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features

20

over st ry

The Business of Education Charlotte-based The LearningStation.com wants to revolutionize the world of K-12 education with a unique approach to Internet-based teaching and learning aids.

12

Charlotte Gets Wired Thanks to deregulation and the Charlotte region 's continued growth, telecommunications companies are flock ing to provide all kinds of services to Metrolina businesses. Here's a guide to our new wired (and wireless) world .

26

Counting on Success

de artments publisher's post

4

from the editor

6

female in the Carclinas Big Five accounting firms,

biz digest

9

has always counted on being a

advertiser links

Vicki

Wilson-

McElreath, the highest-ranking

34

success . Even if she never gave much thought to becom i ng an accountant.

30

Coaching a Winner Mike Zubel is a passionate advocate for the welfare to v1orkforce program. It's a role that comes naturally to this "hall of fame"

youth coach who was recently named Business Leader of the Year by the Governor's Work First Business Council.

greater charlotte biz

professional perks: going mobile with style 36 Today's mobile workforce requires a whole new set of business luggage and accessories.

on the cover: This month 's cover features jim Kirchner, president of The LeamingStation.com and julia W Wall, head of Gaston Day School. The shot was taken by photographer Wayne Morris at the Allen H. & Anne R. Sims Computer Lab at Gaston Day School. Seated at the computer is joshua Chowdhury, a third grade student at the school.

cliaflotte the magaz ine for the successful business executive

www.greatercharlottebiz.com

march 2000

3


wv

[publisher's post]

cliaflotte z WI

Special Thanks for Support and Great Ideas!

March 2000

Now that we have published the first issue of Greater Charlotte Biz magazine, I want

Volume 1 • Issue 2

to recognize those individuals who contributed their time, talent and expertise as well as their ideas, comments and criti cisms in support of our successful launch.

Publisher

John Paul Galles jgalles@greatercharlottebiz.com

While we spent several years researching business-to- business magazines, visiting numerous cities to consider the opportunities in each location, examining existing media, analyzing the power and potential of competitors and looking for a community that offered cultural diversity, quality of life, music and art, it became increasingly clear that we wou ld not succeed without friendly, receptive, thoughtful people who

Associate Publisher

Maryl A. Lane maryl.a.lane@greatercharlottebiz.com

supported our ambitions for a new publication in Charlotte. So many people have contributed their time and talent as well as their story ideas, comments and recommendations in support of this endeavor. And so, special thanks go out to:

Editor

Timothy]. Parolini tparolini@greatercharlottebiz.com

Erskine Bowles, Carousel Capital for thoughtful suggestions and referrals

Russell Robinson and Ben Baldwin, Robinson, Bradshaw & Hinson for expert legal counsel and advice

Account Executives

Sharon Kearns skearns@greatercharlottebiz.com

Binny Orrell, Prudential Carolinas for outstanding real estate expertise and guidance

Scott Anderson, Bank of Mecklenburg (now Centura Bank) Breon Klopp b klo pp@greatercha rlotteb iz.com Contributing Writers

Ron Fortner Nethea Fortney Rhinehardt

for networks and co nn ections

Skip Knauff and Matt Kearns, Knauff Insurance for able assistance in this launch

David Ginn, Powerhouse Color for great materials and an office with a great location Dan Cottingham, Cottingham-Chalk for good wishes and excellent story ideas Chuck Hood, Hood Hargett & Associates for great connections, early commitment

Contributing Photographer

Wayne Morris

and support

Louis Rose and David Goode, Southern Real Estate for being our first cover story Elaine Lyerly, Lyerly Agency for telling us about the lOOth Anniversary of Southern

Greater Charlotte Biz is published

12 times per year by:

Real Estate

Jim Laseter, Wray, Ward Laseter for e ncouraging our branding story and input from Galles Communications Group, Inc. 804 Clanton Road, Suite B Chari tte, NC 28217-1358 www.greatercharlottebiz.com

For editorial or advertising inquiries, call 704.676.5850.

Ch eerwine

Bill Loeffler, Loeffler Ketchum Mountjoy for honesty and future story ideas on banking in this region

Carroll Gray, Charlotte Chamber of Commerce for openness and encouragement Michael Almond, Carolinas Partnership for vision and articu lation of challenges and opportunities

Steve Luquire, Peggy Lovett and Clay Andrews, Luquire George Andrews for signals Please fax subscription inquiries to 704.676.5853 or e-mail them to info@greatercharlottebiz.com

about regional branding

Andy Dinkin, Tegra Telephone Systems for an incredible netwo rk of contacts and friends

Larry Spada, ixL for creative ideas and friendship All contentsŠ 2000, Galles Commu ni cations Group, Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited . Products named in these pages are trade names or trademarks of their respective companies.

Mike Trotman, Oracle for tuning us into technology and amazing tech-based companies Susan and Ken Recenello, Southern Exposure Photography for a terrific photo of Charlotte at dusk

Theckla Sterrett, Sterrett, Dymond Stewart for her "Inc." adventure

Special Thanks, continued on page 33

4

march 2000

greater charlotte biz


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---------

[fromtheeditor]

Wi

Atlanta Redux? The southern swing of Charlotte-Mecklenburg's light rail system has been initi ally proposed along the Norfolk Southern tracks near South Boulevard. I'm not co nvinced it will do much to relieve commuter congestion along l-77. What is fairly certain, though, is that it will be a boon for developers along South Boulevard and its environs. Already developers are planning projects that will dramatically extend the reach of South End. If the momentum continues southward as projected, it will be a wonderful example of intelligent civic planning and private investment. We need to keep in mind, however, that just as the Outerbelt has done and will continue to do, the new rail line will give developers the opportunity to profit from taxpayer-supported infrastructure. Would Ballantyne, the growth arounc Providence Road and Union County, or the development to come in southwest Charlotte be what th ey are without the Outerbelt? Of course not. North Carolina ranked fifth in the nation - ahead of California, Tennessee and Michigan - in the amount of open land consumed for development from 1992 to 1997. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 781 ,500 acres of croplands, forests, wetlands and other open space were developed during that period. Governor Jim Hunt has now publicly pledged to preserve 1 million acres of open space over the next decade. But despite the rhetoric from Gove rnor Hunt and local leaders, Charlotte and other urban areas in North Carolina are driving inexorably down the same road Atlanta did 20-plus years ago. We can see what will happen if we don't make changes to our land use policies and zo ning decisions, but I don't think we really get it. Atlantans now have the nation's longest average commute - 34 miles - and the city violates federal smog rules more than any other metro area. The city is pouring millions of dollars into revitalizing a decaying downtown and fighting a losing battle to maintain its infrastructure. That's not just bad for taxpayers, it's not an intelligent long-term business strategy. Governor Hunt's 21st CentUly Communities Task Force surveyed what North Carolinians want and don't from growth. Here are the results. 1. We hate traffic congestion. 2. We want natural areas and farmland preserved.

3. We want our downtowns strong and vibrant. 4. We want livable communities with safe, affordable housing. 5. We want clean air and water.

Of course, what we didn't say is that we also want to live in the suburbs on a cul-de-sac with a Harris-Teeter, McDonald's and Blockbuster Video a short drive away. In Iredell County, officials are considering an "adeq uate public facilities ordinance" similar to the one in Cabarrus County that delays new subdivisions unless there are enough schools, roads and services to support the development. Developers don't like it, but it seems a reasonable proposition. It's certainly a lot bet:er than a building moratorium, as some communities have considered. The Pineville-Downtown Charlotte light rail corridor represents an oppo rtunity to develop a vibrant community tl1at doesn't add to sprawl, revitalize an area that could use the help, and provide profitable opportunities for developers. Let's hope it marks the beginning of a period of balanced development that enhances our quality of lfe. Tim Parolini Editor tparolini@greatercharlottebiz.com

6

march 2000

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greater charlotte biz


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[bizdigest] The Entrepreneurship Institute Launches Charlotte Chapter

professionals such as bankers, accountants, business attorneys,

}. Michael McGuire of Arthur Andersen, LLP, has quietly, but aggressively assembled a team of 33

investors, marketing and management consultants and other

Advisory Board members to oversee the develop-

small and mid-market business service providers. Company

ment of The Entrepreneurship Institute (TEl)

presidents attending these events can learn from each other

"President's Forum." The day-long event will be held in

what works and can tap the expertise of top level professionals

Charlotte in early November 2000. The board will form the

who serve on the advisory board as well as those participating

nucleus for a Charlotte chapter of TEl that will develop learning

in the forum event. The actual date and location will be announced shortly.

and networking programs. The organization is dedicated to

The agenda will be established, speakers identified and invita-

meeting the knowledge and networking needs of America's

tions will be distributed in the hopes of gathering about 225

small and mid-market c:Jmpany presidents.

company presidents to participate in this event. Companies

TEl programs are targeted at presidents of existing multimillion dollar enterprises. A growth orientation is the key

expecting high growth are the most likely to benefit from this

criteria for invitation to Institute learning programs. This

program . For more information, go to <www.tei.net>.

advisory board is comprised of successful business owners and

Councils Urged to Increase Minority Business Aida Alvarez, top administrator for the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) recently encouraged members of the Charlotte Chamber and Las Americas Business Council to expand the role of minority businesses in the local economy.

She said the SBA is making an effort to include more Hispanics and other minorities in the economy's current prosperity. Although the number of SBAbacked loans to Hispanics has doubled since 1992, Hispanics still only own 4.5 percent of all

businesses nationally. According to SBA figures, the administration gave out 129 loans in Mecklenburg County in fiscal1999, but just four went to Hispanics. "This is a small-business economy," Alvarez said. "The majority of

new businesses have been created by small businesses." The SBA is developing an aggressive program to improve its numbers by getting past the language and outreach barriers the administration has faced in the past.

Southern Rail Corridor Has Developers Lining Up Charlotte-Mecklenburg transit officials'

win federal funds to pay half the

so developers could be taking a risk

proposal that the light-rcilline from

estimated $250 million cost of the line.

on selecting the right location for

Pineville to downtown Charlotte be built

MUPO officials will take up the light-rail

development.

along the Norfolk Southern track has

proposal on March 15.

developers excited about the prospects of revitalizing the corridor. The recommendation, which must

Consultants studied running the transit line next to Interstate 77 or along-

to high-density development within a

side the railroad, which runs parallel with

quarter-mile walk of transit stations.

be approved by the Mecklenburg-Union

South Boulevard. They chose the rail line

Metropolitan Planning Organization

because they believed developers would

(MUPO), is a formal step in the quest to

be more likely to build homes, offices and shops around passenger stations.

Top Holiday E-merchant Sites (Based on total visits)

Rank Site 1 eBay 2 Amazon.com 3 eToys.com 4 BarnesandNoble.com 5 CD now 6 Toysrus.com 7 Sony.com 8 Buy.com 9 KBkids.com 10 jcpenney.com source: /conocast 2000

Total Visits 128,858,697 48,959,535 14,463,273 12,965,303 12,377,84'" 12,106,833

Planners want to use zoning and other incentives to encourage medium-

Already, Crosland Properties has announced plans for 90 apartments and 28,000-square-feet of shops about three blocks south of the train station proposed at South and Remount Road. Other developers are working on plans along the 10.3-mile rail line, which is expected to carry 15,000

8,081,621

passengers a day. Exact locations

7,420,1 25 6,328,258

will be chosen in the next two years,

5,892,491

Department of

according to the Charlotte

Ron Tober, executive director of the Charlotte Transit Authority, hopes


Charlotte's High-Tech Biz

[biz digest]

Not quite ready for prime time.

New Regional Chamber Meets

Despite the growing success of such local high tech firms

York County gets together. .. sort of.

as this month 's cover story The Learning Station.com,

The recen tly for med Yo rk County Regio nal Chamber of

LendingTree.com and a handful of others, Charlotte still

Comm erce held their fi rst fo rm al gathering recently at th e

has a long way to go

Charlotte Hornets trai ning faci li ty in Fort Mill, S.C.

to be considered a high -

Th e new chamber was created last Octo ber when members of th e Rock H ill , Fort Mill and Tega Cay cha mbers vo ted to combine their efforts into the new orga niza tio n . The fo rmatio n of a regio nal cha mber was the subj ect of m uch debate - som e

tech center. Inc. magazine recently rated Charlotte as the 14th best "Big Metro

of it qu ite rancorous - amo ng the va ri o us local chamber

Area" to start and grow

m embers. La ke Wylie, York and Clover chambers have chosen

a business. (Atlanta was

not to merge witl1 the regio nal chamber, citing concerns their

ranked third and Raleigh -

interests would be overlooked.

Durham fourth, if you ' re

At the inaugu ral meeting, the chamber named Wayne Patrick as businessperson of the year.

keeping score.) When it comes to high -tech business, Charlotte didn't fare so well. The article cites the case of Manhattan

Venture capital investments rose 150 percent in 1999 according

Associates, which originally decided to relocate to Charlotte only

ta a report by the National Venture Capital Association and the

to settle on Atlanta because of a bigger high-tech workforce.

Venture Economics division of Thomson Financial Securities Data.

According to figures from the American Electronics Association ,

In the Southeast, investments grew 155 percent, from $1.4 billion

Atlanta has 112,797 high-tech jobs to Charlotte's 27 ,462 . Of

in 1998 to $3. 7 billion in 1999.

course , they have to sit in twice as much traffic as we do.

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Random Musings ... What is it with the U.S. Department of Labor? Could they be any more 5tupid than to encourage businesses to inspect homes of workers who work from home? Talk about encroaching government practices. Secretary of Labor Alexis Herman was quick to reverse the actions of over zealous OSHA administrators who released a letter suggesting that business inspections of homes might be in order. Whether local, state or federal agencies like it or not, the growth of work fron home, as well as home-based businesses, is flourishing. What better way to reduce traffic congestion, improve air quality and enhance family inte路action than to increase opportunities for working from the home. With all the supporting technology, it's more feasible than ever.

North Carolina Gubernatorial Candidates: Hello Charlotte? Read through our candidates' campaign literature and you might wonder if they think Charlotte is in South Carolina. Sure, we're fortunate to have a booming business base and low unemployment, but we're having to rely ncreasingly on local solutions for projects that should be funded by the state. Metrolina area residents need to let the candidates know that we expect greater support for local K-12 schools and UNCC and a higher priority on improving our roads and transportation system. And while they're at it, how about more barbecue joints close to town.

City of Trees ... and Power After our winter's experience with snow, ice and freezing rain, maybe Duke Power and local citizens will work more aggressively to trim trees, shrubs and overgrowth that is likely to fall on power line5. While Duke employees labored night and day to restore power, some of the damage might have been avoided with more substantial tree trimming throughout the year.

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Thanks to deregulation and the region's continued growth, telecommunications companies are flooding the market with an unprecedented variety of services. One thing is certain. Ma Bell never looked like this.

I

fyou're a little bewildered by all the telecomraunlcatlons options available for your business, you're not alone. The telecom Industry Is experlenclng an unprecedented revolution In which the old rules of business no longer apply, and new services are announced everyday. Thanks to the Telecom Act of 1996, which deregulated the Industry and opened local areas to competition, a whole new breed of telecom carriers has arrived. They are using breakthrough technologies to deliver high speed Internet connections, wireless data, unified messaging, and lower cost telephone services. Ma Bell and her babies aren't sitting back either, as they continue to merge and form strategic partnerships.

service providers: one stop shopping Most telecom service providers

service this spring. (See pages 17 and 19

for a comparison of high-speed data tech-

in the greater Charlotte market offer

nologies.) They hope that t he local phone

a broad spectrum of services. While

company's history here will work against it.

companies are building sections of their own networks with fiber optics, coaxial

"In the past, most sm all to medium size businesses were treated like resi-

cable or good old fashioned copper wire,

dential customers," says Mike Rhoda,

most still purchase access from BellSouth

vice president and general manager

<bellsouth.com> and re-sell it. Traditional players AT&T <att.com> and BellSouth

for Alltel in Charlotte. "Now they have an option . Of course, we target large

may have the advantage of having been

corporations, but the bread and butter

in the market for decades, but they are

is the small to medium-sized business-

defending their turf from all angles.

person who has never had an acc ount

Little Rock, Ark. -based Alltel

Deregulation Is one reason for the telecom boom. Technical Innovation Is the other. Breakthroughs In voice, data

and paging, and expects to roll out ADSL

Rhoda acknowledges the challenges

<aUtel. com>

of entering a new market. "Even if

converged its

you've got over 50 years experience

three telecom

of being a local exchange provider, you

companies into

have to prove yourself because you

one business three

haven't provided that service locally. "

years ago. In the Mike Rhoda, Alltel

representative to rely on ."

Charlotte market,

Known throughout the Charlotte market primarily as a wireless service

and video technology are creating oppor-

the company offers local calling, long

provider, Alltel hopes to leverage its

tunities for companies to deliver all three services over one broadband line. The

distance service, wireless, Internet access

existing relationships into new business.

race Is on to determine who will serve that Information to businesses and households across the country.

types of carriers (see other telecom terms defined on page 19) Competitive Access Provider (CAP)

technology, which enables you to surf

Alternative carrier that competes with telephone compani es in carrying traffic . Usually these companies construct a SONET ring in an urban area to attract businesses to use their services in addition to or in place of the services of the local telephone company.

the Web and retrieve voice messages and

Competitive Local Exchange Carrier CLEC)

Then there Is the boom In wireless

e-malls from your cell phone or pager, and will within the next few years offer vldeoconferenclng as well. What this all means Is that you have a whole new set of telecom service options, and plenty of providers from which to choose.

12

march 2000

>

A category of telephone service provider (carrier) that offers services similar to the former monopoly local telephone company, as recently allowed by changes in telecomrr unications law and regulation. A CLEC may also provide other types of telecommunications services (long distance, etc.) .

Integrated Communications Provider (ICP) A telecommunications carrier that provides packaged or integrated services from among a broad range of categories, including local exchange service, long distance service, enhanced data service, cable TV service, and other communications services . source : lntermedia Communi cat ion s

greater charlotte biz


I

greater ch3rlctt-o biz

rrarcr 2 0 0

13


-

design the services,

minding your bits and bytes

install them, test lr

When assessing telecommunications or network speed claims, pay close attention to the unit measLre used . There's a big difference between a bit and a byte.

Bit: The smallest unit used to express digital Byte: A single cr.aracter,

them, and we'll 1:

information .

or a group of eight bits.

Kilobits per second (Kbps)

and maintain

1,000 bits per second. Dial-up modems can receive

give you the best

I

customer service

I

you've ever had." Williams adds

:

and send data at .Jp to 56 Kbp;.

that while US LEC

Megabits (Mbps)

isn't the cheapest option in each individ-

1,000,000 bits per second, generally used to express the speed of fast Internet cc nnections.

ual segment of the market, "if someone '

Kilobytes (KB)

1,000 bytes, generally used to express the size of small fi les. '

Megabytes (

) 1,000,000 bytes,

Wilbur William, US LEC

generally used to express the storage capacity

looks at bundling all of their local, long distance and data all across the same circuit, that's where our efficiencies

of digital compol"!ents. •

come into play." Raleigh-based BTl <btitele.com>

It is not alone in providing one-stop

US LEC positions itself as an outside

shopping with a single invoice for all of a

telecom department for small businesses.

company's telecom s:Orvices. Increasing

"If you're a small to mid-size company,

customer "share of W311et" is a common

you've typically got a guy who wears a

marketing strategy fo · the majorca ·riers.

hundred different hats," notes Wilbur

U.S. LEC <uslec com>, a Charlotte-

Williams,

S LEC's vice president of

is another exa mple of a company that offers small and medium-size businesses comprehensive telecom services. Its facilities-based fiber-optic network spans the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic

based competitive local exchange car·ier

sales for North Carolina. "He's the CEO,

and provides local, long distance,

also provides local Glling, long distan ce

the CFO, and the telecom department.

Internet access, paging, Frame Relay,

service, and recently launched Internet

What we bring to somebody like that is

high speed data transmission and data

access for its existi1g and new customers.

'let us be vour telecom partner.' We will

network management services.

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"With our own network, BTl can better meet the needs of our customers by offering our services at more competitive prices," said Mike Newkirk, BTl president and chief operating officer in an earlier press release. "Deploying our own long haul fiber is a key part of our strategic plan." The company recently signed on former tennis pro Jimmy Connors to help promote its new Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) service. NewSouth Communications

<newsouth.com> is a Greenville, S.C. based telecommunications company that just recently entered the Charlotte market. NewSouth targets medium to large businesses with local, longdistance, data and Internet connection services with T-1 connections throughout the Southeast.

''I've Got The Power!'' With Tegra, We're ltfore Producti11e. "We needed a phone system that allowed our customers direct dial access to their relationship managers but, at the same time, gave us the ability to transfer customers to others quickly without losing calls. 'Ne also wanted to be able to interrupt a call that is going to voice mail so that we can give the customer personal service. Tegra had the right system at a reasonable price. Tegra even pre-programmed al l of our phones and labeled the employees' names on their extensions before installing the phones. Nothing could have been easier."

The Charlotte office is the company's first in North Carolina. It has an office on Nations Ford Road and 1as installed a switch in downtown Charlotte. NewSouth plans to expand its services to Asheville and then to Greensboro which will serve both the Triad and the Triangle. Dave Peter is NewSouth's regional manager in Charlotte. Even though the company deals with larger companies,

www.tegra .com

he points out that smal. companies increasingly require the same kinds of services as larger companies. "Even in smaller to mid-size companies today, Internet access is not an option, it's a requirement. Doing dial-up Internet c:ccess does not suffice anymore. You really need direct connections, with 24 hour access and faster speeds." lntermedia Communications

<intermedia.com> has been providing service in North Carolina since 1996. The company also promotes its communications technologies and integrated voice and data solutions tailored to small and mid-sized business. The Tampa-based company offers end-toend service through a comprehensive portfolio of local, long-distance, highspeed data and Internet services. Time WamerTelecom <twtelecom.com> provides fiber-based broadband connections

telecom, conrinued on page 17. greater charlotte biz

march 2000

15


unified . messag1ng One of the more interesting applica tions that us es wired and wireless technologies is unified messaging, which comb ines e-mail, voice mail and faxes into a single system. Charlot:e-based Tegra Systems <tegra.com> has had success with its telephon路1 server, which resides as a Windows NT workstation client on a local NT network. "When I'm in the office and I' m in my Microsoft Outlook in-box, I see not only my e-mail, but a lso voice mail messages and fa x messages. If I click on an icon for voic :! mail, it plays it back to me through my PC," says company president Ar dy Din kin. Din kin adds that he can also save any voice mail message as a .wav file and e-mail it as an e-mail attachment. "Also, when I'm on the road and call in, I not only get my voice mail, I ca n a .so hear my e-mail messages. The S'{Stem converts the text message into speech, so I can reply to that message by speaking. It will send a reply back that says 'This message was replied to from a telephone, please click on the icon' and will play a .wav file back." Charlotte-based Glenayre <glenayre.corn> also uses Outlook with its two-way mobile pagers to combine me,;sages from voice mail systems, e-mail and fa x into a single voice mailbox that can be accessed from anywhere. The company re cently introduced Accesslink liS'", a wireless pa : kage that sends e-mails, calendar information, meeting reminders a nd task items to and from their Accessl nk II two-way pager. "Two-wc. y data messaging is still a nascent mc.rket," says Eric Doggett, president and CEO, who sees it as a complement to wireless phones. "This is the yea r it will really grow significantly. " Data messaging is available through Eric Doggett, 6lenayre BellSouth.

16

marc h 2000

wireless takes off Like landline-based teleco m services, the choices for wireless service are expanding. Som e service p roviders, such as BellSouth, AT&T, Al ltel, and Sprint o ffer both . Others, such as Vienna, Va.-based Teligent and San Diego-based Leap Wireless are taking an entirely different approach to wireless service.

converge and merge The convergence of vo ice and data in bo th wired and wireless tech no logies is creating alliances amo ng the majo r telecom players. "Converge and merge," says David Anderson, regio nal di recto r fo r corpo rate accounts and wireless d ata fo r Bedminster, N.J.-based Bell Atl antic Mobil e <bam.com>, wh ich is me rging with GTE. "We're merging mostly because we are interested in their wireless business. We' re also m erging wi th the U.S. portio n of Vodapho ne-Ain ouch, which wi ll make us, almost by the fo urth magnitude the largest wireless carri er in the U.S." MCI/Wo rl dCo m is merging with Kan sasCity-based Sprint <sprintpcs.com> fo r the sam e reaso ns. Both carri ers use digital techno logy, w hich is leading the way fo r the next big trend in wireless comm unicatio ns.

data: the next frontier About 10 millio n people cu rrently use wireless d ata tech no logy, according to the Ya nkee Group, an in fo rmatio n techno logy consulting firm in Bosto n. That fi gure is expected to grow to 204 milli o n users over the next fi ve years. New digital wireless pho nes have built-in modems and can receive data di rectly to the phone. Certain Web sites, led most notably by Yah oo ! are designed specifically fo r wireless phones and Palm Pilo ts. Newer wireless pho nes also have a built-in connecto r that hooks up to yo ur notebook computer so you can surf the Net just as if yo u were plugged into a regular modem . The downside is th at the speed of the modem is only 14.4 Kbps. That speed is expected to rise to 56 Kbps so metime later this year, as changes are made to the wireless data network software.

up on the roof Teligent <teligent.com> has a diffe rent spin o n wire less th at's causing people to take notice. Microsoft <microsoft.com> recentl y invested $200 milli o n in the Vienna, Va.-based company. The concept is called fixed wireless and it p rovides small to medium size co mpanies with services no rmall y associated with large co rporati ons. "We are a faciliti es- based carri er that carri es traffi c within the Charlotte area entirely o n o ur own wireless netwo rk," expl ains Ann Simpkins, vi ce president of sa les fo r Ch arl o tte a nd Ra leigh . Teligent provides servi ce by sending a digital mi crowave Ann Simpkins, Teligent signal between buildings. A small a ntenna abo ut the size of a p izza is installed o n the cl ient's roo ftop, and the network d elivers speed and q uali ty simil ar to that of a fibe r netwo rk. Teligent is targe ting small to m edium-size businesses. "Because we don't have to di g up the streets [to lay cable ], o ur cost of deployment is so much lower. We're bringing lower cost local servi ce, lo ng distance and Intern et at much higher speeds th an most small and medium could have imagined a few yea rs ago - u p to 30% less than they have been paying."

prepay wireless San Diego-based Lea p Wireless Intern atio nal, Inc. <leapwireless.com>, a spin -off o f Q ualcomm Inc., will soo n be offering wireless service in the Charl otte, Greensboro and Hickory m arkets. Whil e they will be marketing to consu me rs, their plan may have some appeal for small businesses well. Marketed do mestically as Cricket Communicatio ns, the co mpany will o ffer custo mers unlimited loca l calls for $29.95 a mo nth . Custo mers wo n't have to sign a contract and will pay at the begi nning of the month. Small er companies that d o n't call out of th e local ca lling area may fi nd the service an effective way to co ntro l wireless pho ne costs. As of press ti me, Lea p had no t announced a roll o ut schedul e. greater charlotte biz


telecom, continued from page 15. for data, Internet and voice in 21 U. S. metropolitan areas, inclJd ing Cha rlotte, Raleigh and Greensboro. The Littleton, Colo.-based company recently ann ounced an accelerated expansion that will serve new markets suc h as Fa·tetteville, N.C., Atlanta and Co lumbia, S.C. "Our success to date is the resu lt of building and deploying our extensive local and regional fibe r netwo rks all the

The word is out about Digital Choice: And the reception is overwhelming.

way to the end use r," sc; id Larissa Herda, Time Warner Telecom president and CEO in a press release.

''·'''fl·•:+·i'9'1·11911•119M With the most advanced digital network and our variety of services, it's clearly the best choice for your business.

network providers: the other side The telecom revolu:ion is providing opportunities for tele phone equipment

When It comes to your company's wireless se vice, DlgltaiCho lce

dealers and consultants. It's also giving

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h 111' ·iiii''·i *·'·d·i:+t.ii'JW

distance and Internet service from a

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following se vices with no additional monthly access: Fi r st minute of Incom ing home airt ime FREE· Voice Mall that calls you w ith new

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an opportunity to lower their telecommu nications costs," says Greg Aker, presiden t of lnfoVision <infov.com>, a Charlotte-

You can also choose fro m a variety of options to custom ize yo ur

based network systems integrator.

communications package as you need t hem. To find o ut more, call

lnfoVision was named to the

today to have one of our specialists perfor m a free on-site analysis of your company 's wireless needs.

North Caro lina Techno logy Fast 50 for the second consecutive year. This list

DigitaiChoice

is comprised of the 50 fastest growing tech nology compan ies in No rth Ca rol ina as determined by Delo itte & Touche.

Bell Atlantic Mobile. It's for you~

lnfovision does not sell telecom services, but partners with providers such as US

18883540213

LEC, lntermedia and Time Warner Te lecom.

Shop us online @ www.bam . com

Digital service not available in all areas . COMA phone req uired .

ln foVision will also soon be providing unified messaging services for

speed check

its clients (see "unified messaging" on facing page) . It's yet another sign that the

ADSL (Asymmetrical Digital Subscriber Line)

te lecom co nvergence is occurring sooner

A technology that enables data transm ission over existing copper wiring as h igh as 8 Mbps, while upstream data rates can reach 1 Mbps. Full y symmetri c data rates of up to 2.3 Mbps are also possible with DSL.

rather than later. What has yet to be decided is which companies- and which industries -will benefit the most in the lo ng run . What is almost certain is that small and medium-size business will now be ab le

Cable Modem A technol ogy that uses coaxial cable for data transm ission at up to 30 Mbps downstream and 1.5 Mbps upstream .

ISDN (Integrated Services Digital Network)

to operate with many of the same level

A wi dely-a va ilable high-bandw idth servi ce en abli ng digital communications at speed s of up to 128 Kbps w ithout comp ression over standard phone lines.

of data and telecom services as larger

T1

corporations at a reasonab le price.

A data service that describes a facility that transports analog or digital information at speeds up to 1.544 Mbps.

And that's good for everyone. greater charlotte biz

march 2 000

17


product watdt

Sprint PCS t o u chpoirrt Pho n e

Tumi Safecase Tumi's Safecase is geared to the frequent

This dLal b3nj pho1e :-:rr

business traveler. This briefcase includes a special suspension system that supports

Sprint doe:r: -nc.ke

:o ~~

o-

pick sto:~.s. :>Jt j .Jes ~sta : ou l

a notebook computer in two elastic neoprene

every11 -6 elsE. It f=a:L ~an

slings. The Safecase also has pockets for cables, mouse, battery pack, and computer

interr I oodem fJr ca :a/fa;: services anc

disks and boasts an accordion divider section to store business papers, files

bu.r;~er

su:pJr:fcr

lr: re t- t:a~ed in =·:wmal:iol services

r i" du jes a ;;. .rn: ring~: ­ r E aJ lity tc =crc•IUJ an:

and printouts. There are also zip pockets

opt c 1.

for a cell phone and other tools of

down il phc·re boo -:lab=l br dal:i! enhe': , .: calculctOf'clC tl"Ee ,5c:r ~

the trade. It is available in leather or Tru-Ballistic® nylon.

Handspring Visor The same core team that brought you the Palm Pi lot'M has launched Handspring. Their

Qualcom

first product, Visor,

pdQ smartphone

uses the Palm OS,

This phone =eature~ inl.ared : ed-n:::log-y tr~ : lets you

but also includes an

"'beam" :w:he!iS earth c;ddr=ss bJOk d3ta, a- c other application~

advanced date book,

to feii.Jv/ J:o} .=ma<Jnones Jr Pc.lm II I'M

calculator, and built-

organizers. 'lou ca 1 in:::>u: dat2 L~in& Grilffi li• powerwriting s:>ftlo.'3re . : he:! o-.s:reen t2~board, : r trr typing on your desktoc ccn::xute · keyba-d ;;nd ~yn:1rwnizing it to your pdQ :-rartphJ- e_ -,i~ p'J(Jle sbres names, ad<I=ss.es .

c Jj:oi ntrrerrts. and

~ousands

of

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lets you con- :!<:tto !?S cr y:ur ilC~t • eqJ"!n t \' d a led numbers.

18

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in floating point math support. They patented an external expansion slot : 1a ~ lets you add software and

hard~ ·e

modu les such as an MP3 P•<')'er,

::xger, rrodo:n, G=>.:. ·e:ei...e·

or video game module.

g r e a :.e r c 1 3 ·l c t t ~

J

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glossary of terms Fast Packet Services A bundled name for three highspeed data offerings- Frame Relay Service, Switched Multimegabit Data Service (SMDS) and FDDI Network Services.

Fiber Optics Communkations technology which uses thin filaments of glass or other transpare1t materials. Fiber optic technology offers extremely high transmission speeds, and in the future, will allow for ~ervices such as "video on demand ."

ISDN (Integrated Services Digital Network) ! i

i

I¡

A high-bandwidth serJice enabling digital communications at speeds of up to 128 Kbps over s:andard phone lines.

Whittman-Hart provides enterprise-wide

Local Access Transport Area

e-Business solutions for fast growing

(LATA) Also known as the Regional Calling Area, the area within which certair. calling features can be used, such as Caller ID.

.

and middle-market companies. We will help build the essential connections

PBX System (Private Branch Exchange) A computerized switc1ing system which provides management capabilities for internal phone systems.

between strategy, marketing and .

~

,,

.'

POP (Point of Presence)

e-Strategy, Engage your customers,

A physical location within a local access and transport area (LA"A) where an inter-exchange carrier's circuits connect with the l"nes of the lo:al telephone company serving the LATA.

Empower your employees and Extend your enterprise.

POTS (Plain Old Telephone Service) The name used by the telephone industry to describe sirr~ple analog, dial-up voice-grade tel;!phone service.

technology so you can Envision your

:,

To learn more, call 800.426.7767 or visit us on the Web at: www.whittman-hart.com.

PRJ (Primary Rate Interface) A term used to descri::>e an ISDN circuit. A PRI usually operates at a speed of 1.544 Mbps in the U.S.

' :

I

i iâ&#x20AC;˘

Router An intelli9ent device near the edge of the network that forms data packets and selects the most expedient route for data to travel.

TCP/IP (Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol)

whittman-hart

@

A packet!based communication protocol that is the b3sis for the Internet.

~ reater

charlotte biz

march 200 0

19


- -

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[biz profile]

the business of education The LearningStation.com is harnessing the power of thin-client computing and Internet-based learning to revolutionize the classroom. For

the

past

three

years,

The

LearningStation.com

<www.learningstation.com> has been developing one of the nation's leading educational suscription-based networks. Now the company is looking to expand its reach. If it's successful, LearningStation

could

revolutionize

K-12

education

throughout the country. All it has to do is convince educators to buy into a bold new concept of Internet-based learning. jim Pennington, a business strategist from northern California, launched LearningStation in Charlotte three years ago. With the help of local entrepreneurs Craig Larsen and Jim Kirchner, he is uying to change the way educators think about technology in the classroom . The company is an Application Service Provider (ASP) that provides schools with access, by rental or subscription, to educational applications and content via the Internet. LearningStation has aligned itself with leading educational software makers, signing distribution deals with companies like The Learning Company, Saratoga Group and SkillsBank. Pennington decided early on that traditional attempts to market Internet-based educational content were doomed to failure because they threatened traditional teaching techniques. So in addition to bundling curriculum software, LearningStation provides software tools that help teachers focus more on teaching and less on administrating. By getting teachers on board with the program, LearningStation is an easier sell to usually skeptical educators. In addition to potential resistance from teachers, LearningStatio n also faced some difficult technical challenges. While over half of U.S. schools are now wired to the Internet, most of those connections are slow and the computers are ancient by tod.ay's standards. As they did with content providers, LearningStation developed several key strategic partnerships with technology companies. Combining technologies from Microsoft and thin-client network specialist Citrix with proprietary software and an administrative program called Dream Writer I.T., LearningStation is able to deliver educational

20

march 2000

software applications to any desktop over virtually any connection, including a 28.8 Kbs dial-up modem. Although it's not the only network of its kind, it was first to market the concept that grants new life to obsolete hardware. "One of the biggest benefits of this program is its ability to make use of the school's existing resources- outdated or older computing equipment of any model -and to relieve the school systems of the

burden of managing and maintaining their network hardware and software," says Pennington. "It creates greater efficiencies for the entire school district because software and servers are centralized and are maintained and upgraded by experts in the field. It's quite cost-effective." In 1998, the Charlotte Chamber Information Technologies Council recognized LearningStation with the Blue Diamond Award for Innovative Use ofTechnology-Based Product or Service. One key company LearningStation partnered with early on was Computer Network Power, another Charlotte-based technology company founded in 1996 by North Carolina natives Craig Larsen and Jim Kirchner. Computer Network Power is a fast-growing network integration company that specializes in thin-client server computing. With revenues going from $650,000 in 1996 to $3.5 million in 1998, it serves about 125 clients, including Dale Earnhardt, Inc., Sound Choice and The Scottish Bank. Both men had worked together previously at what is now Osprey, a ~

.=

~ ~~~~~~~~~ 路

Slation.com

Charlotte-based enterprise resource planning provider, Larsen as controller and Kirchner as a sales and marketing representative. Together, the three men saw an opportunity to leverage Computer Network Power's strength in integrated thin-client solutions with LearningStation's growing success as a provider >--

greater charlotte biz


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greater :ha · .otte biz

(1 10

r) Ji-n K.irchn~. preside -:; Jim Penni1gton, ch -=-f of movati•Jn; C·aig Lcr.=en, CEO. march 2 CJO

21


-"Our vision is to transform the

The Program

LearningStation currently serves about anyplace for anyone." 19 public and private school systems, including Craig Larsen, CEO, The LearningStation.com Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools, Mecklenburg Area of global, online educational materials. The result was a December 1999 merger Catholic schools, and school districts in Lexington (N.C.) , Houston (Texas), of the two companies, which retains the Miami-Dade (Fla.), Newark (Calif.), name The LeamingStation.com and combines the two staffs. and the New York City school system. The beauty of LearningStation's "Our vision is to transform the possibilities for learning anytime, anyplace service is that it provides a realistic and for anyone- and with this merger we cost-effective way to leverage the Internet have the tools to achieve it, " said Larsen to deliver educational resources seamlessly to teachers, students, parents in announcing the merger. "From Computer Network Power's standpoint, and administrators. Subscribing to the merger helps take us from a LearningStation enables schools to run modern sofrware applications on regional integrator and puts us in The LearningStation .com's global new, used and even obsolete machines. The concept of a thin-client netenvironment Also, it gives work, which has gained some acceptLearningStation in-house capacity ance in the corporate world, is ideally to maintain research and develop suited for the educational market. the appropriate infrastructure to support Unlike a conventional network, which a large number of clients globally." often requires sofrware applications to The company now focuses its resources exC:usively on the interactive be loaded onto every computer, a thin educational market. As a result of the client network serves programs from a local or remote server. In the case merger, Craig Larsen is the chairman of the new entity and is responsible for of LeamingStation.com, all the client financials. jim Kirchner is the president computers require is a browser such and heads up operations and the comas NetScape Navigator. pany's sales and marketing efforts. jim The potential implications of this metl1od of delivering content are huge. Pennington is chief of innovation. The merged company boasts a staff LearningStation can transform older of 45 employees, who work from offices PCs (386 and 486 processors) and on the 1-85 Service Road, just off of the Macintoshes into machines as effective Sugar Creek Road exit in north Charlotte. as computers with the latest high-end LearningStation has ambitious growth Pentium or PowerPC chips for the K-12 educational market. Additionally, it can plans for 2000, and hopes to have 100 provide fairly inexpensive and virtually employees by the end of this year.

possibilities for learning anytime,

maintenance-free thin-client computers for its applications. Because it provides the applications from its own server, LearningStation eliminates the problems associated with cross-platform and outdated sofrware. "Schools are extremely excited to hear that they can get out of the hardware/software management business, and focus on using sofrware to teach and guide," reports Craig Larsen, LearningStation's CEO." And the fact that they can make good use of their installed base of cross-pia-form computers makes technology equally accessible to more students and teachers anyp lace at anytime." The company has developed partnerships with Time Warner Telecom and MCNC, which house and maintain remote server clusters in Charlotte and Research Triangle Park, respectively. This allows entire school systems to access the most modern sofrware applications. Given the beleaguering fiscal constraints of the nation's school systems, the increased focus on learning proficiency and the goal of providing equal access to a quality education for both affluent and disadvantaged students, LearningStation could not be better positioned in the marketplace. As an ASP, it enables educators to rent a broad variety of today's educational sofrware while reducing their capital outlay for new equipment. At the same time, it delivers a high-performance method of deploying, managing and accessing business-critical applications throughout the enterprise while safeguarding application performance, data security and administrative control. If they can convince educators to buy into the concept, LearningStation will also be able to capitalize on the ongoing wiring of school systems

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www.montagmanagemenr.com

22

march 2000

across the country. Nationwide, schools average one computer for every six students. According to Jupiter Communications, 11.4 million children, ages two to 12, are currently online, and that figure is projected to more than double to 24.3 million by 2003.

greater charlotte biz


The Interactive Education Market A primary goal o:'" the current educational standards movement is to rectify unequal learning opportunities. A major watershed in this moyement was the creation of the federal governmentinitiated objective, Goals 2000, in 1994. Goals 2000 established a clear expectation that all students would be held to challenging academic standards and that lower expectations for poor or disadvantaged children would not be tolerated. The U.S. Department of Education has stated a goal of having every public school wired by the year 2000, and, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, expects to meet that goal by year end. Teachers and administrators are faced with increased accountability for student performance and parents are trying to take more resp : :msibility. Despite computer technology present in over 70% of U.S. schools, educators continue to rely on multiple sources for preparing lessons, measuring performance and

Station.com~ The ASP Solution

resources, administrators can obtain attendance and grades, and parents can receive messages and progress reports. In addition, teachers are able to tailor instruction to individual needs. Networks and computers have

"'Statistics show that up to 55% of our school systems' desktop computers are incompatible with current software. It's easy to see that the problem of staying current will eventually catch up with any school district." Jim Pennington, Chief of Innovation, The LearningStation.com reporting results - limiting their valuable time to help students reach newly expected academic achievement. By subscribing to an interactive educational ASP, the schools would have one convenient place for teachers, administrators and students to access instructional management tools, educational resources and student data, thereby focusing more attention into the classroom and making the instructional process more efficient. With the benefit of an ASP, the classroom becomes the focal point from which teachers can create lessons and post assignments, students are ab le to retrieve assignments and utilize digital

greater charlotte biz

transformed the business world in ways that no one could have imagined a few decades ago. While computers have been used in educational administrative offices and some classrooms over the past decade, they have not yet been fully integrated into the learning process. Lack of funding, technical complexity, and ever-changing software applications have all contributed to slow the enterprise-wide adoption of technology in education. However, social and politi cal forces are finally aligned in producing an educational environment where technology is funded and embraced. Instructional technology expenditures are predicted to grow from $5.2 billion

in 1997-1998 to $8.8 billion in 2001-20. Some of the largest growth areas within this market include telecommunication services, personal computers and educational software, according to Technology & Learning's "Technology Expenditures Overview".

More Bang for the Buck Access to the LearningStation network allows schools to focus on the business of education and not the management of technology. Educators have access to vast resources of pertinent information, helping them to integrate technology and teach a better curriculum in a fraction of the time. LearningStation offers ways to lower both long-term desktop management costs, as well as short-term capital outlay. Their technology allows schools to use existing equipment to access the latest releases of software and educational resources. Using this cost-effective alternative, more students have access to modern software applications, improving the student-to-computer ratio substantially. "Statistics show that up to 55% of our school systems' desktop computers are incompatible with current software. It's easy to see that the problem of staying current will eventually catch up with

march 2000

>-

23


any school district," points out jim Pennington. "And that's where this program will help. " LearningStation levels the playing field and ensures a computer savvy generation of learners. Shirley S. Fahringer, Director of Technology at the Gaston Day School, concurs. "Through the use of LearningStation, we can now use a variety of age appropriate and diagnostic software for a fraction of the cost of purchasing and maintaining it ourselves. In addition to this cost savings, the Citrix platform used by LearningStation allows subscribers to use what is considered antiquated computer equipment (386 and 486 processors) at the same Pentium processor speed of the server bank at LearningStation."

save 54% to 57% of system admin stration costs over a period of five years with a thin-client computing apprcoach. Using the services of an ASP further reduces costs by eliminating software upgrades and inefficient purchasing volumes.

Learning Anytime, Anyplace Since applications and data are

sto ~ed

on the ASP's server, access is available to students and faculty from any com;>uter at any location and at anytime via an Internet connection. The desktop appearance is always consistent.

Reliability and Ease of Use

Simplified, Centralized Management Skilled network administrators manage LearningStation's servers, lifting this responsibility from educators. Updates and additions are made 0:1e time- at the server - and are immediately available to all users.

Security Vital data and applications may be kept on LearningStation's servers creating a higher level of security. Sensitive applications and data are made available to authorized users only via password protection. Data is effectively secured and backed-up centrally.

ASPs allow teachers and students to spend more time working on technology projects - such as accessing informa-

The Benefits of Using an ASP

tion on the Internet and using educa-

Sd1ools can benefit from using an ASP such as LearningStation, particularly as follows:

tional software - rather than spending

Lower Cost of Technology

suit each individual workstation .

Zona Resea rch, a technology research firm, estimates that organizations can

applications and data.

class time fixing and upgrading PCs or adjusting software programs to Users simply log on and access their

Interactive Competition According to The Heller Report (August 1999), iMind Education Systems, Inc. (iMind) <www.imind.com> is LearningStation's first competitor in the business of providing access to a library of educational software over the Internet. iMind was founded in 1998 and is headquartered in Mill Valley, Calif. ]ames Ransdall, vice president of business development for LearningStation, points o t that, while the business of distributing curriculum via the Web is the same, LearningStation integrates hardware as part of its solution, much like the cell phone industry does. Both use Citrix to deliver cost saving solutions to schools; iMind houses servers at schools, LearningStation maintains servers at server farms (or at schools if requested). Both LearningStation and iMind are partnered with MediaSeek for aligning standards and softwar , and both are charter members of Sun's SchooiTone alliance. Both also have the credibility of carrying software from The Learning Company. Though LearningStation was first to market, iMind

~o uld

have

an edge with its tutoring products. LearningStation, however, is further down the road of signing up additional publishers; as it broadens its partnering program, it could take the lead, as evidenced by its more than 1400 software titles currently being offered.

24

march 2000

greater charlotte biz


A more recent Internet education startup is Bigchalk.com <www.bigchalk.com>, formed in January of this year from the combination of the online research services of Bell & Howell Company and Infonautics, Inc. Bigcha:k.com, headquartered in New York, plans to build upon its predecessors services' position in 40,000 schools to provide Internetbased learning tools that support the entire K-12 community. The company recently acquired MediaSeek Technologies, Inc., a leading provider of Internet tools. Although it will have "advertising-free zones", revenues from advertising and sponsorships will enable bigchalk.com to provide services free of charge to local school communities. Whether or not communities will accept such corporate-sponsored material in their schools remains to be seen.

Education Program. Because tre proÂŁrams are standardized and made availc: ble online, students and teacters will have greater control over their :~cademic progress and professional devdopment. John Lassiter, vice chairmm of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Sd1ool Board, considers LearningStation "a great concept, a technical product tl1at f_lls the cost gap." He notes that otl1er .ess afflu(nt rommunities have partnered with corporate interests to bridge the technology gap, leading to commercialization of the learning environment.

He's impressed that LearningStation mHes use of otherwise outdated 386/486 computers, and that students, par?nts and teachers can access the systerr. at all times from all places. Together, he sees the potential for LeamingStation to level the playing field for every student regardless of socio-economic position, but emphasizes the neEd for learning in the community about this approach and its impact on the education of children.

Impact of LearningStation in Charlotte Schools While SAT scores have steadily increased over the last few years in North Carolina, the state's ranking in student performance hasn't changed from 48th out of 50 since 1991. This ranking can be adjusted and even explained by some factors, but the magnitude of the deficiency indicates an immediate need for the delivery of better educational services. LearningStation, along with some of its strategic partners, are coming together to provide North Carolina's K-12 schools and teachers access to innovative online education software. LearningStation's next-generation learn ing programs initially will be available to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school system and to school systems in the western and central patts of North Carolina, and ultimately on a national basis. More than 300 connections, reaching an average of 12 students per connection, will be activated in the pilot phase of the program. Some of the first online programs include a student progress management system as well as self-directed teacher assessment and training tools. The packages conform to the State Department of Education's Total Qualiry

greater charlotte biz

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[biz profile I

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Countin~ on Succc55

BY NETHEA FORTNEY RHINEHARDT

VICKI WILSON-MCELREATH BECAME THE HIGHEST-RANKING FEMALE IN THE CAROLINAS' BIG

FIVE PROFESSIONAL SERVICES FIRMS THE OLD FASHIONED WAY.

icki Wilson-McElreath didn't plan to be an accountant. Working full-time during the day to pay for evening classes at Georgia State, she dabbled in everything from literature to criminology. At one point, she even considered being an architect. "My goals weren't so much along what kind of career I wanted. I just wanted to do something that I felt proud of, something that was honorable. Finally, someone said, 'You should be a CPA:" Wil so n-McElreath had found her calling. For ten years she persevered in a long, yet steady course toward her undergraduate degree. Her commitment to personal betterment reaped rewards when she graduated summa cum laude with a stellar 4.0 GPA. It was only a matter of time before Wilson-McElreath would scale the heights of the accounting profession. So no one was surprised when PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP <www.pwcglobal.com> named Wilson-McElreath as Office Managing Partner of the Carolinas Offices last fall. It was a natural progression for Wilson-McElreath, who is the now highest-ranking female executive among the Carolinas' Big Five professional services firms. With a presence in 150 countries

"I Wo5 olot older than my peer ~roup. IWo5 divorced, and Iowned ohou5e.By and lor~e. IWo5 o~it of on oddity." and territories, 155,000-plus employees, and $15.3 billion in revenues, PricewaterhouseCoopers is the world's largest of the Big Five firms. Wilson-McElreath joins a hallowed group of only five women nationally in this position at the firm. As Office Managing Partner, Wilson-McElreath is responsible for representing the firm in the Carolinas marketplace across all lines of service and industry groups. In addition to client work for Bank of America, she is charged with managing 1,000-plus employees- no easy feat. Wilson-McElreath's ascent up the corporate ladder into high-risk, high-stakes accounting is a remarkable testament to her intellect and steely determination. Growing up in a family of modest means, she wasn't exposed to many career opportunities in her native Orlando, Fla. "My parents weren't business people or intellectuals - they just made do." But early on, her sense of integrity and strong values-based work ethic propelled

26

march 2000

SHE EARNED IT.

her through an early failed marriage and a grueling series of jobs to pay the bills. The odyssey to her top post began in earnest when she entered college as a part-time, evening student in 1969. "I was always working full-time, then I started taking classes at night, " she remembers. "I couldn't afford to go to school full -time." Biding her time until her 1979 graduation, WilsonMcElreath embarked upon a colorful job history. She goodnaturedly recalls a clerical job for the Florida Department of Agriculture. "I learned way too much about fruits and vegetables and the dairy industry." But her stint as a secretary for the city engineering office in suburban Atlanta best highlights her can-do attitude. "My boss no more needed a secretary than I did, so I started watching the draftsman - they drafted drawings for bridges and roads. Soon, I learned the skills, passed a test, and was a draftsman for a few years." tudying at night and on weekends, Wilson-McElreath later took a job in an Atlanta art gallery. Not only did she learn about art, she expanded her thinking, "I learned a lot about people and diversity. It was good to be around people who think differently than I do. " Still, her ten-year struggle to complete her undergraduate degree was not without a personal cost. Higher education was increasingly expensive and Wilson-McElreath took short breaks to gather the funds to continue. "There were honestly times when I thought I couldn't do it anymore. But I just felt that if I didn't finish, I wouldn't get settled into what I wanted to do. " Her ambition and drive pushed her forward to excel in every class, earning only A's. Although college naysayers proclaimed her "too old" to apply for jobs at top accounting firms, Wilson-McElreath received offers everywhere she applied. "I was a lot older than my peer group. I was divorced, and I owned a house. By and large, I was a bit of an oddity." Accepting an auditor position in Charlotte with then PriceWaterhouse (the company merged with Coopers & Lybrand in 1998), she found the road to advancement to her liking. "In this business, if you do a good job, you can advance. I was always attracted to the idea of partnership, and I knew that if I could compete, I'd move up. " Wilson-McElreath excelled in her fiduciary responsibilities. Finding the accounting profession anything but boring, she worked toward the goal of partnership. Eleven years after signing on with the firm, she made partner in 1990.

S

greater charlotte biz


lways seeking the next challenge, Wilson-McElreath jumped at the chance to relocate to Washington, DC. There, she assisted the World Bank and The International Monetary Fund in establishing accounting standards in developing countries. International experience is crucial for would-be executives in an era when clients are far-flung international companies, but Wilson-McElreath is more reflective on he: posts in Bangladesh, the Philippines, Bulgaria, and Kaza kstan . "To me, it's just as important to get broad exposure. You've got to be able to think outside of your own little world. I think the worst thing you can do is not think beyond where you live and work." Returning to Charlotte in 1998, Wilson-McElreath was - ppointed Office Managing Partner in 1999. Though her career is studded with tangible resume builders, she epitomizes the more elusive hallmarks of leadership -vision and foresight. Nicholas G. Moore, Chairman and Senior Partner of PricewaterhouseCoopers, boasts, "Vicki is an outstanding example of the women who are leading PricewaterhouseCoopers into the next century. Her combination of experience, service orientation, mentoring capabilities and commitment to volunteer activities enhances our ability to serve the business community of the Carolinas." Wilson-McElreath is more modest. "I try to bring balance to work. You have

A

"You've ~ot to ~e a~le to think outside of your own little world_ I think the womt thin~ you can do is not think ~eyond where you live and work." to be passionate about core values, about things that involve life or death. But yo u have to add a balanced perspective with things that have to do with business. "

greater charlotte biz

P OTO: W.U"'N E '.,JR:JJS:

narch 2CCJ

27


[biz profile] As Office Managing Partner, Wilson-McElreath still spends more than half her time working with dients. However, her management focus extends beyond banking into achieving synergies among the 50-plus partners and 1000-plus employees in her keep. She is committed to fashioning the best work environment in the merged firm. A part of that commitment is exemplified in her dedication to the firm's mentoring programs. PricewaterhouseCoopers realizes their staff and policies must reflect their diem base, and the firm has made serious attempts to foster an inclusive and supportive workplace. Wilson-McElreath is spearheading that effort in the Carolinas practice. She is an active participant in the recruitment and retention of employees - especially women and minorities. "We work to make sure we have a process to keep people from slipping through the cracks. The idea of helping people advance and do well is very important." Wilson-McEireath names her husband, jerry, as her most ardent supporter. Recently retired, he hasn't missed a beat throughout nis wife's hectic schedule and overseas assignments. Despite her career success, Wilson-McElreath admits that the road to partnership may not be for everyone. "! try not to forget how h ard people work. We [the firm] are trying to get people to understand that you don't have to be a machine to be in this business. You need your family, your personallife. r If she had to do it all over again, she'd choose exactly the same path -except she'd take more time to savor her accomplishments.

"We ...arc tryin~ to ~et people to understand t~at you don't ~ifVe to be amac~ine to be in t~i5 business."

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With he bus ne-s3 a o:L o ~.- r.c leadeGt:i :;:> fo: us, WilsonMcElreath 'v"'U. c ::>e an ide :;! -::::1trep· er.eu r ~-u t si-e isn't so sure striki r.g ::J ut e n }-_~ o·.-.'Tl v.o uld be oo::r-e :evadi ng than her current . :~ b . ' You =y e ~;our d .ents y::·u:- · ui:1ess, your responsib i ~ to cri¥e ~ p -:li ce. Yc • are "Ceriog a service personally. '~>'e a"7e a bt :>f c trol m th:i · l:::usimss and I am extrerr.ely cb<~ll o2' nt;ed ·A ~ tl- "Vbct !'rr. d c iog l"-5-hT now." Nethea Fortrf'y Ph.r.E.il'::'tr:!t i,; a

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[communitybiz]

Coaching a Winner Mike lube/ has developed the perfect formula for getting the most from his employees. Even those who were most recently on welfare. For the past four years, Mike Zubel has volunteered as a coach for the SOAR program at Christ Covenant Church in Matthews. It's a sports outreach program for children ages 6 to 13 that stresses encouragement, not competition. "It's a good program for the kids to grow, develop and learn their skills," says Zubel. "When I was growing up and playing Little League, the emphasis was on winning. Here, it's on being an individual, learning and appreciating the game, and on fellowship and friendship." Despite being named to SOAR's coaching hall of fame, Zubel also keeps a day job. As Assistant General Manager Operations for The Park, Bissell's top-rated SouthPark hotel, he is responsible for all supervisory and administrative duties. And just as he encourages his players on the sports field, he has developed a knack for getting the most from his team at the office. Some of Zubel's best employees have emerged from the county's "welfare work force." The Park, through Zubel, is one of many companies on the front lines of one of the more successful public-private partnerships in the country. Thanks to the creative efforts of the Mecklenburg County Department of Social Services and the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce, Charlotte's Work First program has become a national role model for moving people from welfare to the workforce. Since launching the program in july 1996, the innovative program has reduced county welfare rolls by a hefty 62 percent, with over 1,800 businesses participating. Much of the credit for the success of the program goes to Richard W. (Jake) Jacobsen, Jr., director of social services for the county, and his staff. The Department of Social Services (DSS)

30

mare1 2000

is the largest department in the county, spending 18% of the county's budget and employing 1,110 people, or one out of every four county employees. With a total department budget of nearly $450 million, jacobsen has used innovative management techniques to transform the Economic Services Division of Work First into a results-driven operation that is now part social services and part employment agency. Work First participants are predominantly young, single women with children. By law, within 12 weeks of receiving cash assistance, they have to get a job -

paid or unpaid - or

be in short-term training for at least 30 hours a week. In addition, they must sign a personal responsibility contract which details plans for getting off welfare before any benefits are pa id.

~FIRS I

\N'ELFARE TO \N'ORKFORCE

In a market with unemployment rates hovering around 2%, Work First individuals are of course an attractive hiring option. In reality, hiring a Work First candidate makes sense in any labor market "There is a constant need for la bor," says The Park's Mike Zubel. "You have to look at all avenues to find quality help to make your business a success Work First opened up an avenue over three years ago, and we've had great success with it ever since." Zubel is the Work First chairman for the Charlotte Chamber and serves on the WorkForce Development and Education Council for the chamber. In january, he was named Business Leader of the Year by the Governor's Work First Business Council for his contributions to Work First as an employer and as a volunteer. His first Work First hire, Ella Currence, is an eloquent spokesperson for the program. Currence had quit a job to help her sister care for their mother, who was suffering fro m cancer. When her mother passed away, Currence became extremely depressed. For the next seven years, she looked forward mostly to the first of the month, when her welfare check arrived in the mail. Getting a job through Work First has helped her better provide for her four children, and it has also helped restore her sense of pride. "When I started here in 1996, I was just depending on AFDC checks and living from one month to

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"Work First individuals are looking for a fresh start. Sometime throughout our lives, we're going to have challenges to face, and look to start over and move in a new direction. It's no different for Work First employees. They're just looking for an opportunity. " -

Mike Zubel, The Park

Currence's circumstances are common to Work First traditionally one of my biggest areas for bus passes," says participants. They often face challenges in handling Zubel. "Since we started providing bus passes, turnover there transportation and child care, but perhaps the biggest has dropped 26%. That's unheard of in a hotel." Zubel figures challenge is dealing with the daunting changes in their lives. the monthly costs of providing bus passes and meals adds "It takes time to get people in the Work First program about $160 a month to an employee's take-home pay. "So yes, ready for employment," says jake Jacobsen. In addition to job there is a cost. But again, what is your advertising cost, what is skills training, "we also have to provide a crash course in life your cost of training an employee, what is your retention cost? skills - basic things like how to dress appropriately, how to I don't think there's one employer out there who wouldn't say, answer the phone properly, and how to communicate." He 'I'd rather have the initial cost of getting employees on board, adds that building their self-esteem is crucial: "The harsh reality knowing I can retain them, than constantly turning them over: " is that ma ny of these women have failed at most everything "In addition to fear of failu re, another challenge is that they've tried." The key to a Work First candidate's success in candidates have a hard time understanding that the jobs the workplace is to give them the skills that will make them availab le for them right off the bat are entry level positions successful within the organization they join. that are low-paying," says Zubel. "The way to convince them "You have to realize Work First individuals are looking for and sell a Work First candidate is to say, 'Look at this job as an a fresh start," explains Zubel. "Sometime throughout our lives, opportunity, a stepping-stone to your next job. A better paying we're going to have some job will be here if you challenges to face, and we're come in like anybody else looking to start over and and perform: " \N'ELFARE TO \N'ORKFORCE move in a new direction. The success of the Each participant in Work First receives job training. While each offers It's no different for Work program has meant that different skill levels and experience, examples of areas where they may First emp loyees. They're just be placed include: the numbers of applicants looking for an opportunity. panicipating in the Clerical/Administrative Data Entry "I wish I cou ld fill all Work First job Finders Medicai/CNAs Early Childhood Development my positions with Work Day who are work-ready, Manufacturing Food Service/Hospitality First candidates. As an have dwindled. "The Companies may qualified for targeted tax credits in their business. The employer, you have to Department o: Social best place to start is at Job Finders Days, which are held once a month spend the time to get the Services is preparing at the Wallace H. Kuralt Center in downtown Charlotte. employees comfonab le people for work. But For more information about Work First, contact Kit Cramer, Group Vice with your company. And more im portantly, they're President of Education for the Charlotte Chamber at 704.378 .1 301 . to make them comfonable, finding them work, and you have to train them; you have to build their self-esteem . they're retaining them," notes Zubel. But more importantly, you have to build up trust in the rela"The department is becoming a victim of its own success. tionship. If you communicate dearly, you can eliminate a lot But as a business operator, you owe it to yourself to have the of the potential barriers you might face during the training best available person working for you. Work First is a recruiting period." Zubel makes sure that only the depa11ment head tool that costs two to three hours of your time one day a and human resources know an employee came from Work month. All you have to do is sign up. " First. That way, they get treated just as any other employee. As for Ella Currence, she has a bit of advice fo r prospective Zubel says the rewards of hiring Work First employees employers. "You know, money is good to have, but respect is far outweigh tl1e costs. The Park, for example, offers all its more impoltant. If you respect the person for who they are and employees flexible schedu ling, two types of medical coverage, treat them like they are somebody, then you will keep them ." two dental plans, 401 (k) options, generous vacation and sick Inspired by her newfound self-esteem, Currence is working time policies and free meals and uniforms. They will also pay on getting a book of her poems published. It's a dream of hers for a monthly bus pass. that once faded, but now burns brightly. "As with any project, there are stan-up costs that yo u have And as for Mike Zubel, he says he has been surprised and to weigh against your long-term return. Housekeeping, for pleased by his recent notoriety, "''ve always looked at myself example, is one of my biggest ongoing labor needs. It's also as a singles hitter, not a home-run hitter. "

~RRST

32

marc h 2000

greater charlotte biz


Special Thanks, continued from page 4.

Anne Simpkins, Teligent for leads and challenges to earn their

Wes Sturges, First Commerce Bank for insights into Charlotte

business Katie Wireman and Andrea Fisher, Queens College McColl School of Business, MBA programs expanding human potential Kati Everett, Presbyterian Hospital for openness and insight on health care for businesses Jim Riggins, Technocom for another network of contacts and for Ric Flair Steve Brooks, Bissell Companies for great story ideas and clues to Charlotte's exciting future Dave Adams, United Mailing for an outstanding circulation database

banking Bradley Thompson, Bob Beggs, and Garrett Hogan, South Trust Bank - for perspective

0::1

Charlotte's regional influence

Jim Bolt, First Trust Bank for a realistic picture of competition

among area banks Pat Pollack, Metrolina Entrepreneurs Council for organizationa l talent and expertise Kip Cozart, CC Communications for great writing and focus Mark Schaffner, Ben Craig Center for questions and comments

on how to succeed George McAllister, SBTDC for small business connections and networks Jim Richardson and Bob Gulledge, Wachovia Bank for creative thinking and aggressive bank marketing Ellison Clary and Grant O'Neal, Bank of America input and guidance Parra Vaughn, Jay Everette, Gigi Dixon, First Union branding and marketing guidance Stuart Meyerson, Mann Staffing for giving us an up-close look at YEO jack Claiborne, Claude LiUy and Harry Leamy, UNCC for educational support to economic growth Randy Wheelus and Patrick Payne, Duke Energy and Duke Power perspective on power re-regulation in years to come

Many, many others were also helpful. We will continue to recognize contributors as this magazine evolves. Input and feedback are critical to making Greater Charlotte Biz more and more valuable to our readership. Please do not hesitate to contact us with your story ideas, comments and criticisms. We want to learn more about you, your company, your products and services. You may contaa me by e-mail at jgalles@greatercharlottebiz.com, by fax at 704-676-5853 or by phone at 704-6765850 extension 102. I look forward to hearing from you soon. John Paul Galles Publisher jgalles@greatercharlottebiz.com

The your company's name here Golf Oufing At Ballantyne Resort I t's the meeting event your company and customers are SURE TO AITEND. Let us arrange your own golf tournament and golf clinic ... as part of a comprehensive conference or a fantastic team-building outing at Ballantyne Resort. Learn from the Best... The Dana Rader Golf School. By conducting golf clinics for novice golfers while the experienced players play the tournament, Ballantyne Resort meets the challenge of how to make everyone comfortable at a golf outing. It is our goal to make each golf program enjoyable and memorable for

every person involved. Along with the area's most spectacular golf, Ballantyne Resort is a full-service facility offering meeting space, planning for your event, full catering, breakfast, lunch, dinner, beverages and snacks to fit your group's needs. We'll even arrange accommodations at the Courtyard by Marriott, \vithin walking distance. Call today to see how easy it is to have a customized seamless outing for your group that reflects your vision of a successful and fun event. Ballantyne Resort. .. "Charlotte's Total Golf Experience." Call 704-341-GOLF.

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Dana Rader Golf School Phone: 704-542-7635 Fax: 704-542-7424 ballantyneresort. com

march 2000

33


Greater Charlotte Biz thanks its advertisers. To join these forward thinking organizations, please contact us at 704.676.5850. Page

Advertiser

Advertiser

Page

Ballantyne Resort 704.341.4653 www.ballantyneresort.com

33

First Commerce Bank 704.945.6565 www.firstcommercebank.com

Bell Atlantic Mobile 1.888.354.0213 www.bam.com

17

Gaston College 704.922.6200 www.gaston.cc. nc. us

BTl 1.800.205.7388 www.btitele.com

Inside Front Cover

Business Control Systems 704.333.7794 www.bcsmis.ccm

24

Craftsman Printing 704.588.2120 www.wa llace.com

7

Crescent Resources, Inc. 704.382 .8009 www.crescent-resources.com

Back Cover

First Citizens Bank 888.323.4732 www.firstcitizens.com

8

11

6

Advertiser

Page

Smoky's Grill 704.364.1346

18

Sterrett Dymond Stewart 704.372.2707 www.sterrettdymondstewart.com

28

Hood Hargett & Associates, Inc. 704.374.1863 www.hoodhargett.com

14

System 5/0racle 800.633 .0752 www.oracle.com

McColl School of Business 704.337.2224 www.mccollschool.edu

10

TechnoCom 704.847.5200 www.technocomnc.com

Montag Management Corporation 704.362.1886 www.montagmanagement.com

22

Techline 704.334.6823 www.techlineusa.com

29

Tegra 704.945.7000 www.tegra.com

15

Powerhouse Color 704.523.5019

Whittman-Hart 704.552.3590 www.whittman-hart.com

19

Prudential Carolinas Realty 704.366.5545 www.prudential-carolinas.com

5

Robinson Bradshaw & Hinson 704.377.2536 www.rbh.com

1

2

35

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Going Mobile with Style Using the right business luggage might not mean the difference between success and failure. But it certainly helps. In case you hadn't noticed , the rules of business have changed.

by Ron Fortner

International Airport. Sharon Luggage sells mercha ndise from such manufacturers as Tumi , Hartmann, Brenthaven, Kenneth Cole and Jourdan. Leigh Ann Young, a buyer for Sharon Luggage, recommends taking your time when selecting business gear. "Assess your needs carefully- for every new electronic gadget, the re's a new

Thanks to notebook computers, wireless phones, unified

piece of luggage or accessory in which to carry it," she notes.

messaging systems and personal digital assistants like the

The most important thing to consider when pu rchasing business

PalmPilot't , you have the ability to conduct your business from

luggage is the kind of business travel you do. " Do you conduct

virtually anywhere in the world . Mobile technologies can help

most of your business around town or do you frequently fly or

you spend more time in front of your customers and be more

drive to out-of-town meetings?" adds Young. "You have to weigh

productive on the road, all the while keeping you in constant

the relative benefits of appearance and durabi lity."

contact with the home office. The

Most people who frequently

bad news? You have to lug those

travel by air want everything

gadgets arou nd with you.

to fit in one carry-on bag, espe-

If you've ever dashed into

cially since the airlines are

an important meeting or scram-

getting strict about how much

bled through Charlotte/Douglas

can be brought onto a plane.

with briefcase in one hand,

Young adds that the influx

notebook computer in the other

of women into the business

and cell phone tumbling out

world has helped push products

of your pocket, you know the

that are light, dura ble and styl-

frustration of the modern day

ish to the forefront. Black reigns

road warrior. Unfortunately,

supreme, thanks in part to its

poor manage ment of your

neutrality and because it tends

high tech gear can not only risk

to stand up to wea r and tear

damage to some very expensive

better than other colors.

equipment, it can hurt your

Today's most popular

professional image as well.

materials are Napa leather

Luggage manufacturers

and Tru-Ballistic速 Nylon'M, an

have responded with new lines

extremely durable and tightly

of high-tech travel bags and

woven fabric origi nally devel-

accessories designed specifically

oped for the military.

for the business traveler.

Selecting a particular

"There is more focus on

brand is a personal choice,

travel accessories than 30

says Young, who re commends

years ago," notes Paul Steiger, president of Charlotte-based

Paul Steiger, president of Sharon Luggage, with assorted business gear

Sharon Luggage <www.sharonluggage.com> . "When you say

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all the options. Most major brands have luggage and accessory

luggage, you think of things to put your clothes in- garment

lines designed specifically for business travelers. "The nice

bags and suitcases. But today manufacturers have gone beyond

thing aboutTumi," says Young, "is that it's a very sleek line

that to manufacturing accessories designed to carry laptops,

- extremely light and stylish - and it's durable as well."

cell phones and all the stuff a business traveler needs." Steiger says his stores have been responding to the growing

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w

talking with an experienced salesperson to help sort through

trend of business travel accessories for the last several years.

With business increasingly being conducted away from the office, outfit yourself with the proper luggage- whether you're traveling from South Park to South Tryon or from Trade

Sharon Luggage opened their first luggage store in South Park

Street to Wall Street. For information on Sharon Luggage loca-

Mall in 1970 and now operates 14 locations throughout the

tions, you can check out their Web site or call their corporate

Carolinas, including a superstore at Arrowood Road and 1-77.

office at 704.525.4066.

They also market luggage and accessories online and last year

Ron Fortner is a Charlotte-based freelance writer. He profiled the Young Entrepreneurs ' Organization in the January issue.

opened Time to Write, a specialty kiosk at Charlotte/Douglas

36

march 2000

greater charlotte biz


Leaders ip :velopme

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• • . .

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