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ESRI • Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools • VisionCor • Bank of Commerce • Ralph Whitehead Associates

february 2006

Debunking the Myth

c MORE m than s measures up

Frances Haithcock Superintendent Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools


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in this issue











cover story

Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools

Frances Haithcock, in her interim role as CMS Superintendent, continues to dispel the myths of poor performance and disorder that unfairly cling to the school system. Early returns on Haithcock credit her for her openness and willingness to listen, for creating a regular dialogue between school authorities and the community, and for giving what “the people in this community have hollered that they wanted.”

16 ESRI ESRI is a leading developer of GIS software used to create digital maps and related databases. Like the CMPD’s crime maps and the POLARIS real estate system, the maps it creates unlock spatial data, already a part of many companies’ data assets, giving the vision and analysis necessary to save time and money – and to make better decisions.

28 VisionCor In today’s world of technology, businesses access infinite amounts of information with the click of a button. While all this information may be enabling, information overload can be disabling.VisionCor helps clients capture, gather, design, and develop corporate information and to provide employees with the information training they need to work smarter, faster.

32 Bank of Commerce Wes Sturges and start-up bank seem synonymous.The three-decade veteran of Charlotte financial institutions is opening his second bank in 10 years. Bank of Commerce is focusing on the needs of small-to-mid-sized business customers, and giving them outstanding service. Sturges says, “We’ll be much more aggressive in getting out to the customer’s place of business.”

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departments publisher’s post


employers biz


Legislative and Regulatory Highlights for Area Employers

on top



executive homes


Luxury Homes above $500,000

biz resource guide


workforce biz


Attracting, Developing and Retaining Top Performers Hot Topic for 2006 on the cover: Frances Haithcock, Superintendent, CharlotteMecklenburg Schools

38 Ralph Whitehead Assoc. Founded in 1959, RWA is a multi-discipline professional services firm offering planning, engineering, and construction management services for state, federal, local/municipal and private clients. RWA landed an important street and grade separation project for the city in 1961. It was to be the first of more than 100 projects RWA would design in Charlotte over the next quarter century.


bizXperts: Smart Salvos, Select Strategies and Succinct Solutions

ESRI • Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools • VisionCor • Bank of Commerce • Ralph Whitehead Associates

february 2006

Debunking the Myth

Photography by Wayne Morris.

c MORE m than s measures up

Frances Haithcock Superintendent Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools

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Let’s celebrate 8.

Thank you for choosing us as Charlotte’s preferred hospital for the eighth year. Once again, we at Carolinas Medical Center humbly thank the people of our region for their trust in our expertise and capabilities. By choosing us as your preferred hospital for the eighth year, as designated by the National Research Corporation, we know our hard work, dedication and quest for excellence is appreciated. Great appreciation also goes out to the hundreds of healthcare professionals at Carolinas Medical Center who make it their goal to provide unrivaled care to their fellow citizens. Rest assured your trust will always be honored. We spare no expense in securing the talent, technology and expertise required to provide you and your loved ones with the finest healthcare available.

[publisher’spost] One for All and All for One! News stories in recent months have identified several issues that have heightened friction and hindered the cooperation and collaboration among individuals and organizations participating in regional economic development efforts: • Cabarrus County’s cities, Concord and Kannapolis, want to take up to 38 million gallons of water a day from the Catawba River. • Lancaster County has attracted business operations from Mecklenburg County including HSBC Mortgage and Citigroup, Inc and has indicated that it has been contacted by a major mortgage finance company. Speculation is that Charlotte-based LendingTree is considering a relocation into South Carolina. • A pending South Carolina sales tax increase in order to reduce property taxes may work as a disincentive to business attraction along the North Carolina border. Competition between states and/or counties to attract new businesses has often created substantial conflicts. Our region’s recent loss of jobs from the textile and furniture industry has only exacerbated the situation, spurring even more aggressive tactics in an environment of already heightened sensitivity. Addressing such internecine struggles, although necessary, is time-consuming and counter-productive. It is a far more valuable use of our economic development resources to stay focused on the larger ambition of attracting new business to the region at-large and competing more effective as a region globally. The sum total of all our collective assets and advantages makes the Charlotte region a most desirable location for business relocation and expansion. For the purpose of emphasizing those assets and advantages and encouraging cooperation and collaboration, seven regional economic development organizations were formed by the North Carolina Department of Commerce. The Charlotte Regional Partnership (CRP) represents the greater Charlotte region consisting of 12 counties in North Carolina and four counties in South Carolina, enabling groups of counties to compete more effectively for new investment and devising strategies for development based on the inherent opportunities and advantages of the region as a whole. In an effort to quell increasing animosity and acrimony across both county and state lines engendered by these recent news stories, and to improve collaboration between its member counties, the CRP has created a task force to examine the relocation of existing businesses within the region and to make recommendations regarding best practices as well as an industry retention and expansion model. It may even create a “code of conduct” with principles for recruiting businesses. While a code of conduct may be helpful, it is always possible to undercut “the other guy” and provide individualized special incentive packages to attract business to another location within this region. And that may generate more in taxable revenues for that particular locale. But overall it does not add to the wealth of the region – it only takes from one and gives to another – there is no net gain, there is no new business creation, and truly, no one is better off. And whether it’s property taxes, sales taxes, tax deferrals, etc., ultimately, each business will make its own determination about its location based upon the total mix of relevant factors, not just one. It’s time to look at the larger picture and reach outside of our region to draw in new commerce and industry. CRP’s mission emphasizes the concept strongly: “Embracing the core belief that there is strength in unity, the community and business leaders of Charlotte USA continue to work together to reinforce the powerful concept of ‘regionalism.’ Without a doubt, regionalism is the most effective strategy for global ‘city-regions’ like ours to grow and prosper in the 21st century world economy. As a result, it has become the driving force behind everything we do.” Economic developers cannot and should not ignore corporate movements within the region; they must support the retention and growth of existing enterprises. But this should not detract from their substantial focus on attracting new business growth to the region at the same time. Supporting business and business growth is a complex business that gets tougher every year! biz


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February 2006 Volume 7 • Issue 2 Publisher John Paul Galles

Associate Publisher/Editor Maryl A. Lane

Creative Director Rebecca G. Fairchild

Business Development E.Ward Norris

Account Executives Michelle Killi

Mimi Zelman

Contributing Editor Susanne Deitzel Contributing Writers Ellison Clary Susanne Deitzel Casey Jacobus Contributing Photographer Wayne Morris Galles Communications Group, Inc. 5601 77 Center Drive • Suite 250 Charlotte, NC 28217-0736 704-676-5850 Phone • 704-676-5853 Fax • Press releases and other news-related information, please fax to the attention of “Editor” or e-mail: • Editorial or advertising inquiries, please call or fax at the numbers above or e-mail: • Subscription inquiries or change of address, please call or fax at the numbers above or visit our Web site: © Copyright 2006 by Galles Communications Group, Inc. All rights reserved.The information contained herein has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable. However, Galles Communications Group, Inc. makes no warranty to the accuracy or reliability of this information. Products named in these pages are trade names or trademarks of their respective companies.Views expressed herein are not necessarily those of Greater Charlotte Biz or Galles Communications Group, Inc. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without written permission from the publisher. For reprints call 704-676-5850 x102. Greater Charlotte Biz (ISSN 1554-6551) is published monthly by Galles Communications Group, Inc., 5601 77 Center Dr., Ste. 250, Charlotte, NC 28217-0736. Telephone: 704-676-5850. Fax: 704-676-5853. Subscription rate is $24 for one year. Periodicals postage pending at Charlotte, N.C., and additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Greater Charlotte Biz, 5601 77 Center Dr., Ste. 250, Charlotte, NC 28217-0736.

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Legislative and Regulatory Highlights for Area Employers

Warding Off Identity Theft QUESTION What steps should we take to ensure our employees’ personnel data is protected internally with regard to identify theft concerns? Are there any new laws regarding an employer’s responsibility to protect such data? ANSWER Though several federal laws, including the “Identity Theft Protection Act,” “Personnel Data Privacy and Security Act of 2005,” and “Safeguarding Americans from Exporting Identification Data Act,” have been introduced in both Houses of the U.S. Congress, none has yet passed. Several of these bills concern the display of Social Security numbers. At present, many states have passed their own legislation regarding protection of Social Security data. As an employer, once you receive identity and personal information from an employee, you must take steps to restrict accessibility to such information. This information can be found on many forms including an application or application inserts, a credit or criminal background report, accounting

or benefits paperwork, and employmentrelated records or documents completed by employees. Employers can help prevent identity theft and limit their liability by using some preventative measures: • Assess current practices for the security of personnel information and identify any risks. • Develop a written privacy policy describing in detail the protected information and security practices your company has put in place. Your policy should also address what steps to take and what agencies to alert if a security breach occurs. • Train employees responsible for record security. • Do not collect more information than you need. • Strictly limit access to both paper and electronic records – lock file drawers and password-protect electronic files. Change passwords frequently. • Protect employees’ Social Security numbers – don’t use these numbers as identifier or I.D. numbers. Don’t put the SSN on documents where it has no relevancy – time

cards, I.D. cards, payroll checks, etc. • Take special precautions for electronic records – monitor access and immediately cut off access to terminated employees. • Keep employee information off of your external Web site – posting employees’ names, photos, and contact information on your Web site makes that information accessible. • Shred old employee records/information – don’t just dispose of it in a general or common waste container. Ensure private waste contractors take adequate protection against theft of records/data. • Conduct regular scans of your software system for computer viruses that might allow unauthorized access to confidential data. • Investigate any large downloads of employee information – any download of employee data should be pre-authorized. • Erase hard drives of old company computers before they are sold, donated or borrowed – purchase software that will completely wipe out the hard drive before it leaves your company. (Management Association of Illinois)

‘Possibility’ of Serious Illness Can Earn FMLA Coverage Don’t take disciplinary action against employees who take leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to determine if they have a serious illness. Until you find out how sick the worker is, err on the side of legal caution: Assume that the condition is serious enough to apply under FMLA. FMLA lets qualified employees take up to 12 weeks of job-protected leave a year if they suffer a “serious medical condi-

tion.” But recent court rulings have said that if an employee just thinks he has a serious condition, he can take FMLA leave to have the condition checked out. In a recent case, a Michigan court ruled against a company that fired a truck driver for taking unauthorized leave while he underwent doctor-recommended tests after suffering chest pains. Even though his EKG indicated that he had not suffered a heart attack, the court said FMLA

applied because the employee’s doctor determined that the absence was necessary until further tests could determine the severity of the condition. Remember that is the employer’s burden – not the employee’s – to determine if a leave request is protected under FMLA. For a definition of serious illness, go to (The HR Specialist, 12/05; Employers Association of Florida)

North Carolina 2006 Workers’ Comp Increase Reminder As a reminder to our member organizations, here is a recap of this year’s workers’ compensation increase. The maximum weekly payment for North Carolina workers’ compensation benefits increased from $704 per week to $730 per week effective January 1, 2006. The maximum weekly benefit is adjusted each year to reflect changes in the state’s “average weekly insured wage” calculated by state officials every year. The maximum weekly benefit is derived by multiplying the average weekly insured wage of $664.14 for the calendar year 2004 as determined by the Employment Security Commission in accordance with N.C. Gen. Stat. 96-8(22), by 1.10 and rounding off the figure to its nearest multiple of two dollars ($2.00). (Capital Associated Industries)


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Maintaining I-9s: Do’s and Don’ts Don’t get sloppy with your I-9 employment eligibility verification forms, even if you figure the feds are too busy looking for terrorists to bother checking your worker documentation. Yes, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services concentrates more on security-related sites such as airports and water supplies in the wake of Sept. 11, 2001. But it will respond to complaints, including those filed by employees bumped from jobs by illegal workers. And penalties can be high: Poor documentation can cost you $1,000 per worker, and knowingly hiring an illegal alien can result in a $10,000 per-worker fine. To sidestep potential legal trouble and discrimination complaints, follow these I-9 do’s and don’ts: Do require all new hires to complete and sign Section 1 on their first day of work. Don’t ask an applicant to complete an I-9 prior to extending a job offer (can lead to

claims of discrimination by those not hired). Do review each employee’s documents to make sure they’re on the I-9’s list of acceptable documents and that they appear genuine (see Don’t ask new hires for any particular documents or for more documents than the I-9 requires. Do establish a consistent procedure for completing I-9s, and educate your hiring managers. Don’t consider the expiration date of I9 documentation when making hiring or firing decisions. Don’t forget to keep a tickler file to follow up on expiring documents that limit the employee’s authorization to work. You don’t have to reverify identification documents, such as driver’s licenses. Do keep I-9s and copies of documents for


three years after the employee’s hire date or one year after his termination, whichever comes later. Don’t put the Form I-9 in an employee’s personnel file. To protect your company against discrimination claims, keep the I-9 and supporting documentation in a separate file. (The HR Specialist, 12/05; Employers Association of Florida) biz The Employers Association is a nonprofit Charlotte organization providing comprehensive human resources and training services. Founded in 1958, the Association maintains a broadbased membership of over 700 companies from all industries in the greater Charlotte region. The above excerpts were taken from The Management Report, the Association’s monthly newsletter. For more information, please call Laura Hampton at 704-522-8011 or visit the Web site at

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[ontop] Awards & Achievements Three professors at The University of North Carolina at Charlotte have been honored as 2005 visiting Fulbright Scholars for their academic and professional achievement and leadership skills: Judy Aulette, associate professor in the Department of Sociology; Jerry Davila, assistant professor in the Department of History; and Beth Whitaker, assistant professor in the Department of Political Science.


It’s amazing how much one piece of equipment can do to improve productivity, increase office efficiency and save money. But that’s exactly what our color copier/printer does. Because it’s networked with all your office computers, it eliminates the need for fax machines, scanners and personal printers. And its cost per printed page is less than you pay with personal printers. At Charlotte Copy Data, the largest independent office equipment dealer around, we have a full line of color copier/printers with names like Canon, Sharp, and Konica Minolta. They’re available for sale, or through a very low cost-per-print program called POP. And our Color Division specialists can help you determine the equipment that’s right for you. 4404-A Stuart Andrew Boulevard, 704.523.3333 FAX 704.525.1506 So give us a call, and find out more about the single piece of equipment that does it all. THE AREA’S LARGEST INDEPENDENT DEALER OF COMPLETE OFFICE SOLUTIONS


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Advertising and Media WCNC-TV has received 35 nominations in the 20th Annual Midsouth Regional Emmy Awards. The Carolina Traveler’s Mike Redding, writer-host, and Andy Benton, photojournalist, were nominated 12 times. WCNC reporter, Janelle Martinez, has been named the station’s new weekend anchor; Kara Finnstrom, the former weekend anchor, has moved to co-anchor WCNC’s Janelle Martinez new 4:30 p.m. news with Chris Justice. WCNC-TV has also welcomed Chris Klein as director of sales. An advertorial developed for the North Carolina Economic Development Guide by the City of Kannapolis has been honored with an award of merit from the Southern Council of Economic Development and a Gold Award in the MarCom Creative Awards. Sterrett Dymond Advertising has won six National Finalist awards for five radio spots at the 2005 Silver Microphone Awards competition. Tribble Creative Group, a Charlotte event marketing and management company, has added Rick Fitts as vice president of production services and minority partner. Rick Fitts Business and Professional Alston & Bird LLP has been ranked 19th among FORTUNE magazine’s 100 Best Companies to Work For in 2006, making it the highest ranked law firm on the list and the only law firm ever to make the list for

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[ontop] seven consecutive years, including placement in the top 10 for four years in a row. Kennedy Covington has had twenty one of its attorneys named to Business North Carolina magazine's Legal Elite: Stanford Baird, Lee Cory, Brian Evans, Walter Fisher, Dave Franchina, Glen Hardymon, Lee Hogewood, Warren Kean, Bill Livingston, Tom Lyon, Kiran Mehta, Roy Michaux, John Murchison, Bailey Patrick, Francis Pinckney, Gene Pridgen, John Sarratt, Karl Sawyer, Dal Shefte, Raleigh Shoemaker, and Mike Wilson. Mike Booe, Norfleet Pruden, and Ace Walker are members of the Business North Carolina Legal Elite Hall of Fame. Charlotte and Denver, N.C., attorney, Eddie Knox, has been chosen from the top five percent of attorneys in the state to the elite group of ‘Super Lawyers’ in North Carolina. Project Managers, Inc. has been ranked among North Carolina’s Top 50 diversity-owned businesses by’s sixth annual Div50 listing. CICS Language Solutions, Interpreters Inc. and BRIA Language Solutions have merged to become Fluent Language Solutions Inc., creating the largest full-service linguistic agency in the Carolinas, and one of the largest in the nation. Terry L. Wallace has become associated with Poyner & Spruill’s Charlotte office in the area Terry Wallace of business litigation. Construction & Design Professional Builder magazine has named Simonini Builders Inc. its Builder of the Year for 2006. The designation is considered the highest recognition for an individual company in the home-construction industry. The Park at Oaklawn, a Charlotte-area Saussy Burbank community, has received a 2005 Housing North Carolina Award at the annual Housing Forum. Smith Turf & Irrigation, distributor of

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[ontop] turf maintenance equipment and irrigation systems, has promoted Steve Smith to president. Juba Aluminum Steve Smith Products Company, Inc. has restructured of its management team by appointing Ron Perdue as general field superintendent and Mike Murray as senior project manager for project management. Education/Staffing UNC Charlotte’s board of trustees has approved the appointment of David Dunn as vice chancellor for university relations and community David Dunn Beth Hardin affairs. Elizabeth A. Hardin has been appointed to vice chancellor for business affairs. The University of North Carolina at Charlotte has named John D. Bland John Bland director of public relations. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools has outperformed its peers overall in the state and in the nation on three out of four areas measured on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), the ‘Nation’s Report Card’ for education, as assessed by the U.S. Department of Education. The school district is among the top five districts in the nation with the highest number of new National Board Certified teachers. The North Carolina Technology Association has honored Olin H. Broadway Jr., executive in residence at The University of North Carolina at Olin H. Broadway Jr. Charlotte, with a Lifetime Achievement Award. Ryan Cates has been promoted to account executive with CEO Search, CEO Inc.’s Executive Search Division. Central Piedmont Community College has become the beneficiary of a


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[ontop] sculpture by artist Greg Wyatt, nationally known for his work Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The sculpture will reside in front of the college’s new Academic and Performing Arts Center. Todd Crow has been named director of operations, Chad Dillard has been named vice president of business development, and Eric Matheson has been named client relationship manager for Integra Staffing and Executive Search. Talent Bridge has named Susan Johnson as operations manager for its Accounting and Finance staffing solutions business.

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I N M E C K L E N B U R G C O U N T Y, B U S I N E S S R E C Y C L I N G I S N O T O N LY A G O O D P R A C T I C E — I T ’ S T H E L A W.

Engineering Crescent Communities has welcomed a licensed professional engineer to its team, Kevin Munson, P.E., who will assist in land development projects at Crescent’s south Charlotte-area communities. Financial & Insurance Jerry M. Blanchard, CPA, an Assurance Services specialist, has joined the CPA firm of Blair, BohlÊ & Whitsitt, PLLC, as an audit partner. Le N. Erwin has been named to Bank of Granite Corporation’s board of directors. Le N. Erwin Richard Tocado Companies has promoted Scott Thomas to general sales manager, and Larry Penland and Mark Barrett to sales manager. Jeremy Dawson and Ryan Marsh have joined Hinrichs Flanagan Financial, a MassMutual general agency in Charlotte, as Financial Services Professionals. Jason Goldy has joined the company as its investment department manager and Dennis A. Hayes, CPA, PFS, has joined the company as a financial planner. RBC Centura has appointed Mary Jenrette as a regional manager of Personal and Mary Jenrette

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[ontop] Business Banking in western North Carolina. Government/Non-Profit The Arts & Science Council has appointed Laura Belcher as vice president, chief financial and operations officer, and Kristin Laura Belcher Kristin Hills Bradberry Hills Bradberry as private sector endowment campaign director. Roger Whitley, director of the Basic Law Enforcement Training program at Gaston College, has been recognized for 27 years of service and dedication to the BLET program. The Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners has appointed Randy Perkins as chairman of the Air Quality Commission and Robert Bisanar to the Library Board of Trustees. Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Charlotte has received a $74,000 grant from The Duke Endowment. Real Estate Commercial/Residential Broker Associate Diane Ramsay has joined the sales team at WEICHERT, REALTORS - Rebhan & Associates. Lake Norman Realty has added two new sales associates, George Mennen Jr. and Harold Wilson. Brian and Sharon Clair, residential real estate brokers for The Clair Team, have affiliated with RE/MAX Executive Realty. CB Richard Ellis has been appointed as exclusive leasing agent and property manager of Charlotte’s SouthPark Towers. Retail/Sports/Entertainment Charlotte Arrangements has been named for the 2nd year in a row as one of North America’s top 25 Destination Management Companies. The Charlotte Regional Sports Commission has welcomed Carl Scheer, chief executive officer of the Charlotte Checkers Hockey Club, to its board of directors. The CRSC has also relocated in the Charlotte Bobcats Arena.


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[ontop] Greater Hickory Classic at Rock Barn Executive Tournament Director Jim Correll has been elected to a two-year term on the board of Jim Correll directors for the Champions Tour Tournament Association. George Irion will assume the new role of vice president, procurement, at VF Corporation. Technology Atlantic Software Alliance, a Sage Software business partner, has been named to the President’s Circle, an annual distinction for partners generating the highest sales revenue during the previous fiscal year. Web design firm,, has hired David Hyde as network engineer. Joyce Brown of Mecklenburg County Land Use and Environmental Services Agency has been recognized as one of only 13 certified GIS Professionals by the GIS (Geospatial Information Systems) Certification Institute. Students from the UNC Charlotte College of Information Technology have won the 2005 International “Capture the Flag” competition, beating N.C. State, four teams from Georgia Tech, and the University of South Florida in the southeastern competition. Tourism & Travel Levine Museum of the New South has been named among six recipients of the 2005 National Awards for Museum and Library Service, the federal government's highest honor for community service provided by museums and libraries. Charlotte Business & Travel eNews has replaced Visit Charlotte as the city’s longstanding weekly industry newsletter. biz To be considered for inclusion, please send your news releases and announcements in the body of an e-mail (only photos attached) to, or fax them to 704-676-5853, or post them to our business address – at least 30 days prior to our publication date.

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bizXperts: Smart Salvos, Select Strategies and Succinct Solutions


finding the right lawyer for your growing business... the interview and selection process

To select a lawyer for your closely held business, use a common-sense approach. Like many other pursuits, picking the right lawyer boils down to networking – asking trusted friends and business acquaintances for tips and leads. Last month, we discussed how to establish the criteria for selecting an attorney. Once you’ve decided on the role in your business growth that you want a lawyer to play, you’re ready to make your selection. Think of successful people you trust who work regularly with business lawyers. They might be accountants, insurance agents, investment counselors or business owners. Tell them the criteria you’ve developed and what skills you want in a lawyer. Include what you want that lawyer’s experience and expertise to be and outline the role you envision. Always ask your trusted confidantes to suggest more than one lawyer. Here’s why: They may feel obliged to mention a buddy who might not be a good fit for you. Once you’ve compiled your pool of names, see which lawyers were mentioned more than once. Pay particular attention to those as you pursue your due diligence. For those attorneys or firms that intrigue you, check them out on the Web at This is the Martindale Hubbell site that does a fine job of profiling lawyers. It shows an attorney’s peer review rating, areas of expertise, educational background and experience. It tells you the focus of a law firm and lists representative clients. For those you like, visit their Web sites to see what they say about themselves. You should pick at least three lawyers to interview. Then set up each interview in measured steps. First, call for an appointment with each lawyer you’ve chosen. It’s perfectly all right to communicate with a staff person or an assistant. Explain that you’re trying to find a business lawyer and you’d like to schedule a meeting. It’s important to add comments such as these: “I’ll be happy to pay for the attorney’s time. I don’t expect our meeting will last longer than an hour.” If the staff person tells you the attorney will call you back, you can use this as an assessment tool. See how long it takes the lawyer to get in touch. Keep in mind, you want a lawyer who is busy, but who uses his or her time well. This exercise may also tell you something about the quality of the attorney’s support staff. Before your in-person visit, prepare a brief history of your firm and outline your business and personal goals. List the issues on which you know you are going to need legal help. Show all this to the prospective attorney. Then let him or her talk. You should hear something about the lawyer’s background


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and history, nature of the firm and the type of people involved in it. The attorney should list the business and personal areas in which he or she feels competent. Listen for indications that the attorney understands your needs and has experience working with situations similar to yours. Treat this session like a job interview. Look for a strong indication the attorney is interested in representing you. You won’t get what you’re after in a lawyer unless that lawyer sincerely wants to represent you. Before the interview ends, make sure you and the prospective attorney discuss the basis for his or her legal fees. Does the attorney work strictly on an hourly rate? If so, what are the hourly rates for the attorney, for any partners in the firm, and for the associates and staff? Perhaps there are fixed fees for particular services or maybe there are retainers that cover all representation within a certain scope of services. Find out if the prospective attorney will tell you up front what your services cost before he or she embarks on a particular project. When you’ve finished your interviews, focus on your final choice. Ask yourself some important questions: • With which attorney do you believe you can establish the best personal relationship? Who do you trust most? Who do you most like communicating with? • Which prospective lawyer has the skills, experience and expertise to serve your particular needs? Will that lawyer be responsive? Does he or she have adequate support staff? • Do you believe the attorney and firm can serve you well? Do they really want you as a client? If more than one prospect fits these criteria, select the attorney you naturally connect with most and like best. Go with your gut feel. When you’ve made your choice, don’t burn bridges. Notify the other attorneys you interviewed. Don’t leave them hanging. Thank them for the opportunity of speaking with them. After all, you might decide to reconsider your choice. If so, you quite possibly would want to hire one of your other finalists. Robert Norris is managing partner of Wishart Norris Henninger & Pittman, N.A., a full-service law firm advising closely held businesses, limited liability companies, limited and general partnerships, to define and achieve their objectives. Contact him at 704-364-0010 or

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developing your organization’s culture We all know “culture” is a very important factor in a company’s long term success. But what is this thing called culture and how can it be developed? What is culture? Culture can be described as the “personality” of an organization. It often consists of the shared beliefs, values, and behaviors of the individuals involved. Sometimes people say, “That’s just how we do things around here.” Culture is sometimes made up of what people want to say out loud but do not. The hallways and breakrooms of organizations can sometimes be the place where one can pick up on clues of their culture. What are people saying? What language do they use? Are they complaining and blaming or taking responsibility? Are they speaking optimism or pessimism? If we do nothing, a “default” culture will emerge. Given the nature of human behavior and personality, it usually defaults into a status quo and survival mentality. Developing one’s organizational culture in an intentional way will bring unexpected results in morale, team connectedness and productivity. Herb Kelleher, former CEO of Southwest Airlines, one of the most profitable airlines in the world, says “Culture is our #1 priority.”

Here are a few initial steps to take to further develop your culture: • Recognize the current culture for what it is (confront the reality) • Identify what is working for you and what is not • Invite your associates to give you feedback on what the desired culture state should be to achieve your business objectives • Have the leadership team of the company participate in a 360 degree feedback process (they often are unaware to what degree their behavior shapes the culture) • Remove any old processes, structures, signages, or practices that no longer represent your culture Developing one’s culture is one of the most strategic facets of organizational development. Having the courage to assess the current state and intentionally create the desired state is a sign of forward-thinking leadership. Mike Whitehead is president of Whitehead Associates, Inc., a consulting firm specializing in leadership and culture development. Contact him at 704-331-9091 or

how do I stop this revolving door? Clients often come to me when they’re tired of hiring and rehiring for the same position. “What does it take to hire the right person?” they’ll ask. “Why can’t people just do the job you hired them to do?” These questions are more complex than they may appear. But here are a few basics to help you improve your hiring practices. 1. Define the job you’re trying to fill. Job descriptions are a must. If you can’t clearly describe what the job looks like, how can you possibly hope to hire someone to fill it? What are the duties and reporting relationships? What specific skills and education are needed? What about the temperament that’s best suited to the job? All of these things need to be clearly understood before the first ad is run. 2. Is this a doable job? Too often, especially in small companies, positions are combined, making the job more difficult to fill. For example, the receptionist is asked to do bookkeeping. The interruptions from the phone are maddening to someone who likes to concentrate on the details. Think about what you’re asking one person to do. Is it reasonable? 3. Structure your interview process. Interview with purpose. If you ask a question, know what the answer should sound like. For instance, ask the candidate to describe his ideal job, and then listen for characteristics that are similar to the job you have available. Be

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careful, though. Don’t describe your job to the candidate before asking this question. Manage the interview so that you get the best information. 4. Use behavioral assessments. These tools help you objectively profile the temperament best suited to the job, and they allow you to evaluate a candidate’s behavioral fit. One way to ensure a revolving door is to hire someone for a job he or she is bound to hate. 5. Get help. If you’re like most business people, hiring isn’t your primary job. You don’t have time to do it, and you’re not trained to do it. Work with a trained professional to set up the interview process or to handle it for you altogether. The key for you and your new employee is to get the right person in the right job. Your hiring process is key. Denise Altman is president of Altman Initiative Group, Inc., which offers tools and techniques to better hire, integrate, fine-tune and grow employees. Ms. Altman is also a nationally known speaker and meeting facilitator. Contact her at 704-708-6700 or

If you are interested in contributing to bizXperts, contact John Galles at 704-676-5850, ext. 102, or biz

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Christian Carlson Southeast Regional Manager Environmental Systems Research Institute, Inc. d/b/a ESRI


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by ellison clary





How does the Mecklenburg Emergency Medical Services Agency, better known as Medic, decide which unit will answer an emergency call? Medic uses computer mapping to locate each vehicle. It monitors speed limits and traffic flow. Considering the variables, the system selects the crew that can respond the fastest and feeds it the quickest route. That system employs GIS, the acronym for Geographic Information Systems. GIS can represent in digital map from literally any data on earth. The GIS component of Medic’s system comes from ESRI. “I just love this job,” says Christian Carlson, whose Charlotte office of ESRI provided the GIS technology for that Medic system. Durham native Carlson, 35, is southeastern regional manager for ESRI. “I’ve worked with a ton of different customers,” says the gregarious Carlson. “It’s an absolute joy. We go into people’s offices and learn what they do. Then we apply our technology and help them make their business more efficient.” Carlson’s company supplies tailored GIS systems to government agencies and private companies in more than 30 different industries, including real estate, finance, insurance, utilities, environmental management, engineering, transportation, landscape architecture and a host of others. It serves clients across the United States and in more than 100 countries worldwide.  greater charlotte biz

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ESRI is a privately held firm that Jack and Laura Dangermond founded in Redlands, California, with $1,100 in 1969. They still own it. Sales for fiscal 2004 were $560 million. With about 36 percent of the GIS software market, ESRI is among the largest firms in its sector that also includes Intergraph Corp. of Huntsville, Ala., and MapInfo in Troy, N.Y.

From offices in southeast Charlotte, Carlson presides over ESRI business in six southeastern states as well as the U.S. Virgin Islands and Bermuda. How does GIS work? Carlson explains: “GIS references data through a map,” he says, “but instead of looking at a street that has a label that says Providence Road, you can click on that street and find out the speed limit, the type of road it is and the last time it was maintained. “You can extend it further,” he smiles. “You can create a 50-foot buffer on the side of this road and find the value of the property within it. For a street-widening project, we can determine the cost to acquire that buffer section of each piece of property.” Carlson adds an oral exclamation point: “It’s only limited by the data you use and by your imagination.” Think you haven’t used GIS? If you’ve checked your property value online with the Mecklenburg County Property Ownership Land Records Information System (POLARIS),

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you have. It’s an ESRI system. Kurt Olmsted, GIS administrator for Mecklenburg County, says his office has worked with ESRI’s Charlotte unit since the mid-’90s. He praises the system that shows by address most any detail about a piece of property, including a picture of any structure on it. It’s used millions of times each year. The county also employs ESRI software for tasks as diverse as mapping mosquito infestations or showing the proximity of library card holders to library branches. The Big Picture The ESRI southeast office handles a surprising range of projects – from high-profile to the occasional unusual request. In the aftermath of Hurricane Frances’ 2004 assault on the Palm Beach area of south Florida, some of Carlson’s crew provided GIS damage assessment tools for various governmental agencies. “We developed an application to use on a hand-held device,” Carlson says. “It is designed to integrate with FEMA damage assessment forms. It streamlined the assessment activity.” By contrast, in the upscale community of nearby Manalapan, Fla., Carlson worked with a wealthy couple whose hobby was their own botanical garden, large enough to employ 30 people. “I remember sitting in their breakfast nook with their dogs running by me,” Carlson laughs. “They bought our technology. They used it to map their property and develop a watering schedule for their tropical and subtropical plants.” Another offbeat project was the charting of tarpon (large silvery game fish) migration patterns at Boca Grande Pass near Fort Myers, Fla., something of interest to both environmental groups as well as fishermen. Then there’s the map of North Carolina showing the demographics of people most likely to watch the cartoon television series “King of the Hill.” This came about after North Carolina Governor Mike Easley revealed that he instructs his pollsters to separate the

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state’s voters into those who watch “King of the Hill” and those who don’t so that he can find out whether his arguments on social and economic issues are making sense to the sitcom’s fans. One variable is how many also enjoy NASCAR races. A more traditional project is the economic development application Carlson’s office supplied Georgia Power Company. It pinpoints commercial warehouses throughout Georgia by location, and also by square footage, floor thickness and ceiling height, among other variables. The price tag for GIS applications runs $1,500 to $10,000 for common desk-top systems. Elaborate applications can cost much more. Putting Charlotte on the Map Carlson’s enthusiasm for GIS and ESRI’s application of it comes naturally. At the University of Colorado, he earned dual bachelor’s degrees in Geography and Economics. “I liked looking at politics, the environment, science, biology and economics,” he says. “Geography pulls all those things together to understand them in a holistic way. Fortunately, I’ve been able to apply those degrees in my career.” After his 1992 graduation, Carlson signed on with the North Carolina Division of Coastal Management. As a GIS technician, he collected global positioning data on the Tar Heel coast, entering it into a computer system to produce maps. “I became drawn to the broader applications of the technology,” he says, “ESRI

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basically pioneered the GIS industry. I was aware of them and admired the company. So I pursued ESRI.” Carlson started in the ESRI Charlotte office in 1995 as an inside sales person. Then he moved to outside sales and commuted between Charlotte and various points in Florida, his area of responsibility. He got the Southeast Region manager position in 2000 and now reports directly to founder Jack Dangermond. Of the 2,100 ESRI employees system-wide, more than 1,500 are based in the Redlands headquarters. Of the company’s 11 regional offices, Charlotte ranks second in size to Washington, D.C., with 56 associates. That’s up from 19 when Carlson started with ESRI in 1995. The Charlotte office will account for nearly $47 million in revenue for 2005, almost doubling the $25 million it did in 2000. Client numbers have increased, too, Carlson says. While continuing to develop new clients, a significant portion of ESRI’s growth is through existing customers. That’s because ESRI tends to grow laterally inside a client’s operations, as the client sees more and more applications for GIS software. Customers of ESRI in the Southeast are split about 60 percent governmental and 40 percent private or public enterprise. Carlson is reluctant to list private firm clients because most have negotiated nondisclosure clauses. He does allow that the non-governmental sector is growing dramatically. To nurse that trend, Carlson has tweaked his organization. Traditionally, the office operated along geographic boundaries of states. Recently, Carlson formed small teams, including one that works with local and state governments, another that sniffs out commercial prospects, one for utilities and yet another for healthcare. Organizing by industry allows ESRI

to understand the business needs of each market and provide solutions that match the customer’s business requirements. In five years, Carlson hopes to double Charlotte region revenues and add 30 percent more staffers. But he cautions that he seeks only “sustainable” growth. “My goal is to continue to run a great business and serve our customers well,” he says. “If we do that, we’ll grow and our customers will be happy. Growth in revenue is a byproduct of doing everything else right.” 

Environmental Systems Research Institute, Inc. d/b/a

ESRI Southeast Region (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina,Tennessee, U.S.Virgin Islands, and Bermuda) 3325 Springbank Ln., Ste. 200 Charlotte, N.C. 28226-3365 Phone: 704-541-9810 Principal: Christian Carlson, Regional Manager Established: 1969; Charlotte office opened 1987 Employees: 2,900 system-wide; 56 in Charlotte Regional Office Headquarters: Redlands, California; 11 regional offices in the United States, 90 international offices and affiliates Status: Privately held; founded by Jack and Laura Dangermond Annual Sales: More than $560 million system-wide (fiscal 2004) Clients: System-wide more than 300,000 clients in more than 200 countries; locally, includes CMPD’s Community Crime Information System (http://maps.cmpd and the tax assessor’s POLARIS ( okup/) Business: ESRI is a leading developer of geographic information system (GIS) software used to create digital maps, publish maps on the Internet, and build related databases. ESRI software is used by most U.S. federal agencies and national mapping agencies, 45 of the top 50 petroleum companies, all 50 U.S. state health departments, most forestry companies, and many others in dozens of industries, as well as in more than 24,000 state and local governments from Los Angeles to Paris to Beijing to Kuwait.

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Carlson wants to get better connected to the region’s business community. Increasingly, ESRI is helping customers implement solutions at their work sites, he says, and that is feeding commercial growth, which he hopes to nurture. To that end, Carlson seeks a certain profile when hiring. He looks for applicants strong in both GIS and information technology. “We also want people who are interested in what other people are doing,” he adds. “We want to be in worthwhile projects, in things that can be successful. The last thing I want is to do a great sales job on somebody and not be able to deliver.”

does and proposing a solution that is relevant to them.” The Charlotte office includes a team tasked with building custom applications for clients. There’s also a training staff to help customers get the most out of what they buy. A customer service group makes sure the products continue to work right. Carlson leads a visitor to a conference room where Kevin Yount, a technical sales representative, is poised to demonstrate a basic GIS product geared to the greater Charlotte area. Yount programs a computer screen to show the region’s outlets for a brand of fast food. He picks a specific location and finds demographic information for residents within a 1-mile, 3-mile and 5-mile radius. Switching gears, Yount finds every area branch of a large bank. He shows a set of demographics for those living near a specific office. He can even show the distance between each bank office and each fast food place. “This is a core piece of technology,” Yount explains. “You could buy this and install it on your machine. Then you can

How to Explain The hardest part of his job, Carlson thinks, is explaining how GIS works and what it can do for an organization. “Our technology is a bit different and, if you haven’t been exposed to it, it’s a little hard to understand the first time around,” he admits. “We say, ‘Let’s talk about your business and find out what your problem areas are,’” he says. “It’s about learning what someone

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GIS takes advantage of GPS technology to capture accurate location data in the field.

integrate it with your own customer system and make it Web-based.” Todd Willems, a sales representative on the commercial team, displays an ESRI demographic analysis that splits the entire U.S. population into 66 socio-economic profiles. With names such as “Up-and-Coming Families,” “Metro Renters” and “Rooted Rural,” they delineate the characteristics of people in each category. It helps those looking to locate a business to find the optimal spot, near their most likely clientele. How long does it take to develop a product like this? Willems has two answers. The short one is that it doesn’t require as much time as you might imagine. A team of 400 ESRI workers in California is constantly inputting new information and developing new software. “On the other hand,” Willems says, “it has taken since 1969.” Carlson is quick to point out: “These types of spatial data are already a part of many companies’ data assets. Using a GIS can unlock this spatial data and give the vision and analysis needed to save time and money – and to make better decisions. The value of this technology is so great that companies in the twenty-first century who ignore the unexplored potential of their existing databases will be left behind.” biz Ellison Clary is a Charlotte-based freelance writer.


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photo: Wayne Morris

Dr. Frances Haithcock Superintendent Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools


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by susanne deitzel


Debunking the Myth


MORE than measures up

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There is no denying it. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS) is a newsmaker; it has been for decades. First there was the high-profile 1971 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, which upheld court-ordered busing to achieve desegregation. Two decades later, the debate resurfaced creating the genesis of the CMS School Choice Assignment Plan. The plan, designed by then Superintendent Dr. Eric Smith, its incumbent challenges, and Dr. Smith’s abrupt departure in 2002, generated a lot of attention with which his successor Dr. James Pughsley would have to contend. Dr. Pughsley retired in April of last year after an embattled tenure mired in muddled assignment logistics, busing complaints, rapidly overcrowding schools and the perception of inadequate student performance. Pughley’s well-regarded, yet scrupulously tight-lipped leadership has been followed by that of CMS Interim Superintendent, Frances Haithcock. Engaging and practical, Haithcock continues to carry the cross of CMS leadership with what she calls “missionary zeal.” Vexed by the same problems of past leaders – student performance data, a cataclysmically accelerating student population, an endless quest for capital resources, discipline crises, and the threat of parental coup d’etats – Haithcock’s last eight months have been a wild ride. The combination of these factors have provided parents and taxpayers a veritable ‘allyou can-eat’ complaint buffet, and it appears the public is plenty hungry. The CMS system is a regular feature story in just about any publication in Charlotte, and when the plat du jour isn’t the district’s 

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problems, it’s a play-by-play of local school board meetings slathered with petty bickering and partisan shots. Yet, when Haithcock is given the opportunity to speak, the dust surrounding CMS seems to settle and the view becomes clearer and rosier than one would have imagined. In fact, Haithcock, who cut her career teeth as a teacher, has since seen the view from just about every position in the educational field. She is deft at splitting the issues’ wheat from the politics’ chaff,

Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools 701 East Second Street Charlotte, N.C. 28202 Phone: 980-343-3000 Principal: Dr. Frances Haithcock, Superintendent School 2005 Statistics Operating Budget: $943,977,703 Total Employees: 15,783 Total Full-Time Teachers: 8,141 Beginning Teacher Salary: $28,826

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Total Number of Schools: 150 Total Number of Students K-12: 126,903 2005 Graduates: 5,850 Top 10 percent CMS SAT Score: 1205 (Comparative - in State: 1187, in Nation: 1191) Career History: Haithcock was born and raised in Cabarrus County.A mother and grandmother, the 62-year-old Haithcock spent the bulk of her career in Florida’s Broward County (Fort Lauderdale) school district. She began her career as a teacher, working her way up to area superintendent in that district, eventually presiding over 70 public schools. She joined CMS in 2000 as Associate Superintendent for Education Services and was elevated to interim superintendent in July 2005 upon Jim Pughsley’s retirement. Affiliated Television: CMS TV-3 301 S. McDowell Street Suite 502 Charlotte, NC 28204 704.371.5000

Est.Avg. Certified Teacher Salary: $40,119

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Distinctions: ranked CMS 7th among 100 of the largest cities in the country for the “The Best Education in the Biggest Cities.” Newsweek magazine ranked all CMS high schools with a graduating class in the top 700, 14 CMS high schools among its “Best in the U.S.” list, including four in the Top 100.

and on a good day, makes the impossible seem possible. Running the Gauntlet To be sure, Haithcock is no greenhorn in the education game. She began teaching in Florida at the age of twenty, after graduating from UNCGreensboro. She served as a guidance director, an assistant principal, a principal, and an area superintendent, before being elevated to the position of deputy superintendent of educational services for Florida’s Broward County (Fort Lauderdale) schools, presently the nation’s sixth largest school district. Her position was parallel to an opening in CMS, then headed by Dr. Eric Smith, who was interested in having Haithcock interview. It was an offer she almost refused out of hand, but she was finally cajoled into making a Saturday trip to the Queen City. As Haithcock tells it, Smith was every bit the academic savant. “During our conversation, I kept thinking, ‘I want to work with this man.’ I saw more academic leadership in him than I had ever seen in a superintendent. You could instantly tell that not only were his heart, soul and mind completely invested in his mission – which was 100 percent about educating children – but that his level of expertise was highly impressive.” One gets the same sense about Haithcock. She runs the gauntlet laid by Smith and Pughsley like a champ, but does so with her own savoir-faire. If Smith’s aura was academic, and Pughley’s administrative, then Haithcock’s could perhaps be called communicative. By attempting to bridge the gaps between boardroom and classroom, administration and academia, taxpayer and parent, she hopes to get things accomplished by achieving a reasonable level of consensus. There are certainly plenty of naysayers as to whether this can be accomplished. Furor over complicated and divisive issues hit its climax at the polls when a $427 million school bond initiative was voted down in November 2005. Pundits speculate that taxpayers want more accountability over school spending. But what Frances Haithcock is trying to accomplish appears to be what the community is asking for: a voice in the future of its schools. Engaging the Community Haithcock has made concerted efforts to

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engage communities. The findings of a newly assembled Citizens’ Task Force and subsequent meetings between Haithcock and Mecklenburg County Commissioner Bill James will further facilitate this. The task force has been charged with entering various communities, soliciting feedback, and hopefully answering questions left lingering after the bond failure. Says Haithcock, “We need to engage the community to determine what a school capital package needs to look like. How much do we want for growth, for renovation? What sources do we want to use to fund it – sales tax, impact fees… bonds? How do we best go about accommodating a capital package?” She adds, “We also need to do a better job at explaining our solutions and the data we have collected, as well as demonstrating that these decisions affect everybody in the economic region. We have to isolate the facts and present them clearly to dispel the idea, once and for all, that this is a failing school system.” Sometimes a clear presentation of the facts seems pretty hard to come by. The press is rife with contradictions; one metric has school scores down, another finds them up; some focus upon particular socioeconomic groups, some don’t; some rate high schools, others elementary schools. But Haithcock says, “There is blatant data that CMS is teaching kids at a higher level every year than the other large districts, states and entities we are compared with on a national level.” She adds, “People from outside the district visit us almost every week to figure out how we are doing so well and remark that they don’t understand why Charlotte doesn’t embrace its school system.” Reports from outside the CMS fishbowl appear to corroborate this sentiment. The Wall Street Journal, “How Charlotte Tops Big Cities in School Tests,” Newsweek magazine, “100 Best High Schools in America List” and Forbes magazine, “The Best Education in the Biggest Cities,” included CMS in their reportage. Recently, results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) also showed that CMS outranked all nine other urban school districts that participated in the assessment. That kind of coverage can’t be smoke and mirrors. So, what is the public missing?

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Scores, Salaries, Global Advantage One thing is obvious. Personality appears to be superseding principle with regard to major players on the CMS stage. Local press abounds with school board infighting that leaves little room or interest for printing the latest round of test scores. Plus, taxpayers without children and without exposure to the school system simply don’t have the window through which to view the bang for their buck. Haithcock explains, “Of people with children in school, 95 percent are happy with that school. However, we believe that those who don’t have access to what the principals and teachers are doing at the school level are easily misled into believing the system is failing.” The overriding objective, as Haithcock sees it, isn’t one to be solved by discussions involving systems and analyses. She says it is rather “attracting, retaining and incenting quality educators to CMS.” Competitors like Atlanta, and other districts with the size and characteristics of CMS in Virginia, South Carolina and Tennessee, all pay higher salaries for teachers. Elaborates Haithcock, “I have a district level science coordinator with a Ph.D. who could go to a South Carolina classroom tomorrow and make $10,000 more than she makes in her position here.” Unfortunately, the competition doesn’t stop in our backyards either. Haithcock says, whether we have kids in school or not, we should all be concerned about the education these students are receiving. That, if we fall behind globally in education, we fall behind globally, period. “Gone are the days when labor alone can sustain a region. Skills are the name of the game, and the only way to have a healthy economy is to have educated people who can power its economic engines,” says Haithcock. She continues, “I have observed classrooms in China and Germany, and studied Japan’s structure. In these countries the number one priority for children is education, and it is a community concern. Since education is prescribed by the government, they don’t have a choice about systems of implementation, placing all emphasis on the quality of the lessons that are being taught. Teachers have the luxury of time to find and perfect the best way to teach a concept, and then students spend much more time learning those concepts.”


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Average attendance for schools in these countries is 220 days of school, as opposed to the U.S. average of 180. In addition, the average school day in these countries is 8.5 hours, as opposed to the 5.5 hours in the U.S., and well-performing students often attend additional tutorials on the weekend voluntarily. Not surprisingly in these countries, teacher pay is proportionately higher and teaching is regarded more highly than many other professions. In the U.S., educational freedom includes developing efficient systems to implement that education. To address those concerns, a Charlotte’s Citizen Task Force was assembled with $500,000 of corporate money as well as the business acumen and political largess of figures such as Cathy Bessant of Bank of America, former Charlotte mayor and architect Harvey Gantt, Krista Tillman of Bell South, and Michael Tarwater of Carolinas Health Care System, to assess the system of implementation of education, releasing an initial report in mid-December to a surprisingly thoughtful public and professional response.

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Task At Hand So what does Frances Haithcock have to say about the task force, its corporate leadership, and its findings to improve the current situation at CMS? “I think that the task force and its findings are a positive development that will help us connect with the community and engage it in the future of the school district. It has opened an avenue for discussions that can lead us where we need to be.” She adds, “But we need to be careful. Each decision should be wellstudied, and not an attempt to ‘fix the things that ain’t broke.’” By the beginning of the 2006-2007 school year, Haithcock would like to see a more competitive plan to attract and retain quality teachers, and to continue new programs offering teachers ample opportunity for lesson building. She also hopes to see positive trends in high school test scores to demonstrate that the changes CMS has implemented are working. And, she hopes that the CMS school board will recognize the pivotal impact of its public discourse, and that communities will understand the urgency of the concerns that the school board is working to address, including

the very visible capital concerns on the table. Cumulatively, what Frances Haithcock asks is that everybody throws their hat into the ring for CMS progress. Haithcock assures that she will remain committed in the interim post through its term ending in June 2006. In the meantime, the school board is making progress in its formal superintendent search process. Will Haithcock still be in the game after June? Only time will tell. She is waiting to see if the CMS huddle evolves into a game plan where she feels her skills and perspective still make her a valuable player. Regardless, it is evident that this is one championship none of us can afford to lose. Early returns on Haithcock credit her for her openness and willingness to listen, and for overhauling discipline policies and giving high schools more flexibility. In the opinion of at least one school board member, Joe White, “She has done everything that the people in this community have hollered that they wanted.” biz Susanne Deitzel is a Charlotte-based freelance writer.

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Sherry K. Barretta Owner and President VisionCor, Inc.


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by casey jacobus




onverting information overload

into knowledge

on demand

VisionCor helps businesses leverage technology In today’s world of technology, businesses have the ability to access infinite amounts of information with the click of a button. While all this information may be enabling, information overload can be disabling. The challenge is to have access to the right amount of the right information presented in the right way. For sixteen years, VisionCor, a professional services company, has been working with clients to help them capture, gather, design, and develop corporate information and to provide employees with the information and training they need to work smarter, faster. VisionCor works across a wide range of business units, including training, information technology, human resources and documentation departments. It works with clients on a project basis, where the client outsources the entire project, or on a staff augmentation basis, where the client uses VisionCor to supplement existing staff. “We’re a company focused on providing quality service to our clients,” says owner and President Sherry Barretta. “We’re a technologyrelated company, rather than a technology firm.”

Getting Around and About Sherry Barretta didn’t originally plan to own her own business. Although her mother and two aunts owned small businesses and she was used to hearing business talk at the dinner table, she started her career in teaching. After growing up in Gastonia, she majored in English and minored in French at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. She taught school for ten years, first in Salisbury and later in Charlotte, before going to work for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School’s Education Center, where she worked with a team managing a federallyfunded program. Her work at the school system got her interested in the business side of education and she added both a master’s and an educational specialist degree from Appalachian State to her resume.

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In 1984 she took a job as manager of documentation and education for a Pennsylvania-based beverage company. She was in charge of client training and documentation for the accounting software used by clients Anheiser-Busch and Miller Brewing’s nationwide distributors, even though she knew nothing about the beverage industry and didn’t even like beer. Barretta was soon caught up in the era of mergers and acquisitions of the mid-1980s. The beverage company was consolidated with a larger company and rather than move to Nashville, Barretta took a job with another Charlotte company that was, in turn, acquired by American Express Health Systems Group. At American Express, she went to work developing client and employee training and documentation for accounting and patient billing software programs for hospitals and healthcare companies. By 1989, she began to think about going into business on her own. Starting Up “I’m a planner and I spent time looking

One of Charlotte's

around,” says Barretta. “By this time, I knew there were businesses which needed help on specific project initiatives.” Barretta launched TrainingVisions in 1990. At first the young company focused on providing employee training, but as it grew into more content and project management, Barretta changed its name to VisionCor. In sixteen years, the company has grown from one or two clients to about 100 and from three employees to 48. In the last two years alone, VisionCor has doubled its revenue growth. From the beginning, Barretta found Charlotte’s pro-business atmosphere very receptive for her new business. As a 100 percent female-owned business, VisionCor has gained recognition from the Charlotte community. In 1994, Barretta received the Rising Star award from the Charlotte chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners for her then four-year-old business. In 2000, the same organization applauded her with the Woman Business Owner of the Year award. (To date, Barretta is the only woman business owner in Charlotte to win both awards.) In 1999, the Charlotte Business Journal named Barretta one of the city’s Top 25 Women in Business and, in 2001, she was a finalist for the Charlotte Business Woman of the Year award presented annually by

VisionCor, Inc.

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6000 Fairview Rd., Ste. 350 Charlotte, N.C. 28210 Phone: 704-554-7007; 888-299-8267 Principal: Sherry K. Barretta, Owner and President Employees: 48 In Business: 16 years; founded as TrainingVisions; name changed in 1997 Certification: Certified by the State of North Carolina as a 100 percent womanowned business Clients: Wachovia, Bank of America, Cisco Systems,Wachovia Mortgage, United Mortgage, Brunswick Boat Group, Duke Energy, and Piedmont Natural Gas Business: Information development company specializing in business process analysis, technical writing, employee-training and Web-based information development.

Wachovia and Queens University. The Charlotte Business Journal has recognized VisionCor four times since 1999 as one of the top 25 largest woman-owned businesses in the Charlotte and surrounding area. “While we’ve never gotten a project because we’re female-owned, we’ve been welcomed in the Charlotte business community,” says Barretta. “If you perform and deliver, Charlotte is an open and accepting environment for small businesses.” Among VisionCor’s clients are Wachovia, Bank of America, Cisco Systems, Wachovia Mortgage, United Mortgage, Brunswick Boat Group, Duke Energy, and Piedmont Natural Gas. VisionCor provides its clients with services that include: Training – both classroom and Web-based, as well as the design and development of instructional materials; Documentation – technical writing of both online and printed materials such as policies and procedure manuals, hardware and software programs, and Web content; Content/learning management systems – VisionCor’s approach to content development is based on a user-centric view in which content must be easy to understand and provide value for the user; Project management services – the details of the process may vary according to the customized project, but VisionCor generally follows a four-phase process of analysis, design, development and testing, and implementation. Making Its Way Wachovia/First Union Bank was among VisionCor’s earliest clients. Throughout the past decade it has returned to VisionCor time and again for help with various training and content development projects. “We deal extensively with VisionCor,” says Sallie Crossley, vice president with Wachovia Corporation. “They listen closely regarding the challenges we face and they present us with creative solutions. VisionCor goes above and beyond their contractual responsibilities to meet our needs.” When former First Union, now Wachovia, was preparing the rollout of a major commercial banking reengineering initiative to over 3,000 employees across 13 states, VisionCor partnered with the bank to develop an integrated information resource solution. It combined computer-based training, instructor-led training and electronic

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performance support to ensure that employees were prepared for each stage of the rollout. As a result, Wachovia was able to minimize implementation costs and reduce time-to-proficiency for new commercial bankers. Over the years, as Charlotte-based banks have reengineered their systems, revised their employee performance support, and grown through mergers, VisionCor has assisted as needed. For example, for the Wachovia/SouthTrust merger, VisionCor partnered with Wachovia to deliver merger training to SouthTrust employees. The training included application, teller, and platform training as well as job skills and corporate culture and philosophy. VisionCor consultants also currently provide new-hire training across the bank’s corporate footprint. Other recent projects include developing employee performance support Web portals and customized applications as well as partnering with Wachovia on another major systems reengineering project. VisionCor provided a project team to document a new computer system and develop online help for the new system. VisionCor consultants also assisted with the creation of Web-based training. As a result, Wachovia was able to reduce time to proficiency for employees in their new roles. “Millions of dollars can be lost by people not knowing what they are supposed to be doing,” says Barretta. “Quick and easy access to the right amount of the right information presented in the right way is vital.” Planning Ahead While Barretta says it is difficult to plan more than three to five years ahead in the information technology field, her ultimate goal is to keep VisionCor growing – but not too much. “I don’t want VisionCor to grow so big that clients have to go through tons of layers,” she says. “I want us to continue to be a vital growing company where people are happy to be here and where they enjoy what they’re doing.” However, Barretta has deliberately built a leadership team over the past five years so that if anything were to happen to her, the company could stand on its own. “It’s not all ‘Sherry’ anymore,” she says. “We cross-train people so if I disappeared the company wouldn’t just close its doors.”

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Barretta attributes much of the company’s success to the quality of the people she’s hired. The VisionCor staff averages over ten years of experience in their field. Professional and forward thinkers, they take pride in their work and work together as a team, as well as independently. They have skills in analytical thinking, technical writing and communication. The basic requirement is that they are able to present information clearly so it can be easily understood and so it is useful. “Our approach is based on a user-centric approach,” says Barretta. “It isn’t enough for the user to simply have access to information. The information must be easy to understand and be useful for the user.” As both a woman and a business owner, Barretta says it can be challenging to balance the demands of work with the needs of a spouse and still allow time for personal development and volunteer work. “Your business is like a child; it needs nurturing,” she says. “Too many business owners don’t take enough time for themselves. It is even more challenging for women because of their traditional role in the home.” Barretta, however, is fortunate to have a husband who understands the demands of business ownership. Sherry met Tony Barretta when they both worked at American Express. Their first connection was a business connection. Tony Barretta bottles his Italian family recipes for pasta sauces and sells them under the “Santo & Josie” name. He has also opened the Santo & Josie Café, a breakfast and lunch eatery off Tyvola Road near the Coliseum. Perhaps its not surprising that Barretta’s “spare” time is spent nurturing a second business. She is truly an entrepreneur with a desire to create and build things. VisionCor is a company that has the goals, values and corporate culture that she didn’t find in larger corporations. “People ask me all the time if I would do it all over again,” Barretta explains. “You bet I would, in a heartbeat. I’ve loved every minute of it!” biz Casey Jacobus is a Charlotte-based freelance writer.

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Wesley W. Sturges President and CEO Bank of Commerce


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by ellison clary


Banking on $mall Bu$ine$$ W

es Sturges and start-up bank seem synonymous. The three-decade veteran of Charlotte financial institutions will be opening his second bank in 10 years on February 7, 2006. But perhaps small business and Sturges is an even closer association. After all, he’s concentrated on serving entrepreneurs since even before he birthed First Commerce Bank in 1996 to key on that market. Now, with Bank of Commerce, he’s poised to solicit mom’n’pop companies anew.

Sturges is Back with Another New Bank

“It’s important for Charlotte for that niche to be healthy,” Sturges says of the small- and medium-sized business market, pointing out there are 22,000 area companies with 50 or fewer employees. Sturges (and shareholders) sold his first start up, First Commerce Bank, to Bank of Granite in 2003. He sees Bank of Commerce, which will open with 14 employees in a single office at the corner of East Third Street and Queens Road, as a worthy successor in that it will be even more small-business oriented. Sturges defines a small business as an operation with sales of less than $10 million a year and a medium-sized business as one with under $50 million in annual sales. While Charlotte might seem an unlikely spot for a new bank, given that it’s headquarters for Bank of America and Wachovia and supports large offices for regional institutions such as BB&T, First-Citizens and others, Sturges sees things differently. Bigger banks seek profits in volume, Sturges says, and have a hard time making money with small businesses. Sturges enjoys figuring out how to help these small firms, which he likens to the crossword puzzles that have him hooked. “No matter how well the puzzle is done,” he says, “there are probably some things that still could be done better. I enjoy getting to know the business owners, many of whom have become my friends. When I see a business that I made a loan to grow to be extremely successful, I get a lot of fulfillment out of that.” Sturges points to Jeff Hunt, who with wife Diane was struggling to get his Competitive Edge Sports, Inc. business operating smoothly. The company works in screenprinting, embroidery and promotional items. 

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Sturges met the Hunts back in his First Commerce days. He remembers sitting on boxes in a sweltering basement in Matthews with Jeff Hunt, working on a business plan. Ultimately, Hunt says, Sturges made his company a $500,000 loan that ensured success. “The big thing about Wes is he looked at our business idea and our attitude and he really got his teeth into our business,” Hunt says. Today, Hunt’s entity operates from a 20,000-square-foot facility in Indian Trail and has about 20 employees. “You won’t find a better person to start a small business bank,” Hunt says. “Wes believes in people. He wants to know details and he wants to help you as a customer.” An Entrepreneurial Approach Sturges, although seemingly a banker, is himself an entrepreneur. But he took a circuitous route to becoming one. A graduate of Charlotte’s Myers Park High School who earned a bachelor degree in Economics at the University of Virginia, he spent 17 years with United Carolina Bank as a commercial lender, often serving small business clients. He was Charlotte city executive by

1995. That year, UCB instituted a downsizing and, Sturges grins, “I got to participate.” It didn’t take Sturges long to formulate the plan for First Commerce. He and his investors capitalized the bank with $8 million. First Commerce stock began trading at below $10 per share and reached $19 in July 2003 when the Bank of Granite deal closed. At the time, octogenarian John Forlines Jr. had been the long-time chief executive of Bank of Granite and Sturges was a strong candidate to replace him. But Sturges, Forlines and Charles Snipes, 71, who had taken the helm at the Bank of Granite when Forlines stepped down, had a well-publicized falling out. Sturges left Bank of Granite with a financial settlement and an 18-month non-compete agreement, which has since expired. Asked if he thought he’d run Bank of Granite, Sturges pauses and says, “Uh-huh.” Another pause and he adds, “Yes.” Will it be sweeter to raid a customer from Bank of Granite? Sturges, 56, smiles and chooses his words. “It will be fun to renew some relationships,” he chuckles. Then he clears up what he feels is a misconception that his new bank will compete

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with community institutions such as Scottish Bank, American Community Bank and First Trust, whose space at 100 Queens Road ,incidently, the Bank of Commerce will fill when First Trust moves to a new home on nearby East Third Street: “Each of us small banks has such a tiny slice of the pie that we don’t run into each other as much as we run into the large banks,” he says. “They’ve got most of the business, but it can be a challenge for them to keep the small businesses when they are competing with a community bank.” Small businesses need credit, but their owners often don’t know how to use it properly, Sturges says. “The strength of a small business is the owner,” Sturges explains, “so we need to get with the owner and devise a credible loan package that serves the company needs and is a credit-sound package for the bank.” When hiring, Sturges says, he looks for attitude, for those who have a passion for small businesses. “I do better with people who first have the consumer focus, the desire, those who attain their success by helping someone else be successful.” The new bank’s chief financial officer and



Birthing Another Bank In coalescing the new Bank of Commerce’s shareholders and initial board of directors, Sturges called upon more than a few acquaintances. Some were prior loan recipients from his former bank like George Doggett of Doggett Advertising, who is a charter shareholder, and Dick Handshaw of Handshaw Inc., which develops Web-based training programs and systems for banks and other multi-location companies, who is a director.

Others were holdovers from the First Commerce board who are now Bank of Commerce directors including Bill Staton of Staton Financial Advisors, Bill Loeffler of Sinclair Loeffler Advertising and Marketing, and Jim Smith, a retired dairy executive. Earl Leake, vice president of human resources and organizational development at Lance Inc. is chairman of Bank of Commerce, after serving as vice chairman of First Commerce. “The community bank model that we use, focusing on the smaller business customer and giving them outstanding service, I think that works,” Leake says. “I’m pretty excited about moving forward. I think we’re going to be successful.” Sturges maintains that the Bank of Commerce will grow differently than his former bank. Rather than focusing on opening in other locations, Bank of Commerce will rely more on technology to serve customers in various locations. “We’ll be much more aggressive in getting out to the customer’s place of business,” he adds. Easily doubling his capitalization for First Commerce, Sturges raised more than $17 million from Bank of Commerce investors. 

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top lending officer were with Sturges at First Commerce. “We know better who we are,” Sturges says. “We’ll focus even more than last time on small business, though 75 percent of our loan portfolio at First Commerce was small business.” During his 18 months away from banking, Sturges says he and wife Claudia, daughter of Ken Iverson, who steered steel company Nucor to prominence from Charlotte headquarters, spent time with their two grown children and at their mountain retreat in the Blowing Rock area. Besides learning that he didn’t want to be a full-time golfer, Sturges says, he determined that he wasn’t ready for retirement.




704.892.8252 Each office independently owned and operated.

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That gives Bank of Commerce a legal lending limit of more than $2 million and should ease a frustration from the first time around. “We’d take the risk, get the business started,” Sturges remembers. “They’d grow and they’d grow and suddenly they’d need to borrow $2 million. We had to wave goodbye to them after doing all the work to get them there. So this time we have more capital we can loan and we have a stronger network of correspondent banks so we can make the loan and have them take a portion of it on their books.” Banking on Commerce Asked to describe his projected typical day at the new bank, Sturges details a schedule that starts with an early morning business breakfast and runs through several in-person client calls and internal meetings before ending with an evening civic function. How many hours is that? “Enough,” he laughs. “I do plan to be hands on,” he adds. “I think one of the important things a community bank does is give the client access to the decision maker. I’ll have my office right out in the front lobby. I’ll answer my own phone.” When it comes to how fast Bank of Commerce will grow, Sturges paints with a broad brush. “I would hope we would be over $200 million in assets in five years,” he says. And if, later on, someone wanted to buy Bank of Commerce, selling would be a possibility, Sturges says. “We’ll be expensive,” he adds. “We’re going to have earnings that


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demand a higher price.” But a sale isn’t a certainty. “I’m very comfortable with 10 to 15 years continuing to run this bank,” Sturges says. “I’ve got a good management team, people who can step up and take my role and other roles in the organization. We will be able to continue to grow and enhance shareholder value and serve our clients for 20 years down the road.”

Bank of Commerce 100 Queens Road Charlotte, N.C. 28204 Phone: 704-334-7125 Principals: Earl D. Leake, Chairman; Wesley W. Sturges, President and CEO Employees: 14 Established: 2006 Business: Bank of Commerce has just been formed to focus on the needs of small-to-mid-sized business customers in the Charlotte area, with experienced loan officers to guide and advise business owners, not just take orders. Bank of Commerce offers potential customers an extensive financial analysis of their business plan and shares that analysis with the customer even if a loan is not approved.

Though he’s sold one before, Sturges maintains he couldn’t start a bank if selling it was the primary mission. “I think you have to believe in the product you’ve got and pursue that,” he says. A former chairman of the North Carolina Bankers Association, Sturges feels the Tar Heel state is only “moderately banked” and he’s certain there’s room for Bank of Commerce in Charlotte. For years, the Charlotte region lacked sufficient venture capital for entrepreneurs, he says. That situation has eased recently, he allows, but then he asks, “What happens after the venture capital?” That’s when bank credit is important, he answers. “That’s where banks like ours can come in and make this a healthier community.” Sturges quickly voices confidence in the Charlotte region’s economy. Its vibrancy traces to a diversity of firms and the plethora of smaller companies, he says. “We’re continuing to see small businesses wanting to expand,” he adds. That feeds a hunger for an institution such as Bank of Commerce, he says, adding that the community’s anticipation of the new bank is palpable. “In the First Commerce startup, I had to call every investor to get them on board,” Sturges recalls. “This startup, they’ve been calling me. A lot of the calls have come from former customers. ‘We want a bank like yours back in the market,’ they tell me.” biz Ellison Clary is a Charlotte-based freelance writer.

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(l to r) G. Stuart Matthis II Vice President, Corporate Development J. Edward Jenkins President Robert H. Baughman Vice President, Corporate Services Ralph Whitehead Associates


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by casey jacobus


Aerial view of the $120,000,000 Neuse River Bridge Project in New Bern, N.C., the largest single highway bridge project ever let in the state.

Navigating the Transportation Industry

Providing Quality Planning/Engineering Services Ralph Whitehead, an engineering graduate of North Carolina State in 1950, founded Ralph Whitehead Associates (RWA) in Atlanta in 1959 and soon after moved the young firm to Charlotte in 1961. Almost immediately Whitehead landed an important street and grade separation project for the city, the first of more than 100 projects RWA would design in Charlotte over the next quarter century. To date, those projects have included site work for the Two First Union Tower and the Panthers Stadium, the Charlotte Vintage Trolley, the Independence Boulevard Busway, structures on the South Transit Corridor, the extension of Tyvola Road from Fairview Road to the Coliseum area, and the recent widening of I-77. “The city has had a long history with RWA over the last several decades,” says city engineer Jim Schumacher. “They’ve done very competent work for us over and over again.” The early focus of RWA was to provide design services to municipalities, state DOT’s and major railroads such as Southern Railway (now Norfolk Southern) and ACL RR (now CSX Transportation). This focus set the stage for the company’s long-term strategic plan – to grow the company into all facets of civil/transportation engineering. Today, Ralph Whitehead Associates has a staff of 155 employees. The corporate headquarters remains in Charlotte, while the firm also has offices in

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Atlanta, Ga.; Charleston, S.C.; Jacksonville, Fla.; Kansas City, Kan.; Raleigh, N.C.; Richmond, Va.; and Rock Hill, Md. In addition to these offices, RWA has over 25 field staff employees working in satellite locations all across the eastern United States. This geographic diversity makes it possible for the firm to serve clients from Michigan to Texas and from Florida to New England. Traditionally, civil engineers do the construction plans for streets, highways, railroads, bridges, and dams, as well as site work and utility systems for building sites. Over the years RWA has designed everything from railroads and roadways to bridges and transit systems. In recent years, it has also expanded its services to include storm water management, environmental services, geotechnical engineering, utilities, and design/build projects. In 1990, Ralph Whitehead sold his company to seven staff members, including Ed Jenkins, Bob Baughman, and Stuart Matthis. Whitehead stayed on as chairman for two years before retiring. He passed away in 2004 at age 76. Spanning theYears Not every child who plays with erector sets or builds with Legos grows up to be an engineer, but the three men who head Ralph Whitehead Associates today did. Ed Jenkins, 56, grew up in Georgia and graduated from Georgia Tech. His first job was with the Federal Highway Administration, but after five years he left the public sector and went to work for a large national firm 

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in Charlotte. After “butting heads” with Ralph Whitehead Associates, he decided that “if you can’t beat them, join ‘em,” and in 1987 joined the company. He now serves as president. Bob Baughman, 48, is from Ohio. He got his engineering degree from Ohio Northern University, went to work for RWA in 1979 and never left. Baughman added an M.B.A. from UNCC to his resume and for ten years served as CEO of RWA. In 2000 and 2005, the leadership team shuffled the deck and Baughman became vice president for rail and subsequently corporate services, which includes information technology, finance, and human resources. At 46, Kentucky native Stuart Matthis is the youngest member of the leadership triad. He acquired his B.S. from West Virginia University and an M.S. from Virginia Tech. He joined RWA in 1982 and is now vice president for corporate development, responsible for marketing, recruiting, training and strategic initiatives. Matthis also teaches a graduate level engineering course at UNCC “just for fun.” The internal transfer of power that brought Jenkins, Baughman and Matthis to the top of the corporate structure in 1990 also set the stage for

Ralph Whitehead Associates, Inc. 1000 West Morehead Street Charlotte, N.C. 28208 Phone: 704-372-1885 Principals: J. Edward Jenkins, President; Robert H. Baughman,Vice President, Corporate Services; G. Stuart Matthis II, Vice President, Corporate Development Other Offices: Atlanta, Ga.; Charleston, S.C.; Jacksonville, Fla.; Kansas City, Kan.; Raleigh, N.C.; Richmond,Va.; and Rock Hill, Md. Founded: 1961 Employees: 155 total Business: A multi-discipline professional services firm offering planning, engineering, and construction management services for transportation facilities, serving state, federal, local/municipal and private clients. Signature Projects: $120M Neuse River Bridge Project in New Bern, N.C. ( AASHTO Outstanding Bridge Project, 2001); Vintage Trolley, Charlotte, N.C. (design and construction management); 1-95 /St. Augustine Road Interchange, Jacksonville, Fla. (Florida’s “Best in Construction” Award); $130M Knightdale Bypass, Raleigh, N.C. (award winning design-build project)


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the firm’s expansion. In the ensuing fifteen years, Jenkins sees it as continuing to be an the company added five more offices and important service line in the future. He expanded its services into almost everything explains that railroads today carry 16 percent related to transportaof the nation’s tion. Revenue greatly freight with a expanded as well projected growth Although the of 3 percent a three men share year. The railroads similar backare particularly grounds, their important for the personalities and coal industry. The modes of operation lack of rail capacity are very different. is currently costing Jenkins is the coal companies “people person” millions of dollars. who understands With one hundred personal relationnew coal plants in ships and is good at the planning stage drawing out the best and dozens Typical rendering of Trolley/Light Rail Station in everyone. Matthis expected to go up and associated pedestrian/bike facilities. calls him the in the next couple “consummate listener.” Baughman is the “detail of decades, new rail lines will have to be built. man,” with the ability to create and operate RWA not only understands railroad construcwithin all of the company’s internal systems. tion, it also understands railroad bridge design. It Matthis has tremendous energy and passion for has designed over 250 railroad bridges since the whatever he is doing and the ability to “make it early ’60s and offers complete railway bridge happen.” Matthis is largely responsible for the engineering services. From railroad bridges to expansion of the firm’s Transportation Division highway bridges is not a huge jump, but one to the point where it has recently been split into RWA made early on. The company has designed two new divisions, one covering the southeast many of the bridges in North Carolina over and the other the mid-Atlantic. 1,000 feet long, including 15 major coastal “We work well together,” says Jenkins. bridges on the Atlantic coastline. The $120M “We’re all problem solvers and share the same bridge on US Highway 17 over the Neuse River values. We respect our diversity and different in New Bern won a National Award in 2001 for ways of operating.” the most outstanding bridge project in the country. “It is one of most beautiful projects we’ve ever On the Road constructed,” says Len Sanderson, State Highway Building on its early connections to the Administrator of the North Carolina Department railroad industry, RWA has specialized in of Transportation. “We consider RWA a top firm offering complete engineering services for for producing quality projects.” railway planning and design from its very The company has a broad range of experibeginning. “Rail allowed us to get our foot in ence in creative roadway planning and the transportation door,” says Jenkins. “It’s the design, including coastal and mountain highreason we have an office in Kansas City. It ways, multi-lane streets, interchanges, gives us the potential to go to the West Coast.” freeways, streetscapes, and intersection RWA’s many railroad projects include several improvements. Another project RWA has just relocation studies and projects, such as the completed for NCDOT is the $150M Martin Salisbury-to-Asheville Passenger Rail Study for Luther King Parkway in Wilmington, N.C., NCDOT’s Rail Division and track improvements which just opened to traffic in 2005. for CSX over NC 27 in Mt. Holly. The firm’s Beginning with Atlanta’s MARTA system in expertise includes mainline as well as spur line the ’70s, RWA has 30 years of experience in the improvements, rail yards, rail sidings, intermodal construction management of major metropolitan facilities and grade crossing improvements. transit systems. It designed the Independence Not only has railroad design and planning Boulevard Busway for Charlotte’s DOT, as well as been important to the company’s development, bridges and retaining walls along the South

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Transit Corridor. RWA, as consultant to the City of Charlotte, has also been associated with the Charlotte Vintage Trolley project from its beginning, spurring huge economic development along the corridor. Building on its knowledge and experience in railway, highway, and bridge construction and design, RWA has also established storm water management as a major service line, beginning with river hydraulic projects associated with bridge crossings. Today, RWA is one of the leading storm water management consultants in the southeast, having worked on projects like the South Transit Corridor Drainage Basin Studies and the Masters Inn emergency culvert repair in Charlotte. And, with today’s emphasis on stream and wetland protection, RWA has come to understand and master the permitting process. RWA’s staff has a long history of coordinating project activities with the resource agencies such as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, local regulatory agencies, FEMA and FERC. RWA also provides a full range of geotechnical engineering, forensic studies, pavement design and evaluation, site environmental assessments, materials testing and laboratory and on-site construction testing services.

Full Steam Ahead RWA is not about to rest on its reputation. It’s a growth-oriented company. “We’re not afraid to tackle a problem that may be large or appear overwhelming,” asserts Jenkins. That “can do” attitude showed up in the post-Katrina rescue efforts. While CSXT had staff in helicopters assessing the damage to their major railroad bridges the day after the storm, they had already commissioned RWA to prepare for reconstructive engineering support on the ground. In fact, RWA had bridge engineers headed to Louisiana the day the storm made landfall. Today the design for rail reconstruction is long since complete and construction will be wrapped up within weeks. Today’s leadership team at RWA is also good at recognizing change in the industry and adjusting to meet new challenges. Forty years ago no one was much concerned about the environmental impact of new roadways and railways. Today the company has a team of seven environmental scientists on staff to deal with the ever-changing complexity of environmental regulations. RWA prepares environmental impact statements, conducts wetland delineations, manages public input

programs, and monitors water quality for a variety of public and private clients. Vintage Trolley Corridor One of RWA’s newest clients for environmental issues is the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School System. CMS hopes to build 50 new schools in the next ten years, and RWA is on board to help evaluate possible sites for those future schools. With funding becoming a dominant issue for public works, Matthis and Jenkins say our industry needs to become more proactive and innovative in securing financing for projects. Gasoline taxes have long been the primary funding mechanism for highway projects, but no one wants to raise taxes. The federal gas tax hasn’t increased in 13 years, and has been further eroded by more fuel-efficient vehicles which reduce the “tax-per-gallon” revenue. According to both, the industry has to consider more public/private enterprises and new initiatives. One such innovative delivery approach to highway and railway projects is the “designbuild” concept. RWA’s Construction Services Division focuses on design-build and other opportunities to work directly for contractors, a change in the way DOT’s deliver projects. In the past 10 years, the firm’s design-build portfolio includes a dozen projects with a construction value of nearly $1,000,000,000. Major accomplishments include the Knightdale Bypass in Raleigh (with the LPA Group) and the Wateree River Bridge in Kershaw, S.C., both winners of major awards. RWA also joined forces with HDR and Rea Construction to deliver the I-77 designbuild project in Charlotte, winning an AGC award for safety and innovation. The current leadership team at RWA is clearly proud of their company and confident of its future. They also obviously enjoy being engineers. Matthis hopes his teenage son will follow him into the field of civil engineering because “it involves the design and hence protection of our infrastructure.” Baughman calls it “a world of problem solving and people serving.” Jenkins agrees, “It’s a fantastic industry to be involved with. We affect the quality of people’s lives.” biz Casey Jacobus is a Charlotte-based freelance writer.


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bizresource guide Take advantage of these products and services from Charlotte’s leading business-to-business suppliers. page #

Allen Tate Realtors ®............................................IBC Allen Tate - Ellen Watkins ....................................30 Apple Rock ........................................................35 ATCOM..................................................................26 Ballantyne Center for Dentistry ............................10 Breakfast Club America ......................................34 Business Success Institute ..................................25 Carolinas HealthCare ............................................3 Carpenter Cammack & Associates ........................40 Century 21 ® Hecht’s Realty ..................................35 Charlotte Copy Data ..............................................8 ClickCom ............................................................11 Coffee Boss, The ................................................34 College Foundation of NC ....................................37 CPCC Corp Training ............................................IFC Daniel Ratliff & Associates ..................................24 Dunn Enterprises ................................................13 Employers Association ........................................20 Employers Association-Benefits............................12 Exervio ................................................................7 Gotham Images ..................................................41 Group Insurance Solutions ....................................25 Integraphx ..........................................................13 Interact ..................................................................9 Larners Office Furniture ........................................26 Mecklenburg County Recycling ............................11 New Way Media ..................................................42 NouvEON Technology Partners..............................40 PRStore ..............................................................31 RBC Centura ......................................................21 Sauder Woodworking ..........................................12 Scott Jaguar ......................................................27 Shield Engineering ..............................................18 Sloan Financial Group..........................................36 SMS Catering Services ..........................................9 Studio Displays/Nimlock Charlotte..........................8 Tathwell Printing ................................................43 TimeWarner Business ............................................1 UNCC Belk College ..............................................BC VisionCor ............................................................43 Wachovia Bank ....................................................5

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Workforce Training and Development

Attracting, Developing and Retaining Top Performers Hot Topic for 2006 Central Piedmont Community College Offers Highly Acclaimed HR Certification Program Did you know that the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that by 2011 the economy will need 10 million more workers than will be available? Today, most American employers are facing a crisis in finding skilled workers, and Charlotte is no exception. Our region is experiencing the challenges that come from a shrinking skilled labor shortage, and the problem is only expected to worsen in the near future. In his book, “Get ‘Em While They’re Hot: How to Attract, Develop and Retain Peak Performers in the Coming Labor Shortage,” Dr. Tony Zeiss, president of Central Piedmont Community College (CPCC), points out that America is about to experience the greatest labor and skills shortage in history. He notes that “unless organizations prepare for this impending national crisis, they will be severely restricted from meeting their mission.” “The number one threat to our economy and to any organization is a lack of skilled and productive workers,” states Zeiss. “The good news is that organizations that prepare for the labor and skill shortage will do well.” Discovering a reliable supply chain of skilled workers is critical to any business. According to Zeiss, community colleges are driving the economy as a result of the fact that 75 percent of jobs in America require training beyond high school, but below four-year degrees. To support businesses in their efforts to develop effective HR recruitment and retention plans, the Corporate and Continuing Education program of Central Piedmont Community College offers a Human Resources Certification Program. The highly successful program has been widely used by businesses throughout the region to increase the


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bench strength of their HR efforts. In addition, individuals seeking a career in Human Resources have found the program extremely beneficial. CPCC offers a Certificate in Human Resources program, which includes a total of 80 hours of instruction. The program involves five courses in human resources: Fundamentals of Human Resources Management, Basic Employment Law, Employee Labor Relations, Compensation and Benefits Administration, and Effective Recruitment and Selection. The certificate program is targeted for those new in the Human Resources field, individuals interested in a career change, and employees in a field directly related to HR who want to learn more. Attending these courses helps HR professionals new to the field become more effective in their positions. The training also supports businesses in creating a more strategic approach to their Human Resources efforts. In addition, CPCC offers an elevenweek preparatory course for individuals planning to take the national exam for PHR/SPHR certification. According to Paula Harvey, a CPCC instructor who helped develop the HR certification program, there continues to be heightened interest in the Charlotte business community for strengthening the HR function. “Businesses are realizing the strong competitive nature of human resources and the pending shortage of skilled workers,” states Harvey. “HR has to become a strategic player within any organization. It’s imperative that professionals in the Human Resources field are seated at the decision-making table when important strategies and issues

are being discussed. Businesses have to have strong recruitment, development and retention plans to be effective in today’s competitive market.” Harvey, who was recently named HR Professional of the Year by the National Society of Human Resource Management/North Carolina Council, confirms finding and retaining properly trained employees is one of the major challenges she hears from students in the certification program. “Our goal through the program is to help HR professionals build their skills to strategically develop and implement plans to recruit, equip and retain qualified workers,” Harvey explains. Businesses or individuals interested in finding out more about the Human Resources Certification program should contact CPCC’s Corporate and Continuing Education program – Robin Jenest, HR program coordinator, at 704-330-4666 or biz This section is intended to highlight workforce training and development programs and initiatives delivered by community colleges within the Charlotte region. Community colleges are invited to submit substantive content ideas to

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Featuring Executive Homes in the Charlotte Region FABULOUS WATERFRONT DREAM Lake Norman, North Carolina This gorgeous home features more than 6,000 sf with 2 master bedroom suites and 5.5 bathrooms. Three fireplaces. Heated pool and cabana. All of this, set on 0.6-acre lot with 187 feet of water frontage and a 120-foot pier with a large float. Just minutes from I-77 in Cornelius. This home is a dream. MLS# 548342 – $2,230,000 Property Address: 22940 Torrence Chapel Rd.

Diane Merryman – 704-896-5190

METICULOUS CRAFTSMANSHIP Weddington, North Carolina Quality craftsmanship revealed throughout this custom home on a 1-acre lot. Upgraded features include 10-foot ceilings, heavy moldings & polished nickel hardware. Kitchen offers granite countertops, coffee-glazed cabinets & stainless steel appliances.Temperature-controlled wine room is truly unique. Raised-brick terrace has a built-in grill that is great for entertaining. MLS# 519590 – $924,400 Property Address: 6008 Foggy Glen Pl.

The Kelly Team – 704-293-7032

ELEGANT LIVING Waxhaw, North Carolina This charming home has beautiful formal areas and a spacious family room adjoining the fully equipped, gourmet kitchen with granite countertops and breakfast island.Covered porch with a fireplace is accessed through french doors.Sunny, master bedroom is on the main level. Upper level features four additional bedrooms with adjoining bathrooms, plus a bonus room.5BR/4.5BTH MLS# 562383 – $849,900 Property Address: 2028 Sherringham Ln.

Glenda Gravatt – 704-421-2302

CUSTOM WATERFRONT York, South Carolina This new, waterfront home features a full brick-and-stone exterior. Luxury abounds this private, wooded, 2-acre lot with a dock. Gourmet kitchen extras include Wolf appliances, a warming drawer, Sub-Zero refrigerator, custom cabinetry and granite throughout. Whole-house stereo, central vacuum, intercom system and more. Quick commute to I-77. MLS# 1026761 & 547669 – $764,900 Property Address: 2274 Sussex Rd.

Jennifer Douse – 803-526-1101






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