Charlotte's big work-from-home boom

Plus: Scaleybark station parking set for upheaval; Ritzy Ballantyne-area neighborhood loses pool; F-bomb-laden podcast reminds you to check homeowners insurance

Good morning! Today is Wednesday, October 9, 2019. Need to subscribe? Sign up for free here (charlotteledger.substack.com). Send to a friend.

Announcements of new jobs often obscure the 60% rise in local home-based employment since 2013

You always hear a lot in Charlotte about the large number of jobs being created by the banks, by the tech companies and by the banks that are becoming tech companies.

But all the noise about the jobs created by major corporations masks another, quieter surge in Charlotte employment: the number of people who work out of their houses.

New census data shows that the number of people in Mecklenburg County who work from home has risen by 60% since 2013. Of course, in a growing city like Charlotte, just about everything is growing — the number of dogs, bulldozers, traffic, breweries and so on. But when it comes to how we are getting to our jobs, some of the biggest growth is coming from people who say they are already there.

Charlotte has always had a strong base of people who work from home. With our airport hub and two interstates and a cost of living lower than many other parts of the country, Charlotte has long attracted people who can do their jobs from anywhere. Now, though, technology is making that even easier. And big corporations tend to tolerate working from home more than in the past, though some have sought to rein in what they consider to be excesses.

In Mecklenburg County, about 49,000 people – or about 1 in 12 workers – say they work from home, the census figures show. Nationally, the number is about 1 in 20.

Out of your way: Another upside to so many people working out of their houses is that all these people aren’t jamming our roads by commuting – which anecdotal and statistical evidence show is getting worse.

About 1 in 7 Mecklenburg County commuters now say that they have commutes of 45 minutes or longer – a 45% increase from 2013. The median commute time is between 20 and 24 minutes.

The commuting data also show that in Mecklenburg County:

  • Cars are popular. (No kidding). About 85% of Mecklenburg County residents say they commute by car. Numbers of people driving alone increase every year, while the number of people who say they carpool has stayed mostly the same.

  • Light rail up, bus down. Commuting by public transportation actually fell slightly between 2013 and 2018. Transit is a long-term play and a minor factor in Charlotte commuting, as it delivers less than 3% of county residents to work. Given the development along the light rail line, this drop might be a bit of a surprise. While the data shows an increase since 2013 in the number of people taking light rail to work in Mecklenburg County, it also shows a corresponding drop in commuting by bus.

  • Walking to work. The figures are small — constituting only about 2% of commutes — but the number of people walking to work rose 17% in the last five years.

Geek out: If you like crunching numbers and have time to spare, you can check out the data yourself at data.census.gov.


Dirt moves around Scaleybark station — what about parking?

Workers have started clearing land for Beacon Partners’ LoSo Station and LoSo Village developments by the Scaleybark light-rail station on South Boulevard — and that’s going to mean some changes for the park-n-ride lot. CATS tells the Ledger that the 238-space lot will soon be replaced by a temporary 265-space surface lot. When complete, the development will include a parking deck with 315 CATS spaces.

Million-dollar homes, but no neighborhood pool?

The upscale Highgrove neighborhood near the intersection of Community House and Ardrey Kell roads looks as though it is about to lose its tennis courts, clubhouse and pool.

Ballantyne Country Club, which owns Highgrove’s recreational properties on Summer Club Road, said in an email to members last month that it “could not come to terms on a reasonable offer” for the neighborhood’s homeowners association to buy the land. So it’s now up for sale. Asking price: $850,000.

This is surely leading to a lot of neighborhood consternation. The homes in Highgrove that don’t go for $1M usually sell in the high $800s or $900s.

A local real estate agent emailed people in the Ballantyne area that the land could accommodate “five custom-build lots.”

At 2 acres, it’s probably too small for a hog-processing plant, a vape-and-tattoo parlor or a state prison.


Retraining at the DMV

The DMV says its University City office plans to retrain workers after hearing about the experience of a teenager mentioned in a Ledger article last week.

In an article Friday on tips to reduce waiting at the DMV, Michelle Crouch wrote about a DMV clerk who made Michelle’s teenage daughter re-write her driving log by hand and then turned her away because it was 4:01 p.m. when she finished. (They don’t offer road tests after 4 p.m.)

DMV spokeswoman Binta Cisse left Michelle a voicemail saying she shared Michelle’s experience with the DMV chief who supervises that office. “He is going to do some retraining,” she said.


In brief

  • Police chief windfall? The city says it has “no intent to circumvent the law” by allowing police Chief Kerr Putney to retire at the end of the year then rehiring him two months later to lead CMPD through August’s Republican National Convention. The Observer’s Jim Morrill reports that a “wrinkle in state retirement law” could result in Putney receiving a lump-sum payment of more than $600,000 instead of taking payments in regular installments. (Observer)

  • Tech merger: Greensboro tech firms Dais X and Dais AI are merging and moving the headquarters of the new 46-person company to Charlotte. (Biz Journal)

  • Theme-park offer rejected: Carowinds owner Cedar Fair rejected a takeover bid by Six Flags, saying the offer was too meager. CNBC’s Jim Cramer says he foresees more takeover bids forthcoming. (Reuters/CNBC)

  • Apartment sale: Crescent Communities has sold the Novel Stonewall Station apartments to Lennar Multifamily Communities for $171M. (Observer)

  • Hire an ex-con: N.C. Attorney General Josh Stein said at a Charlotte Regional Business Alliance event that employers should consider hiring people with criminal records: “We have a tight labor market, and people leaving prison are exceptionally motivated to get a job … It requires employers overcoming prior stigma in order to be open to the idea of hiring somebody who is leaving incarceration.” (Observer)


This week in podcasting

A round-up of interesting moments in recent Charlotte podcasts:

  • From Bible-thumping to mini-mansions: Longtime former WBT personality Al Gardner, who anchored the station’s morning show from 1997 to 2011, reflects with interviewer Bo Thompson on the changes he witnessed during his time here: “I got the sense that when I came to Charlotte, I was body surfing a wave that was about to really go. … What we didn’t know was how dramatically wonderful the changes would be: Along Tryon, where suddenly in uptown you had all this wonderful nightlife and restaurants. An area that was blighted with check-cashing places was suddenly Johnson & Wales. Places in south Charlotte where Rea Road used to dead-end were suddenly Ballantyning their way into beautiful mini-mansions and restaurants and wonderful shopping areas. … Not only was it a great time to witness the wave, but this had the net effect of changing America’s perception of what Charlotte is. It used to be, ‘Oh yeah, you Bible thumpers and Billy Graham Boulevard’ and all this kind of stuff. But today, you have an incredible financial hub and a wonderful culture center with all these incredibly talented people running around and causing the growth we just talked about.” (WBT’s Century Podcast, Oct. 3, 1 hour 8 minutes)

  • Real estate fail: On a panel that discusses its biggest business mistakes, Carrie Cook, executive director of the nonprofit GreenLight Charlotte, shares a bad experience with real estate investing: “I bought a multifamily property in Atlanta. F—ing stupid idea when you live in Charlotte, North Carolina. Stupid idea. I didn’t have enough experience, and I wasn’t knowledgeable enough about the market there to know what I was doing … I start upgrading stuff. I put money into it. About a month and a half into working on it — Irma? Was that Irma? Was that b—ch Irma? One of these hurricanes came through and that motherf—er knocked the tree on top of the property. … With your homeowners insurance policy, check that sh— tonight! Make sure you have replacement cost and not actual cash value! … If not, when something happens to your property, you’ll get a check minus the depreciation. … Ultimately, we did get it renovated, but I f—ed up because there was no reason I should have been down there in that market trying to do that deal. I should have stuck with doing things locally.” (Advent Coworking podcast, Oct. 3, 1 hour 19 minutes)

  • Burned at the stake: Katie Grissom of Asana Partners tells host Adam Williams how the retail real estate firm finds the right mix of retailers in its developments. The company owns centrally located land in South End, Plaza-Midwood and other Charlotte neighborhoods: “We really try to have a strategy of 1/3, 1/3, 1/3, with local tenants, regional tenants and national tenants. Every neighborhood is different. Plaza-Midwood, we probably won’t have that many national tenants because the neighborhood wouldn’t accept them.” Williams cuts in: “I live there, man. You’ll get burned at the stake.” Grissom: “Yeah, save us!” (Retail Redeveloped, Oct. 3, 39 minutes)


Cheap getaways from CLT

  • Charlotte to Newark, $70 round-trip on Spirit (nonstop), various dates November to February.

  • Charlotte to Philadelphia, $76 round-trip on Frontier (nonstop), Nov. 14-18.

  • Charlotte to New Orleans, $160 round-trip on American (nonstop), Dec. 6-9.

  • Charlotte to Fort Lauderdale, $66 round-trip on Spirit (nonstop), various dates October-November.

  • Charlotte to Barcelona, $446 round-trip on United (one-strop), various dates November-December.

  • Charlotte to Beijing, $535 round-trip on United (one-stop), various dates October-March.

Source: Google Flights. Fares retrieved Wednesday morning. They might have changed by the time you read this.


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.

Searchable archives available at https://charlotteledger.substack.com/archive.

On Twitter: @cltledger

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.