paywall).


Got a news tip? Think we missed something? Drop me a line at editor@cltledger.com and let me know.

Like what we are doing? Feel free to forward this along and to tell a friend.

The Charlotte Ledger is an e-newsletter and web site publishing timely, informative, and interesting local business news and analysis Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, except holidays and as noted. We strive for fairness and accuracy and will correct all known errors. The content reflects the independent editorial judgment of The Charlotte Ledger. Any advertising, paid marketing, or sponsored content will be clearly labeled.

The Charlotte Ledger is published by Tony Mecia, an award-winning former Charlotte Observer business reporter and editor. He lives in Charlotte with his wife and three children.