Page 1

Watson Insurance

Brackett Company

Optima Engineering

Hospice & Palliative Care Charlotte Region

october 2008

Itay Berger Vice President - Charlotte Operations Diamonds Direct SouthPark


5601 77 Center Dr., Ste. 250, Charlotte, N.C. 28217


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in this issue











cover story

Diamonds Direct It’s a retail formula that works for cars and groceries, but you don’t associate it with diamonds. Yet one Charlotte jeweler has set itself apart with high volume and low margin. Such sparkling success results from adhering to the formula, according to Itay Berger. “We focus on being a diamond powerhouse and on what we do best, the bridal business.”


Watson Insurance Founder Thomas Craig Watson was a true believer in education, training and promoting from within; now his second and third generations are carrying forth the legacy. Since 1934, Watson Insurance has set a standard of vision, value and service.


Brackett Company Rather than resign herself to what was then a gender-specific role, Diane Brackett Rivers decided to forge her own way. Since 1985, her company has developed nearly 30 projects, focusing on the health care sector of commercial real estate.


Optima Engineering Keith Pehl relishes in challenges for his company that specializes in electrical, mechanical and plumbing engineering. An adherent of green precepts, the firm promotes photovoltaics, solar thermal and other sustainable technologies proven, but not widespread.

october 2008

32 bizlife

departments publisher’spost


bizXperts Smart Salvos, Select Strategies and Succinct Solutions


employersbiz Legislative and Regulatory Highlights for Area Employers


bizlife Pursuing a Balance of Business and Life






on the cover:

Brackett Company

Optima Engineering

Hospice & Palliative Care Charlotte Region

october 2008

Itay Berger Vice President Charlotte Operations Diamonds Direct SouthPark

Hospice & Palliative Care Hospice celebrates 30 years of providing compassionate care for people in the last phases of incurable disease so that they may live as fully and comfortably as possible. Ranking in size in the top two percent in the country, it is a national leader in the field.

Watson Insurance

Itay Berger Vice President - Charlotte Operations Diamonds Direct SouthPark


Photography by Wayne Morris

www. grea tercha rl ot tebiz .c om


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[publisher’spost] GREEN, GREAT and GLOBAL Those three words describe the thrust of the 2008 Citistates Report, a full regional analyses focused on the 21st century challenges of rapid population growth and broad futures for the booming Charlotte-Mecklenburg region, including its surrounding counties in both North and South Carolina. Funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Citistates Group (Neal Peirce, Curtis Johnson and Alex Marshall) have returned to our region to follow up and “revisit” their findings of the 1995 Peirce Report. Their reports are meant to foster awareness and focus on our most challenging public policy issues and growth and how our communities are coping with it. Their goal is to stimulate vigorous civic dialogue. They are engaging with area publications and media in releasing the report in four installments through the end of the year. The first installment in the September focused on the emerging “energy cluster” in the region, and our opportunity to become a leader in the energy sector on a global scale, becoming a center for innovation in the area of renewable energy. The report surmised that this process could create an economic engine for the future which would affect the Charlotte region much as the banking industry has over the past quarter century. This month’s topic concerns the overall form of regional growth, focusing in on issues of transportation and land use. In November, the focus will not only be on Center City Charlotte’s dramatic turnaround since the 1995 report and the challenges and opportunities ahead, but also on the region’s many historic downtowns and the emerging new “town centers” appearing in such places as Baxter and Locust. And finally, in December, the installment will focus on the region’s many environmental challenges, including water resources, green infrastructure, and land conservation. This report will offer ideas helpful to every community as they make choices regarding their limited resources and how to build our region for maintaining and improving our quality of life and maximizing our business opportunities. Our 16-county regional marketplace, also known as Charlotte USA, is home to our businesses, our communities and our families. We live, work and play in Charlotte USA. Our region is known for its accessibility, its business strength, its capable work force, its quality of life. Where are we targeting our resources? Where can we best focus them to the benefit of our communities? In the midst of our elections process, it is timely to be considering the proposals that will come from this 2008 report. We will learn how we have fallen short of the original report, but we will also learn how we have grown beyond that report. The greater Charlotte region is becoming a model for growth to communities all around the United States. We have been fortunate to have great leaders who have delivered us to this point in time. We need to continue to find and develop leaders in pursuit of the “greatness” that Charlotte USA has become and aspires to be. The debate and discussion that this new Citistates Report will engender is important. The introspection, critical analysis, cumulative decision-making, and direction of resources are integral to the vitality of this region. Please make time to read, think and react to the Citistates Group’s findings this fall. In addition to print media, the group’s findings will be presented on television and radio, as well as hosted by many online resources, as well as discussed in many blogs. biz

October 2008 Volume 9 • Issue 10 Publisher John Paul Galles

Associate Publisher/Editor Maryl A. Lane

Creative Director Trevor Adams

Editorial & Sales Assistant Janet Kropinak

Contributing Writers Thom Callahan Ellison Clary Casey Jacobus Janet Kropinak Contributing Photographers Janet Kropinak Wayne Morris Galles Communications Group, Inc. 5601 77 Center Drive • Suite 250 Charlotte, NC 28217-0737 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 2008 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 28217-0737.Telephone: 704-676-5850. Fax: 704-676-5853. Subscription rate is $24 for one year. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Greater Charlotte Biz, 5601 77 Center Dr., Ste. 250, Charlotte, NC 28217-0737.


october 2008

www. grea tercha rl ot tebiz .c om

Out of 5,453 U.S. hospitals, only 170 were named “Best in America.” And we’re the only one in the region to make the list.

[employersbiz] • •• •••

Legislative and Regulatory Highlights for Area Employers


America may or may not be in a recession. Opinions vary. But ask any leader and he or she will tell you that something is going on. Employees are terrified. They’re afraid of their companies failing, of being downsized, of losing their homes and everything they’ve worked so long and hard to achieve. What’s more, they feel like failures. Few are hitting their targets (even after multiple downward re-settings) and they’re constantly reminded of it in meetings where they’re confronted with embarrassing numbers or given patronizing and hollow pep talks. If you suspect this fear and shame might be coming through in your employees’ day-to-day behavior, Morrie Shechtman says you’re probably right. “One of two types of behaviors is sweeping through the workplace,” says Shechtman, a change management consultant. “In one scenario, workers are quietly withdrawing to wherever they can hide out—their offices, break rooms, behind computers—seeking safety from any kind of interaction or inquiry. They’re placating, obsequious, almost painfully polite. “On the other hand, the amount of childish squabbling and pointless conflict has escalated to baffling proportions,” he adds. “In many companies I’ve worked with the culture has all the feel of a middle school lunchroom instead of a dynamic place of business. Employees exhibit petty behavior and spread rumors. Triangulation is the rule of the day.” So what’s going on? Shechtman says we’re seeing the results of an unacknowledged “employee underground” movement. Believe it or not, this behavior has its roots in our “cave man” days. “Our earliest responses to fear are two-fold,” notes Shechtman. “First, we go quiet and hope no one notices us. Second, we lash out and try to hurt others. Both are in the service of trying to stay safe. Of course—and this is the irony—neither response

is conducive to the focus, creativity, and plain-old hard work it’s going to take to pull a company through the recession.” If you lead a modern-day team of cowering prey animals or aggressive predators—or, as may well be the case, some of both—what can you do to help them deal with their fear and get more productive?

Shechtman offers the following strategies: • •• • • • 1. Don’t try to cajole people out of their anxiety. It won’t work. • • •• •• 2. Get real. Start openly talking about reality, from the top of the organization down to the bottom. • • •• •• 3. After you address fear, bring up the concept of failure…what it means to fail. Does it mean they’re worthless and of no value? Does it wipe out everything one does well? Or does it signify a missed opportunity and a lesson (albeit painful) learned. • •• • • • 4. Don’t assume all conflict is bad. Employees disagreeing, even disagreeing vehemently, is not the problem. Conflict is actually healthy for a company. After all, there can be no growth without challenge, and no challenge without conflict. • • •• •• 5. Encourage and reward people, especially salespeople, who act in counterintuitive ways. • • •• •• 6. Live by the theory of abundance, not the theory of scarcity—and teach employees to do the

same. The theory of scarcity holds that there are very limited resources out there to meet your needs and you must therefore accept any opportunity that comes your way. The theory of abundance says that there are infinite resources available to you, and you can pick and choose opportunities that mesh with your values and that ultimately benefit you. Believe it or not, you learned one of these mindsets before you were five years old—and it is still driving the decisions you make in your life and career! • •• • • • 7. Do a “recession review” of employee skill sets. Ask the following question: Of the skills that have made you successful thus far, which fit the current economic climate and which do not? • • •• •• 8. Help employees to find their familiars. It’s their familiar. Simply put, it is an emotional pattern that holds tremendous power over our choices, our relationships, and our careers. Rooted in our families and our upbringing, the familiar is a feeling that we unconsciously reproduce, sometimes to our benefit, but often to our detriment. Help your employees tremendously by learning about familiars and encouraging your employees to identify and subsequently diminish their own. Painful as the current economy may be, in some ways it’s the proverbial blessing in disguise, says Shechtman. Why? Because it drags employee weaknesses out into the light, where they can be confronted and conquered. “Having been through a number of recessions, what I’ve learned is that good times and high profits not only hide many sins, but also disguise a profound and damaging lack of personal and professional growth,” says Shechtman. “It sometimes takes a challenging economy to show us that 80 to 90 percent of what has made us successful is also the cap on our future growth. Remove that cap and the sky’s the limit, no matter what the economy looks like.”

Employment of Older Workers Grows

A recently released report analyzing U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics by global outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas “shatters the myth” of older workers being particularly vulnerable during the current economic downturn. Employment among workers age 55 and older grew by 3.7 percent—from 25.6 million in July 2007 to 26.6 million in July 2008. During that same time, the number of workers age 20 to 44 declined by an average of 1.3 percent. Organizations that have pared down “may increasingly rely on


oc tober 2008

seasoned veterans to get them through the downturn,” says John A. Challenger, CEO of the Chicago-based organization. “They may cost more in salary and benefits, but their experience and knowledge make them highly valuable.” Some of the employment growth for workers age 55 and older is because that age group is rapidly expanding as baby boomers age. However, according to Challenger, the number of Americans age 55 and older grew by 2.7 percent over the past 12 months while employment for this age group grew by 3.7 percent. ➤

w ww. great erchar lottebiz .co m

The percentage of older workers who are confident they will have enough money to retire fell sharply from 27 percent in 2007 to 18 percent in 2008, according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute, and coupled with the falling value of home prices, might be resulting in older workers delaying retirement. Employers might want to consider whether they need to make some simple changes that address the “3 Rs” that keep some boomer workers up at night: fear of Redundancy either in the form of firings or layoffs, of not keeping skills Relevant, and Resentment from younger associates, says Laurel Kennedy, CEO of Age Lessons, a Chicago-based intergenerational consulting firm. One concern of older workers is that younger associates leave them out of the information loop, Age Lessons found in exploring issues that surfaced in its 2007 Ageism: Managing on the Bias research. “Older workers believe that younger associates drop them from critical informal communications networks, turning the office grapevine into a sour grapevine and blocking access to important political and business developments,” Kennedy says. It identified what it calls “senior shutout,” which occurs when companies inadvertently close off career paths and training opportunities for older workers on the assumption that they are uninterested or unwilling to accept a new challenge. Other communication issues it identified involved body language. That included colleagues sending text messages or checking instant messages under the table during team meetings when an older worker held the floor, as well as yawning, lack of eye contact and doodling. Older workers can do their part, too, by reaching out to younger counterparts, Age Lessons suggests. They can, for example, learn to text or instant-message colleagues if that is the preferred communication medium. (SHRM)

(Morrie Shechtman, an international change management consultant; CCH)

The Employers Association is a nonprofit organization providing comprehensive human resources and training services to a membership of over 850 companies in the greater Charlotte region. For more information, please call Laura Hampton at 704-522-8011 or visit

purs uing a bal ance of busines s and life

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in Charlotte USA

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o ct ober 2008



by janet kropinak

INSURING PROSPERITY Third-Generation Watson Insurance Carries on the Legacy

atson Insurance Agency was built on a founda-

and was fortunate to attend a year of business college before he

tion of integrity, honesty and hard work, and for

began building what would eventually become his legacy, Watson

over 75 years has set a standard of vision, value

Insurance Agency.

and service. Since opening its doors in 1934, Watson Insurance has had a

knock on doors looking for business and introducing himself to

clear focus of building community and industry leadership that

the community. Early on he gained a reputation for benefiting

can only come with experience, professional skills, and superior

both his customers and the community with his knowledge and

services. Founder Thomas Craig Watson was a true believer in

honest business practices.

education, training and promoting from within and set up his business to reflect these ideals.


When he first started, Watson would walk the streets and

By the time Thomas “Tom” Craig Watson Jr. was in college, he had already decided to follow in his father’s footsteps.

The Watson Insurance story began in the era of the Great

“Insurance was all I knew,” says Tom with a laugh. “My dad

Depression when Watson moved to Gastonia from Morehead

would come home and tell stories about the insurance business

City to live with relatives. There he found work and opportunity

over dinner.”

october 2008

➤ www. grea tercha rl ot tebiz .c om

(l to r) Robert (“Rob”) Penn Watson, Vice President Thomas (“Tom”) Craig Watson Jr., President Thomas Craig (“Craig”) Watson III, Vice President Watson Insurance Agency, Incorporated

purs uing a bal ance of busines s and life

o ct ober 2008


Virginia down to Florida,”

While in college, Tom

Tom explains.

studied risk management

Over the years, Watson

and spent his summers father,

Insurance has had to adapt

learning the business and

to the changes in the South-





eastern region to grow its

Insurance was founded on.

business. For years, the

When asked what he

firm’s ‘book of business’

learned from his father’s

included many large textile

leadership, the responses

and machine firms that

flow quickly: “My dad was

were located close to the

a hard worker; there were

home office in the South-

no free lunches with him.

east. However, a sweeping

He was honest, often to

change began as the firms in

the point of offending

those industries closed up


or moved their business

people, and he always tried to do what was right for the customer. He had

(l to r) Robert Watson, AAI; Craig Watson; Tom Watson, CPCU; Brian Bazemore; Dan Lindberg, CIC; Andy Westmoreland; Walter Gray, CPCU; Watson Insurance Agency

Tom continues, “My father had great respect cess the business had onto them.” In 1965, after finishing graduate school, Tom joined the agency as a full-time employee.

“When you are losing big clients like that, all you

great integrity.” for his employees and always deflected any suc-

operations overseas.

Selling sleep insurance

can do is work to find other ones to fill their

Simplifying the insurance business, Tom

place,” explains Tom’s son Craig. “Fortunately,

Watson says their job is to help people transfer

we began to see shifts in interest from other

the risk of loss. “We are selling sleep insurance,”

areas, such as plastics manufacturing, service,

says Tom with a grin.

trucking, and municipal.”

Eventually he took over the business as presi-

Tom describes the company’s mission as

His father chimes in, “You have to look at

dent when his father retired. Since then, he has

providing the best possible combination of

these downturns as incentive to unlock new

continued to grow the business and now has

insurance, risk management techniques, and

opportunities.” And that is just what Watson

become a mentor to his own sons.

personalized service in the most efficient

Insurance proceeded to do.

It is Watson Insurance’s vision that their customers and their communities be enhanced because of their association with the agency—that, given the benefit of their professional service, their customers thrive and prosper without undue exposure to their businesses, homes, and personal lives. In turn, with Watson Insurance’s support, they can be more secure and can freely operate to reach the goals of their businesses, families, and themselves.

Today, their diverse client base includes

manner possible.

“Our associates and staff are committed to

multi-national companies, corpo-

the highest standards of excellence, integrity,

rations, small businesses, associa-

and service,” continues Tom. “Collectively, we

tions, municipalities, and school

function as a customer service-oriented team.”

systems, and they have a large divi-

Most of the company’s personal insurance

sion targeted to personal lines coverage.

clients are within a 30 mile radius of their

In addition to adapting to economic

office, but their business clients span a much

changes, Watson Insurance has had to adapt its

Robert “Rob” Penn Watson joined his

larger area, giving Watson Insurance a strong

approach to insurance itself, from being sales

father in 1986, and Thomas “Craig” Watson

presence up and down the eastern seaboard.

driven to having a more consultative approach.

III followed in 1987.

“Today we are servicing businesses from

This new approach allowed Watson Insurance


october 2008

www. grea tercha rl ot tebiz .c om

“We are able to offer tailored packages to each of our clients, ensuring that we are getting them the best deals. Once we find out what it is they need, we have a world of options to choose from, and that is what helps set us apart from other agencies.” ~ Tom Watson President

With the shift in their book of business, the

University’s (ASU) business school. He came

management team realized that—in order for

with no experience in the industry, but he was

the firm to continue to grow and prosper—they

teamed up with one of the agency’s most

had to target businesses differently, requiring

experienced agents, and thus began his

new ideas from new employees and a different

training program. “After I got my license, I was taught and

way to find them. Traditionally, Watson Insurance had hired

shown the Watson Insurance method of doing

new agents through classified ads, referrals and

business. I was not only able to sit in on client

word of mouth. Although the agency itself was

meetings and sales presentations but actually

flourishing, it struggled a bit with getting the

participate,” says Hendricks. Soon Hendricks

right employee fit.

was making presentations himself with an expe-

In 1992, Watson Insurance welcomed Paul

rienced mentor at his side. This was the start of

Hendricks, a graduate of Appalachian State

Watson Insurance’s innovative training model.➤

SU CCES S NEEDS A PARTNER to position itself with clients as not only their insurance representative, but also a trusted advisor. The approach has also neces-

“I’m all over the place for work. My checking account allows free ATM transactions anywhere plus online banking and more. Very convenient, and a real advantage.”

sitated heightened responsibility on the part of the agent. “Our job, first and foremost, is to listen to our clients,” Tom Watson states. “We are looking to learn about their needs and their business and find them the most complete and comprehensive coverage available.” Watson Insurance draws upon an abundance of options to assess and meet the needs of its clients that are available to them as an independent insurance agency. Where other firms

– I’m Henry Rabinovich, president of Liquid Ice Corporation, and my banker is Jerry McGuire.

can be prohibited from offering services through more than one provider, Watson Insurance contracts with over 30 insurance agencies and has affiliations with over 100 others, including some of the biggest names in insurance along with lesser known companies. Tom affirms, “We are able to offer tailored packages to each of our clients, ensuring that find out what it is they need, we have a world of options to choose from, and that is what helps set us apart from other agencies.” One conundrum the Watson agency faces

Member FDIC

we are getting them the best deals. Once we

is the battle over health insurance. “This is a constant struggle, and one without an easy fix,” acknowledges Tom Watson. “The best thing we can do is to continue to cultivate relationships in an effort to find the best solutions

Matthews 704.814.1200 Cornelius/Lake Norman 704.987.9990 SouthPark 704.442.5900 Uptown Charlotte 704.945.6565

for our clients.” Paying it forward A result of the changing business climate, and an unintended benefit as it has stood them well over the years, is the internship hiring program that the firm has adopted and cultivated.

purs uing a bal ance of busines s and life

o ct ober 2008


A few years later Andy Westmoreland was

new hires. Our business model isn’t just about

new ideas to the company, the sky is the limit

brought into the firm from ASU and the student

experience, rather; it’s about finding the right

for growth. In addition to its Gastonia head-

Paul became the teacher. Now, years later, they

person who understands our ‘customer-first’

quarters, Watson Insurance has strategically

are both among Watson Insurance’s top agents.

philosophy”, states Rob Watson. “One of the

placed offices in Belmont, N.C., Lincolnton,

A few years later, as a result of these experi-

most satisfying aspects of the program is seeing

N.C., and Lake Wylie, S.C.

ences, Watson Insurance began a mentoring

the students come in as shadows, graduate to

Moving forward, the Watson Insurance

program with UNC Charlotte and ASU that

interns, and then come in as new hires and

family and its growing staff continue to carry

continues to be a huge success in recruiting

members of the Watson Insurance team.”

on the tradition that was started in 1934 of

appropriate hires for its company philosophy.

In the 10 years since the program’s inception, Watson Insurance has welcomed eight

“One of the most satisfying aspects of the program is seeing the students come in as shadows, graduate to interns, and then come in as new hires and members of the Watson Insurance team.” ~ Rob Watson Vice President

The mentoring program is designed to give both the students and Watson Insurance more than just an interview and candidates for potential hires. “The interview process begins with having the student come in for a day to act as a ‘shadow’

“My father would be so proud to see Craig

one of Watson Insurance’s interns has joined

and Rob involved in the company and posi-

the company upon internship completion.

tioned to take it over and continue its legacy,”

And Watson Insurance expects this trend to

Tom Watson proudly states.

continue in the coming years. Carrying on the legacy Watson Insurance’s management team is

It is Watson Insurance’s vision that their customers and their communities be enhanced

offer the best service to their clients.

because of their association with the agency—

In addition to cultivating employees

that, given the benefit of their professional serv-

through its internship program, Watson Insur-

ice, their customers thrive and prosper without

ance believes strongly in carrying on its

undue exposure to their businesses, homes, and

founders’ enthusiasm for continued education

personal lives. In turn, with Watson Insurance’s

and training for all its employees.

support, they can be more secure and can

“The industry is always changing and evolving, and the only way to stay on top is to continue our training and the training of our employees,” says Tom Watson.

get a feel for the type of work this job entails.”

a scholarship to ASU in the name of its founder.

The student shadows with greatest potential

“My father would approve. He always

are asked back for a summer internship of lis-

liked to see young faces arriving at work

tening and learning. Interns are often matched

happy and ready to serve the customers,” says

with agents with similar interests and often

Tom Watson.

graduates of the same college, which helps

With their internship program ensuring

build a good level of trust and a foundation to

they will continue to attract new agents with

“All agencies are looking for experience in

generation tradition you can count on.

best employees, which in turn allows them to

with ASU, Watson Insurance recently endowed

interviewing of the candidate take place.

but for now quality leadership is a third

committed seeking, attracting and retaining the

president. “They spend the day observing and

in the internship does the more traditional

As for whether a fourth generation of leadership is in the cards is yet to be determined,

In appreciation of its mentoring relationship

Only upon an intern’s positive performance

with its clients.

employees through its program and all but

for one of our agents,” says Rob Watson, vice

build from.

building and retaining long-term relationships

freely operate to reach the goals of their businesses, families, and themselves. Considering





offerings, Watson Insurance truly offers sleep insurance. biz Janet Kropinak is a Charlotte-based freelance writer.

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oct ober 2008

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Get There. $&/53"-1*&%.0/5$0..6/*5:$0--&(&

Diane Brackett Rivers President Brackett Company, Inc.


oc tober 2008

Since 1985, the Brackett Company has developed nearly 30 projects totaling more than 1 million square feet. It focuses in the health care sector of commercial real estate in greater Charlotte, offering commercial real estate development, leasing, brokerage, property management and accounting and construction management.

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by thom callahan




hen Diane Brackett Rivers arrived in Charlotte in 1982, she had job security working as a property manager and was establishing her name in the world of real estate. Three years later, while working on a project with Mercy Hospital South, what is now Carolinas Medical Center Pineville, Rivers took a risk. A big one. Hospital administrators decided further development was needed, but the company that employed Rivers would not allow her to pursue it. “They said, ‘We have guys for that,’” Rivers chuckles.

bought a computer and a telephone, and worried.”

Rather than resign herself to what her employer felt

The board did approve Rivers and appointed the new

then was a gender-specific role, Rivers resigned and

company as its property manager. At that time, the hospi-

decided to forge her own business using her maiden name,

tal was still under construction and its campus comprised

the Brackett Company.

an urgent care center and three medical buildings.

Since 1985, the Brackett Company has developed

Rivers’ success did not come without trials. As with

nearly 30 projects totaling more than 1 million square feet.

most new businesses, there were lean times and the usual

It focuses in the health care sector of commercial real

competitive challenges. More specifically, however, she

estate in greater Charlotte, offering commercial real estate

once again encountered reluctance by her counterparts to

development, leasing, brokerage, property management

accept her into the predominantly male building and devel-

and accounting and construction management.

opment work force.

Looking back 23 years, Rivers remembers awaiting the

“At that time, in 1985, I was about 35 years old, 5 feet 2

board’s approval to handle the hospital’s future develop-

inches tall and probably weighed 105 pounds,” Rivers says.

ment: “It wasn’t easy because it was not the hospital

“I would go to meetings with contractors and they’d talk

administrators’ decision whether I did that development,

to anybody but me. What they didn’t realize was that I was

but a board decision. So I paced the floor for two weeks,

the one who would be signing their check.”

purs uing a balance of busi nes s and life

➤ o ct ober 2008


Thankfully, times have changed. Through hard work and remaining steadfast to get the Brackett Company off the ground, Rivers has earned a solid standing in commercial real estate and adds, “I’ve made a lot of friends and worked with good architects and contractors.”

When she first came to Charlotte, Rivers managed a 10-story doctors building, since torn down, next door to Carolinas Medical Center.

Laying the Foundation

The lease occupancy then was about 50 percent.

During this time, Mercy Hospital South was

No doubt it is daunting to leave the comfort

The building was sold and slated for renova-

getting underway in Pineville and awarded its

of steady employment and strike out on one’s

tion. The buyer hired a local commercial real

leasing contract to the company that employed

own. But Rivers had success early on, particularly

estate company to manage the property. That

Rivers. Rivers leased the hospital’s existing three

with leasing and property management. She took

company was asked by the buyer to hire Rivers to

12,000-square-foot medical buildings, which

that savvy, along with the experience she garnered

oversee the renovation and lease up the property.

prompted the need for further development and

working with other developers, to further her own company.

“We were very successful and leased the doctors building to almost 100 percent,” Rivers asserts.

Rivers’ subsequent exit from the company. University Memorial Hospital was just opening and Rivers’ former company also was awarded its leasing contract. After the Brackett Company was founded, Rivers was granted the contract to


finish that leasing. Success was taking shape for Rivers; she was proving her mettle as a business owner. She admits she had self-doubt in the beginning and worked arduous hours, mostly solo. Her father was one of her biggest supporters. “When I quit my job, I remember calling my dad asking, ‘Is this a crazy thing to do?’” Her father reassured her it was not, that he would help her financially with household bills while she got her company up and running. “And I did have to call on him financially a couple times in the very beginning,” Rivers recalls. It was a major setback when Rivers’ father died in December 1985, just six months after she started the company. “I had lost one of my most valuable supporters,” Rivers says. “But at that point I was too far into it; I had obligations and couldn’t back away. So I toughed it out.” Building It Up Fortunately, Rivers got a windfall in Cotswold, where she set up her first office—two rooms at the Williamsburg Building. The building’s owner was


oc tober 2008

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moving to Charleston and asked Rivers to look after it and handle the leasing. In return, Rivers


paid no rent for her own space and was given the buildingâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s secretary with her salary paid. â&#x20AC;&#x153;So basically I had a free employee and office,â&#x20AC;? Rivers remembers. â&#x20AC;&#x153;And that secretary, Barbara Brown, went on a few years later to start her own commercial real estate business and has done great things in Charlotte.â&#x20AC;?


â&#x20AC;&#x153;It is very difficult to put a medical office group in a general office building. For example, if you put a cardiologistâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s office on a second floor, you have to have hospital-sized elevators because they have patients in stress testing. And if they go into cardiac arrest, an ambulance staff has to be able to get in and get them out of there on a stretcher.â&#x20AC;? ~ Diane Brackett Rivers President

Profit for any new business typically is a long time coming. There are dues to pay figuratively and literally. Rivers acknowledges it was no different for her. â&#x20AC;&#x153;In the development business, it takes a long time to get paid,â&#x20AC;? Rivers recognizes. â&#x20AC;&#x153;From the time you know youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re going to do a building, it can be two years before you make any money. Odds are itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s going to be at least one year.â&#x20AC;? Rivers lists some of the issues that have to be addressedâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;drawing plans, budgets, getting contractors in place, value engineering,

;17 &10Âś6 *#8' 61 )1 61 )4'#6 .'0)6*5 61 )1 )4''0

permits, zoning.

6*#0-5 61 &+#/10& 524+0)5 174 4'6740#$.'   

Just two years after starting the Brackett Com-

)#..10 $166.'5 #4' 6*1417)*.; %.'#0'&  5#0+6+<'&

pany, in 1987, Rivers and a group of physicians

$'(14' $'+0) 4'(+..'& 9+6* 274' &'.+%+175 &+#/10&

developed a large medical building at 2015 Randolph Road, still in operation today. Other developments by Brackett include Eastover Medical Park III, The Streets of Toringdon Medical Park

524+0)5 9#6'4 +0 (#%6 9*'0 +6Âś5 6+/' 61 6#-' 6*'/ 176 1( 5'48+%' 6*';Âś4' 4'%;%.'& &1 ;1745'.( 51/' )11& $; .+(6+0) # ).#55 #0& &1 ;174 2.#0'6 51/' )11&9+6*176.+(6+0)#(+0)'4 &+#/10&524+0)56*'%11.'49#;61)1)4''0

and Cotswold Plazas I and II.



â&#x20AC;&#x153;I was the first person to develop anything medical in Cotswold,â&#x20AC;? Rivers says. â&#x20AC;&#x153;If you want to be absolutely sure a project is going to be a slam dunk, then you put it somewhere close to



purs uing a bal ance of busines s and life

o ct ober 2008


group in a general office

where walls have been knocked down and

building,” Rivers remarks. “For

rooms enlarged. Rivers had to move from her

example, if you put a cardiolo-

previous office because her space was needed

gist’s office on a second floor,

by another tenant who was expanding. And so

you have to have hospital-

is the Brackett Company.

sized elevators because they

“We are really slammed for space, and I

have patients in stress testing.

would like my nice conference room back,” says

And if they go into cardiac

a hopeful Rivers.

arrest, an ambulance staff has

When she’s not working, Rivers reads and

to be able to get in and get

plays the piano, “though not as much as I used

them out of there on a stretcher.” Though medical offices are responsible for these hospitals.”

to.” Travel and entertaining clients are part of her off-work template as well.

disposing of their own hazardous waste, clean-

She and her husband, Don Rivers, whom she

Rivers adds that her company’s

liness needs to be exceptional in a health care

met while on the job, have three children: Don’s

focus on the health care industry came about

setting, Rivers says. Brackett contracts janitorial

two sons, Trey and Brandon, and Rivers’ son

from her earlier days in real estate and just

services for its managed properties but employs

Ben Cazalas.

tended to continue.

two full-time maintenance workers who are

“I got to understand what physicians wanted and needed when I was managing the doctors building,” she comments.

always on call. “And we have an answering service, an actual person, 24/7,” Rivers affirms. With commercial properties, emergency calls

In the Mix Along with Brackett’s local presence, the company’s developments include properties in

such as for break-ins or storm damage usually occur during the week but sometimes a tenant prompts a call.

The risk Rivers took long ago paid off. She’s happy where she’s at and plans her business succession. “I don’t think I’ll ever retire because I’d go crazy, but I will die someday,” she declares. Rivers plans to grow her company but with a cautionary note. “Our reputation is extremely important to

Cornelius, Huntersville, Ballantyne and Lan-

“We had a janitorial service throw away

me, and yes we would like to slowly double in

caster, S.C. Other projects in process are another

about 25 patient charts,” Rivers recalls. “The

size again,” Rivers says. “But we don’t ever want

Toringdon development, a SouthEnd develop-

doctor called in a panic at the end of the next

to be too big because that may mean the com-

ment and another Cotswold development.

day. The doctor had stored the charts in an

pany may get away from us and the services we

Brackett currently has 22 properties in its

office trash can but they were able to be

provide might be compromised.” biz

leasing and management portfolio, with a

retrieved from a dumpster before it was picked

Thom Callahan is a Charlotte-based freelance writer.

planned groundbreaking for the three new

up,” recalls an incredulous Rivers.

developments in the next few months, Rivers confirms.

Lessons Learned

Regardless of the number of projects,

Being in business nearly 25 years is testament

Rivers concedes, “If I’m doing a 15,000-

to Rivers’ commitment and hard work. At one

square-foot building, it takes every bit as long

point the company more than doubled it size,

and as much work as a 70,000-square-foot

“which was too fast,” Rivers recalls, and she

building because you do all the same steps,

allowed another to take on her role as president.

just in smaller amounts.”

“It was a big mistake, and that won’t hap-

The economy undoubtedly influences the

pen again,” she says. “In this business, you

ebb and flow of real estate, though Charlotte’s

have to keep control because there are too

market in general has fared slightly better than

many affected by your decisions—employees,

the rest of the country according to news reports.

doctors, patients, tenants.”

Rivers describes medical development here as

Brackett’s staff includes Joe Shull, director of

“fairly steady,” however “construction costs are a

property management, Kermit L. Murphy, who

different scenario.”

handles leasing and brokerage, and partner B.

“Concrete, steel and fuel are skyrocketing,”

Reed Griffith, who joined right after college.

Rivers declares. “But my biggest problem is

Rivers says Griffith has “developed a good, strong

finding dirt—in town.”

work ethic and has dealt well with doctors.”

Costs aside, commercial medical properties

Delegating comes easily for Rivers who cred-

necessitate specific requirements. Examining and

its Brackett’s success to all of her staff. That’s cru-

operating rooms need to run efficiently and be

cial, Rivers acknowledges, particularly when it

free from malfunction. And trying to retrofit one

comes to her clients.

space for another is rarely feasible. “It is very difficult to put a medical office


oc tober 2008

Diane Brackett Company, Inc. dba

Brackett Company, Inc. 717 S. Torrence St., Ste. 101 Charlotte, N.C. 28204 Phone: 704-442-0222 Principals: Diane Brackett Rivers, President; B. Reed Griffith, Partner Founded: 1985 Employees: 10 Developments: Eastover Medical Park III, The Streets of Toringdon Medical Park, Charlotte Medical Plazas I and II, Park Crossing Medical, Cotswold Plazas I and II, 2015 Randolph Road, Lake Professional Plaza Portfolio: 22 leased and managed properties totaling approximately 600,000 square feet Business: Commercial real estate development, leasing, brokerage and property management; focus in the medical and health care sector of commercial real estate in greater Charlotte.

Interestingly, building and development are playing out in Brackett’s own Uptown office,

w ww. great erchar lottebiz .co m


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Itay Berger Vice President - Charlotte Operations Diamonds Direct SouthPark


oc tober 2008

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by ellison clary




t’s a retail formula that works for cars and groceries and myriad other products, but you don’t associate it with diamonds. Yet one Charlotte jeweler has set itself apart with high volume and low margin. Numbers show people like it. From its 6,000-square-foot showroom on Sharon Road across from SouthPark Mall, Diamonds Direct plans to sell more than $30 million in diamonds and diamond jewelry in 2008. For 2007, Diamonds Direct logged nearly 8,000 sales. Such sparkling success results from adhering to the formula, says Itay (pronounced ′ē-tī) Berger, vice president and part owner of Diamonds Direct. “We focus on being a diamond powerhouse and on what we do best, the bridal business,” Berger adds. Typically, a Diamonds Direct sales person helps a couple pick a diamond, then select an engagement ring, and finally, decide on wedding bands. And he or she dispenses a healthy dose of customer service, a Berger point of emphasis, while dealing in these three items that make up 70 percent of the firm’s business. Berger insists that his sales people seriously consult with customers as they browse the $15 million inventory—which includes $10 million in loose stones—with an eye for what is truly best for them. If that means advocating a $5,000 engagement ring over one that costs $9,000, so be it, Berger says. ➤

purs uing a bal ance of busines s and life

o ct ober 2008


go up in the color and down in clarity, or if he wants to go down in both and go up in size. Maybe he wants to go smaller but he wants the highest quality he can get.” His sales people prove their price is right, Berger says, by explaining the industry’s wholesale sheet—the Rapaport Diamond Report. “No other jeweler will show it to you,” Berger says. Most Diamonds Direct customers save 30 percent to 40 percent on what they buy, he Diamonds Direct SouthPark Location

Customer Care

adds, and they benefit from the work of the shop’s four master jewelers. These craftsmen

worked at other jewelers and, even though

build the designer settings for the precious

“If you’re not ready to work hard for the

they make a salary rather than a commission,

stones and create other pieces such as bracelets

customer and have fun, you don’t belong here,”

they often earn nearly double what they were

and pendants.

Berger says.

accustomed to. Berger says volume sales make

One of the most successful of his 25 fulltime sales people is a person who started as a receptionist. “She knew zero about diamonds,” he smiles. “But she had the heart, she wanted to learn, she had the spirit and the attitude.” Most of the Diamonds Direct sales force has

that possible. Along with price, Diamonds Direct’s selection is also impressive. “When you have over 100 stones at one

“Anything we do in the shop is free,” Berger says. “Service, repairs, sizing, cleaning, resizing. If you bought a ring here seven years ago and one of the tiny diamonds fell from the setting, we replace it at no charge.”

carat,” Berger explains, “you can show the cus-

“Our guarantee is second to none,” Berger

tomer 10 and he can understand if he wants to

says. “If we sold you a piece, we will stand behind it 100 percent. If something happens and it’s not right for you, you are not going to be stuck with it. We will just take it back and give full credit. It’s the right thing to do.” That builds referrals, which Berger values higher than the $1.5 million on advertising Diamonds Direct does annually on radio and


in magazines. “A happy customer who is a walking billboard for us means the world to me,” he says earnestly. “A happy customer will tell 10 people. An unhappy customer will tell 30 people.”

We are Certified Public Accountants and business

All Facets of the Marketplace A Charlotte diamond buying trend is more

advisors to companies

couples shopping together. Usually, the

doing business here and

prospective groom returns alone. “The lady narrows it down for him,” Berger says. “But

around the world.

she gets a surprise, because he still makes the final decision.” Another trend is women buying for themselves—often big pieces. “We see it in the second marriage or ladies who are single and want

201 South Tryon Street, Suite1500 Charlotte, North Carolina 28202 704.377.0239 •


to spoil themselves,” he says. The biggest stones Diamonds Direct has sold since Berger came to town were a 22-carat square emerald and two diamond rings, both over 10 carats. The most expensive sale he’s


oc tober 2008

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seen was $500,000, although that was for

Charlotte’s Sparkle

select stones for Diamonds Direct. “I will probably buy $5 million in diamonds

The Arabov Group has a huge wholesale

So if the high-volume, low-price formula

just for the season,” Berger says, explaining that

business. It has wholesale outlets in Tel Aviv,

works so well, why don’t the other hundreds of

the busiest season lasts from Thanksgiving until

New York City’s diamond district, Rockwell,

jewelers in the yellow pages also use it?

several items.

Christmas. A traditional diamond store will

Md., and Scottsdale, Ariz. For 13 years,

“The simple answer is they can’t,” Berger

turn 40 percent of its revenue in that month.

Charlotte has been its only retail operation.

explains. More than half the diamonds sold in

Yet Diamonds Direct counted just 22 percent of

the United States come from Israel. Diamonds

its 2007 sales during the holidays.

The Arabov Group was prompted into scouting for other locations when their New

Direct is owned by Arabov Group Ltd., an Israeli firm operating in a Tel Aviv suburb.

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There is a solution: LAST CALL “Our guarantee is second to none. If we sold you a piece, we will stand behind it 100 percent. If something happens and it’s not right for you, you are not going to be stuck with it. We will just take it back and give full credit. It’s the right thing to do.” ~ Itay Berger Vice President - Charlotte Operations

The Arabov Group started over 60 years ago as a small diamond cutter and has evolved into a world-renowned force in the diamond industry. Berger is a minority partner with

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owners Alon and Doron Arabov. The Arabovs belong to the Israeli Diamond Exchange, which counts only a few more than 2,000 members. Their company maintains crews near Siberian mines that supply rough stones. It keeps other employees in Israel. In both countries, the firm cuts its own diamonds. “It is a big advantage in the diamond industry when you control both ends, the mines and the retail,” says Berger, who travels to Israel several times a year to personally

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consumed by “either diamonds or diapers.”

York City wholesale office that was robbed

happenstance. He played on the Israeli

about 16 years ago. The partners saw Charlotte

National Soccer Team, served his mandatory

When Berger took over the SouthPark store,

listed in a magazine story about America’s

three years in the Israeli military, and then

it was going great guns but had alienated many

fastest-growing cities. They visited and quickly

earned a law degree. He enjoyed the business

area jewelers with its low pricing and marketing

opened Diamonds Direct in February 1995.

side of law but found the detailed documents

that sometimes criticized competitors.

“They decided to open directly to the public, but offer all the retail experience and all the retail environment,” Berger says. Diamonds Direct started on the fourth floor

and long hours at the computer frustrating.

Now, with their sharp focus that precludes

Long-time family friends, the Arabov brothers

carrying watches and many other kinds of

convinced Berger to join their operation, a move

jewelry, his sales people occasionally refer

Berger calls “the smartest thing I ever did.”

customers to other retailers.

of a suburban tower on Independence Boule-

With wife Liat and their son, now 5, Berger

“I will stay until 10 o’clock at night edu-

vard. It moved to SouthPark in September 2003.

moved to Charlotte in early 2004. Since then,

cating young kids who want to buy half a

Berger himself joined up with the outfit a

he and Liat have added a daughter and an infant

carat for only $1,000,” he says. “I think that’s

year later, the result of a fortuitous

son. Berger, 32, chuckles that his existence is

what sets us apart.”

protect your business.

“I will stay until 10 o’clock at night educating young kids who want to buy half a carat for only $1,000. I think that’s what sets us apart.” ~ Itay Berger Vice President - Charlotte Operations

Banding with Community Berger has worked diligently to give back to the community and create community ties. Diamonds Direct has been the official jeweler

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of the Carolina Panthers for five years now. Their partnership with an NFL team has proven most successful and adds a different element of branding that can not be found in most forms of advertising, Berger says. Beyond the sponsorship, Diamonds Direct also supports the Angels & Stars Gala, co-chaired by John Fox, Carolina Panthers head coach, and his wife Robin, that benefits St. Jude. “John and I could not be prouder to be partnered with Diamonds Direct,” says Robin Fox. “They’re very giving. Without them, we would never make our goal.” Berger has also established the Diamonds Direct Foundation, which has contributed approximately $400,000 to national and local charities, including the Levine Children’s Hospital

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at Carolinas Medical Center, the Keep Pounding Cancer Research Fund, St. Jude’s and Speedway Children’s Charities. Crystal Helms, Diamonds Direct marketing director, likes to tell of how the


oc tober 2008

w ww. great erchar lottebiz .co m

company’s relationship with Speedway Chil-

have similar concepts,” he says. “We want a

dren’s Charities grew from designing the cham-

growing market, not one that has reached its

pionship ring awarded to winners of the major

full potential. Our vision is to build a

NASCAR races at Lowe’s Motor Speedway. “We came up with the concept of having a charity event in our showroom to make the evening interesting and different from the normal black tie dinners and auctions,” Helms says. “We brought in world renowned designers

“We have definitely been working harder, smarter, more creatively. We have more tickets with smaller price points.”

company that will stand on five megastores.

~ Itay Berger Vice President - Charlotte Operations

have a big platform here that is working,” he

showcasing their collections so people could purchase a beautiful piece of jewelry and

one-of-a-kind pieces and the excellent lines of

Direct SouthPark five years ago after relocating

jewelry,” says Amanda Hollingsworth, director

to the Wall Street Capitol building and began to

of Speedway Children’s Charities. “The pieces

more aggressively pursue expansion into other

are absolutely beautiful.”

markets. Three months ago, they opened their

Typically, 300 people attend and in the last

second showroom in the Mountain Brook area

two years the parties have raised a total

of Birmingham, Alabama, and in September

of $70,000.

they opened their third location in a former bank branch at Raleigh’s Crabtree Mall.

Berger is convinced that giving back has

“We picked Raleigh,” he says, “because it’s

helped build business. For 2007, the average

probably one of the

Diamonds Direct sale

best places to live in


2008 and its chal-


lenging economic cli-


the country right now. We’re not going just to 33˚ 10’

mate, business is up 10 percent, he says,

Raleigh, we are serving Durham, Chapel Hill,


Cary and Apex,” click-

but adds a caveat: “We have definitely



been working harder,

40˚ 50’


ing off names of Triangle municipalities.

smarter, more cre-

In five years, Dia-

atively,” he says. “We

monds Direct may also appear

have more tickets with smaller price points.” Diamonds Direct restyled itself Diamonds

Wide Format Digital Imaging System

slow economy, expansion makes sense. “We smiles. “We’re going to try to duplicate it from



Ellison Clary is a Charlotte-based freelance writer.

Diamonds Direct USA, Inc. dba

Diamonds Direct SouthPark 4521 Sharon Road Charlotte, N.C. 28211 Phone: 704-532-9041 Principal: Itay Berger, Vice PresidentCharlotte Operations and Part Owner Established: 1995 Revenue: $29 million (2007) Number of Sales: Nearly 8,000 (2007) Employees: 25 Parent Company: Arabov Group Ltd., Ramat Gan, Israel (near Tel Aviv) Locations: Charlotte, Birmingham, Raleigh Business: Retailer of diamonds and diamond jewelry at volume prices with emphasis on providing the best quality shopping experience along with the best warranties, service and guarantees.

Florida, or other southeastern cities. “We are trying to find markets that don’t


For Berger, who calls himself “very competitive,” there is a simple reason that, even in a

we do business.” biz

“A big draw for the showroom event is the


$20 million.”

the marketing, advertising, and the overall way

donate to a worthy charity.”


Each store, in revenue volume, will be at least



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Optimaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s new corporate headquarters under construction at 1927 South Tryon Street: In addition to a very sustainable site and utilization of sustainable building materials, the upfit for Optima Engineering will include an 8.6 kW solar photovoltaic (PV) system on the roof which will provide electricity to offset power used.The PV system is an array of 40 216 W photovoltaic modules mounted on the roof, with two 5 kW inverters in the electric room. The system will supply power to the utility grid, with the power being purchased by NC GreenPower. When used in conjunction with lighting controls and daylighting, the PV system is sized to produce power to equal or exceed that consumed by the lighting and personal computers (one on each desk) during peak solar episodes. Daylighting is a combination of exterior windows and solatubes for interior spaces that will reduce the lighting power consumption by 75 percent or more during daylight hours. A monitoring system will be used to track power produced by the PV system and that consumed by the lighting and personal computers to measure and verify results of the actual system operation. A visual display of this information will be available for employees and visitors to see to motivate and promote energy conservation. During peak daylight hours the only power consumed by Optima Engineering will be for the HVAC system, which is a high-efficient VAV system with demand control ventilation and economizer cycle to provide "free cooling" when outdoor conditions allow. The building is also provided with a solar water heating system to generate all hot water for the building core spaces. Keith G. Pehl President Optima Engineering, P.A.


october 2008

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by ellison clary




Without hesitation, the founder of Optima Engineering names the mixed-use Villages at Lake Norman as the firm’s most engaging project. Keith Pehl, Optima president, calls the 110-acre development “very different” because so much of its 3.5 million square feet are subterranean, including loading docks and parking. It’s quite an exercise to ventilate such space, make it water tight, properly light it—and stay within budget. Pehl relishes in stiff tests for his 16-year-old company that specializes in electrical, mechanical and plumbing engineering as well as fire protection and lighting design, with a focus on green precepts. “It’s fun to do something that is hard and challenging,” Pehl says. “We strive to hire good quality engineers and retain them. Part of that is challenging them, and part of that is getting challenging projects.” A focus on learning and applying new knowledge has been important for Pehl since he was a boy watching his father Glen

purs uing a bal ance of busines s and life

Pehl operate his insurance consulting business. He liked that his dad valued doing the right thing more than making a profit. The younger Pehl determined he’d have his own firm someday. He earned his degree in electrical engineering from North Carolina State University, and then worked in three Charlotte engineering firms learning his discipline. For good measure, he earned a master’s of business administration at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte along the way. “He’s a very hard worker,” says Steve Fink, owner of Signet Engineering in Charlotte, who was Pehl’s supervisor at the Clark Tribble Harris & Li architectural firm. Besides his father, Pehl names Fink as one of his most important mentors. ➤

o ct ober 2008


Even though Pehl was fresh out of college, Fink turned him loose on the Gateway Center

will move to the third floor of a new office building at South Tryon and Doggett streets.

building, precursor of Gateway Village. “He gave

The 16,000 square feet will give the firm plenty

me guidance and he let me make mistakes on my

of room to grow and will fit its profile in another

own, too,” Pehl says. “I did learn a lot from him.

important way. The space will be finished to plat-

He was a very good mentor.”

inum—the highest—standard of the U.S. Green

Fink remembers Pehl was driven, very purpose-oriented. “Everyone pretty much knew what he was planning as far as opening a business,” Fink says. “You could tell that’s where he was headed.”

Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) specifications. “I’ve always been interested in sustainability and LEED,” Pehl says, pointing out that the house

By the time he was 30, Pehl felt ready to open

he built in the Lincoln County town of Denver uses

Optima, even if the 1992 economy wasn’t all it

a geothermal heat pump system and sports a solar

could be. His wife Cathy had a good job, their twin

water heater on the roof.

Optima Engineering offers mechanical, electrical and plumbing services because “there are economies of scale when you combine the trades together on our end.” ~ Keith Pehl President

girls, now 14, hadn’t come along yet and Pehl

It’s becoming more lucrative for Optima to

rightly planned that his new business wouldn’t

emphasize green precepts, especially in the last

room, it’s a lot easier way to design an efficient

make money that first year.

couple of years, as the Southeast’s traditionally low

building. It usually results in a lot better design.”

Operating from a spare bedroom, Pehl devel-

energy costs have started a steady upward spiral.

oped enough momentum to bring in Ron

According to Pehl, North Carolina has enacted leg-

Almond, a mechanical engineer, as his partner.

islation specifying new state-funded buildings

Although subscribing wholeheartedly to green

Today Pehl is president, Almond is vice president

must be planned for 30 percent less than code-

precepts, Optima’s offerings stop just short of cut-

and co-owner.

derived baseline energy usage. That, he adds, usu-

ting edge; the company prefers to champion what

ally equates to the silver LEED classification.

is proven, but maybe just not widespread. For

The Right Combination

Proven Concepts

Pehl is proud that he won green buy-in from

instance, photovoltaics and solar thermal are not

Pehl and Almond initially decided to offer

his engineers, traditionally a conservative lot. They

new, but the systems that provide them are

mechanical, electrical and plumbing services

have come to like the idea that their new digs will

improving markedly, Pehl says.

because “those areas just go together real well,”

have solar panels and a solar water heater to show

Pehl says. Architects like to get all three in a pack-

off to potential clients.

age. “There are economies of scale when you combine the trades together on our end,” he explains.

Currently, the company is promoting new lighting technology for both fixtures and controls.

He believes that designing new structures

Motion sensors that automatically turn on electric

with sustainability in mind has rectified a situa-

lights with movement but cut off after a certain

A year after startup, Pell moved Optima and its

tion that evolved in the 1980s. Computer-aided

period of time have been used in Europe for a

five employees into center city’s Carillon Building,

drafting, or CAD, made individual designs easier

decade but remain novel here.

where they had an engineering contract. Subse-

to devise remotely, breaking up traditional

“We can light a room for about half the

quently, the company had one more address before

meetings between architects and engineers to

wattage we could even three years ago,” Pehl says.

settling in the historic Textile Supply Building on

discuss and vet a project.

“I can take a larger building and cut the power for

South Mint Street where it is presently.

“LEED has helped push all that back

lighting in half.”

It’s been there since 1998 and grown to 38

together,” Pehl says. “Architects and engineers are

This means air conditioning costs drop, he

employees who are bursting at the seams of its

forced to sit down with an owner and go through

continues, because the system doesn’t have to

8,000 or so square feet. That’s why Optima soon

options. Because everybody’s talking in the same

counteract as much heat from light fixtures. “It’s a win-win,” he smiles. “The owner’s paying less money up front and they are paying for less energy overall.” Its LEED concentration has made Optima a strong candidate for school projects. It’s involved with the South Mecklenburg High renovation and an addition to Idlewild Elementary. A long-time client for Optima that appreciates its sustainable bent is Charlotte’s Overcash Demmitt Architects. Principal Stephen Overcash (l to r) Optima has provided mechanical, plumbing and electrical services to a number of notable local projects including Time Warner Cable’s headquarters in South Charlotte, its own new office headquarters in South End, and Ballantyne Village.


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reckons his company has worked with Optima on

provides mechanical, plumbing and electrical

skills and good personalities,” he says. “They’re not

hundreds of projects.

design services for Presbyterian Hospital, where he

the pocket-protector stereotype engineers. They

was born 46 years ago.

work with architects and contractors and they’re

“They’re very green and that means a lot to us,”

very people-oriented.”

Overcash says. “They’re a good creative group.

Optima is registered in multiple states but

They’re very fair in their pricing and a lot of fun to

about 80 percent of its projects are in the Carolinas,

Pehl also emphasizes the need to do things

work with. They’re also responsive. They get back

Pehl says. Their variety is impressive, because the

right and make things right. When something

to us when we have a tight deadline.”

firm works in myriad sectors with a large number

comes to their attention, even after the fact, that

of clients. That, too, goes back to something Pehl

could have been done better or more appropri-

learned long ago.

ately, Optima will do its best to make it right, even

High-profile Charlotte projects the two have collaborated on include Irwin Belk Track and Field Center and the Robert & Miriam Hayes Stadium

That first firm Pehl joined, Clark Tribble Harris

helping to mitigate the costs.

& Li, ultimately went bankrupt. Pehl believes that

“We are proactive in providing the best service

Other notable Optima projects include the

happened because its focus was too narrow. “I

in the most informed fashion possible. And above

new zMax Dragway that auto dealership and

never want to be in a position where I have to lay

all, we try to be honest and fair,” Pehl explains.

racing billionaire Bruton Smith has opened in

people off,” he says. “So we’re very broad. If we lose

Cabarrus County.

a significant client, we can survive.”

for baseball, both on the UNC Charlotte campus.

“We also try to be responsive,” he continues. “You can’t wait two weeks to respond to a problem a contractor has today. You’ve got to answer

Optima Engineering is working with the U.S. Green Building Council to earn a Platinum-Level LEED-CI certificate. LEED points are awarded in five key areas: sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection, and indoor environmental quality. The U.S. Green Building Council offers four levels of LEED certificates (Certified, Silver, Gold and Platinum). They range from Certified, in which 50 percent of the points are achieved, to Platinum, in which 80 percent or more of the points are awarded.

it today.” That brings Pehl back to what he believes is Optima’s overall strength. “We’re selling knowledge and we’re selling service,” he says. “We’re always trying to be better at what we do, to improve our quality and the quality of projects we’re able to get. We want to provide a higher

“It’s a lot of work for what looks like a piece of asphalt that cars go fast on,” Pehl chuckles. It includes six miles of trenching for conduit and wiring. The thousands of feet of wiring serv-

Optima’s annual growth has been between 15 percent and 18 percent for several years. concentrate on quality. “Five years from now, I think we’ll be at 50

plug in their camping vehicles. Also sucking up

employees,” he says. “We’ll have an even better rep-

electricity are grandstands, concessions and ticket

utation and be able to do even more quality work.”

calls the work “very intense.”

In its first 10 years, he explains, Optima was known for fast work on smaller jobs. Now it’s seen as a company that can handle larger, more complex

Myriad Sectors

projects but with the same adherence to deadlines.

Speaking of intensity, Optima also specializes

Pehl is shaping Optima’s reputation for client

in mission-critical data centers for companies

sensitivity, evolving it into a firm whose designs can

that include Wachovia and Lowe’s Home

save building owners 10 to 15 percent annually in

Improvement. A facility that architecturally is

energy and maintenance while providing a good

just walls with a roof must feature enough elec-

quality product. He sums up, “That’s where I want

trical redundancy to ensure continual operation.

our reputation to be.”

Protection from overheating is part of guarding

He’s proud of the company culture, which he

against computer malfunction, so cooling

calls tight-knit. Conscious of quality of life and

redundancy is also critical.

team building, the company closes early on Friday

Optima employs more plumbing engineers than any other firm in the region, Pehl adds. The native Charlottean is proud that his company

Ellison Clary is a Charlotte-based freelance writer.

Pehl thinks it might be time to slow down and

ices huge electronic signs and allows race fans to

booths, not to mention huge video screens. Pehl

level of service.” biz

afternoons and employees enjoy occasional golfing

Optima Engineering, P.A. 1300 South Mint St., Ste. 100 Charlotte, N.C. 28203 Phone: 704-338-1292 Principals: Keith G. Pehl, President; Ron Almond,Vice President Established: 1992 Employees: 38 Business: Multi-disciplined, professional engineering firm specializing in mechanical, electrical, plumbing, fire protection, lighting, and sustainable design; offers both basic and full commissioning services. Project types include data center facilities and other mission critical sites, healthcare facilities, educational facilities, commercial/retail buildings, high-rise buildings, fire stations, hotels, restaurants, and churches.

or other outings together. “We try to hire people that have good social

purs uing a bal ance of busines s and life

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by casey jacobus



HOSPICE FOCUSES ON LIVING LIFE TO THE FULLEST Celebrating its 30th anniversary last March, Hospice & Palliative Care Charlotte Region is the oldest and most experienced provider of hospice and palliative care in an eight-county area that includes Cabarrus, Catawba, Cleveland, Gaston, Iredell, Lincoln, Mecklenburg and Union counties.It is an independent, not-for-profit organization which serves all medically eligible patients and their families, regardless of age, illness, complexity of care, or ability to pay. Its 398 professionals and over 400 trained volunteers care for more than 1,000 patients and their families every day.

young psychotherapist, took over its leadership. Twenty-five years

While most hospice programs across the nation are small, Hos-

eight years old. They lived on 200 acres on the side of a mountain.

pice & Palliative Care Charlotte Region ranks in size in the top two

She graduated from West Virginia University in Morgantown and

percent in the country. Its palliative care program is unique, and it

earned her master’s degree in social work from the University of

is the only hospice program in the region with a separate children’s

Kentucky. Marriage brought her to Charlotte in 1978. When the

team. It serves people of all faiths, ethnic backgrounds, socio-eco-

top job at the young hospice organization opened up, she applied.

later, she is president and CEO of the still-growing organization. “I though I would stay for about five years,” says Fortner, “but the work is so challenging, rewarding, and captivating, that I am still here.” Fortner understands the need for hospice from her personal experience. Her father’s dying mother came to live with her family in Philadelphia when Fortner was a child. “There was no hospice then,” she recalls, “I saw how difficult it was for my mother to tend to my grandmother with no help at all.” The family moved to West Virginia when Fortner was about

nomic levels, ages, and illness categories. Governed by a volunteer

“At that time, the budget was $150,000. There were seven full

board of directors, it exists to provide service, and all profits are

and part-time staff members, and we were caring for about 12

used to support its mission.

patients a day,” Fortner laughs. “I knew we needed to grow.”

Promising Beginnings

people on staff and cares for almost 1,000 patients every day. It

Today, Hospice’s budget is $33 million; it has close to 400 Founded by a small group of people in 1978, the organization was originally called Hospice at Charlotte. In 1983, Janet Fortner, a


oc tober 2008

reaches approximately 22,000 individuals every year through its full array of services.

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Fortner, herself, is a recipient of The Charlotte

patients. Today, hospice care provides humane

in the patient’s home, with a family member

Business Journal’s Women in Business Achieve-

and compassionate care for people in the last

serving as the main hands-on caretaker, or in a

ment Award, as well as the Peter Keese Award, the

phases of incurable disease so that they may live as

hospital, nursing home, or private hospice facility.

highest award given by The Carolinas Center for

fully and comfortably as possible.

“Hospices are the only health care organiza-

Hospice and End-of-Life Care, for exemplary serv-

The hospice philosophy accepts death as the

tions that exist to specifically care for the termi-

ice to the hospice movement on the state and

final stage of life. The goal of hospice is to enable

nally ill,” explains Fortner. “Other organizations

national levels.

patients to continue an alert, pain-free life and to

do it, but it’s not their main mission.” During her twenty-five years of leadership,

An independent study by Duke University showed that hospice saved an average of $2,300 per patient, or nearly $2 billion each year, and close to 100 percent of families who used hospice would recommend it to others. In addition, the Duke study showed that, on average, dying patients who received hospice care lived 29 days longer than those not receiving hospice care.

Fortner has seen many changes in the local hospice movement. Her first task was to promote public awareness and support for the hospice concept. “In 1983, few people knew what hospice care was,” she remembers. “It was not reimbursed by private insurance or Medicare.” That same year Congress passed legislation creating the Hospice Medicare Benefit (HMB). This benefit provides reimbursement for most hospice services, including needed medical equipment and medications. This was a huge change in

Dying with Dignity

manage the symptoms of their disease so that their

the hospice movement across the country, and it

Hospice is a concept rooted in the centuries-

remaining months may be spent with dignity, sur-

led to an influx of for-profit organizations into the

old idea of offering a place of shelter and rest, or

rounded by their loved ones. Hospice care treats

field. It also led to greater public understanding of

“hospitality,” to weary and sick travelers on a long

the person rather than the disease; it focuses on

the hospice philosophy.

journey. In 1967 Dame Cicely Saunders at St.

quality rather than length of life. It provides fam-

Hospice & Palliative Care Charlotte Region

Christopher’s Hospice in London first applied the

ily-centered care and involves the patient and the

(HPCCR) was the first hospice in North Carolina

term “hospice” to specialized care for dying

family in making decisions. Hospice care is given

to offer the HMB in 1984. Without Medicare reimbursement, Hospice’s ability to make its services widely available would not have been possible. However, as a not-for-profit organization, HPCCR maintains its open access policy of providing care for all eligible patients, regardless of their ability to pay. It covers almost $1 million a year in unreimbursed care. Not Just Growing Older During the 1980s, HPCCR grew within Charlotte, opening two offices. It initiated special children’s services, such as Chameleon’s Journey, an overnight grief camp for children and teens, ages 7 to 16, who have experienced the death of a family member or other significant person in their life. In the ’90s, the service area was expanded to eight additional counties and Hospice of Lincoln County merged with HPCCR. A branch office was opened at Lake Norman. In 2002, the first fulltime medical director was hired and palliative medicine was introduced as a new service. “Just as hospice became a common concept, we adopted a new concept—that of palliative care,” says Fortner. Palliative medicine specializes in the relief of the pain, symptoms, and stress of serious illness. The goal is to improve the quality of life for patients and their families. It differs from hospice


october 2008

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care because it may be provided at any time


during a person’s illness, even from the time of diagnosis. Also, it may be given at the same time as curative care. Hospice care always provides palliative care, sometimes called comfort care; however, it is focused on terminally ill patients— people who no longer seek treatments to cure them and who are expected to live for six months or less. In 2006, palliative medicine was recognized as

“The opportunity to offer this level of care in

a medical subspecialty by the American Board of

a hospice facility has been our dream for a long

Medical Specialties. Hospice & Palliative Care

time,” says Fortner. “While our first priority

Charlotte Region was the first hospice in the area

remains offering compassionate hospice care

to add board certified physicians to its staff to

daily to hundreds of patients in their own

There are other chal-

address the need for specific care for those living

homes, hospitals, assisted living communities

lenges ahead for Hospice &

with serious illness. With a team of nine physi-

and nursing homes, there are times when this is

Palliative Care Charlotte

cians and eight nurse practitioners, HPCCR has

not an option. Being able to offer an alternative

Region. One of these is the

the largest such program in the Carolinas, and is a

will make a big difference. It is a wonderful

federal government’s plan to cut its Medicare hos-

national leader in the field.

addition to our services.”

pice budget. While it may not make sense to reduce access to a program that, by Medicare’s

In 2005, the organization adopted its current corporate name, Hospice & Palliative Care Charlotte Region. Branch offices in Lincoln County and Lake Norman became Hospice & Palliative Care Lincoln County and Hospice & Palliative Care Lake Norman to reflect the ability to provide palliative medicine in those offices. Since then, palliative medicine services have been extended to additional counties. Today, the organization serves over 1,000 patients a day with approximately 500 being hospice patients and 500 palliative medicine patients.

“The increase we are experiencing in referrals to our programs tells us that the community needs our growth and vision. As the baby boomers grow older, they are going to demand choices and will want to be in charge of their own care. That’s what hospice is all about.”

own studies, actually saves Medicare dollars by keeping people feeling better and out of the hospital, it is also true that the numbers of those in need are rising dramatically. Medicare’s hospice budget has grown as people live longer and increasingly choose hospice care.

~ Janet Fortner President and CEO

Loving Care In January 2008, HPCCR opened the first hospice house in Mecklenburg County. Recognizing that there are times when home care is

Levine & Dickson Hospice House was

not an option, the Levine & Dickson Hospice

planned with future expansion in mind. This

House provides short term, high-quality, com-

expansion is part of the organization’s response to

passionate hospice care.

the continued demand for its services.

Centrally located within the service area of

“The increase we are experiencing in refer-

HPCCR, Levine & Dickson Hospice House sits on

rals to our programs tells us that the community

12 wooded acres in The Park Huntersville. The

needs our growth and vision,” says Fortner. “As

29,000-square-foot facility, built through a $10.7

the baby boomers grow older, they are going to

million capital campaign, is designed in the Amer-

demand choices and will want to be in charge

ican Craftsman style to be home-like with large

of their own care. That’s what hospice is

floor-to-ceiling windows offering natural light,

all about.”

fresh air, and views of the outdoors. Each of the 16 patient rooms is large and private with its own bathroom. There is a large family room with a beautiful stone fireplace,

In January 2008, HPCCR opened the first hospice house in Mecklenburg County. The Levine & Dickson Hospice House provides short-term, high-quality, compassionate hospice care.

Janet T. Fortner President and CEO Hospice & Palliative Care Charlotte Region

sunrooms on each patient wing, a library, a kitchen, and an interfaith chapel. The grounds feature beautifully landscaped gardens, welcoming benches, and a labyrinth for meditative walks.

purs uing a bal ance of busines s and life

o ct ober 2008


The Hospice Medicare Benefit has proven to be extremely cost-effective for care during the last


six months of life. An independent study by Duke University showed that hospice saved an average of $2,300 per patient, or nearly $2 billion each year, and close to 100 percent of families who used hospice would recommend it to others. In addition, the Duke study showed that, on average, dying patients who received hospice care lived 29 days longer than those not receiving hospice care. The scheduled cuts in Medicare funding will likely result nationally in reduced patient access, program closures, and less money to care for patients. These cuts come at a time when the cost of providing care is rising. Because most hospice care is provided in the patient’s home, HPCCR clinicians travel over a million miles per year. Rising gas prices have placed a new burden on the organization, coming on top of rising costs for pharmaceuticals, supplies, equipment, and hiring and training health care professionals. Despite its phenomenal growth, and the challenges it faces, Hospice & Palliative Care Charlotte Region has impacted the lives of thousands of area residents by providing the best and most comprehensive care for individuals facing a serious or terminal illness. Fortner is grateful for the opportunity to make a difference in those lives. “Knowing you are providing help for someone who really needs it, is the most fulfilling and rewarding job you can have,” she says. biz

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Casey Jacobus is a Charlotte-based freelance writer.

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Hospice & Palliative Care Charlotte Region 1420 East Seventh Street Charlotte, N.C. 28204 Phone: 704-375-0100 Principal: Janet T. Fortner, MSW, President and CEO Founded: 1978 Employees: 398 Service Area: Cabarrus, Catawba, Cleveland, Gaston, Iredell, Lincoln, Mecklenburg, Union Facilities: Uptown and South Charlotte, Lake Norman, Lincoln County; Levine & Dickson Hospice House Business: To relieve suffering and improve the quality and dignity of life through compassionate hospice care for those at the end of life, palliative care for those with advanced illness, and community education.

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[ontop] Awards & Achievements Charlotte has been named on


Leadership Development Executive Coaching Talent Management Executive Search Assessments

Is your company ready for the future?’s ranking of America’s Best Cities For Singles, ranking No. 18 among the 40 cities on the list. Advertising & Media Raymond C. Jones, director of public relations at Carolinas HealthCare System (CHS), has been recognized by Charlotte PRSA as the recipient of the 2008 Infinity Award, given annually to honor a Charlotte public relations professional whose character, career and service represent the highest standards for the profession. Mountain Laurel Advertising has been named a distinguished winner in American Corporate Identity’s 24th annual competition. Michael S. Lower, principal


at JC Thomas Marketing Com-

8509 Crown Crescent Court • Charlotte, NC 28227 e-mail: •

munications, has been named to the board of the Charlotte Chapter of the American Marketing

Michael Lower

Association. Luquire George Andrews (LGA), an advertising, marketing and public relations firm, has hired Mitchell Brown as group creative director, Jim Stadler as associate creative director, and Tim Maiura as new media specialist.


WFAE 90.7FM has hired Greg Collard as news director. Brad Panovich has been named chief meteorologist of the First Warn Storm Team for

Greg Collard

NewsChannel 36. Walker Marketing, Inc. has hired Sarah Hemp as associate art director. Burke Communications, Inc.

Sarah Hemp

has added Nicole Jobes as an account executive. Lauren Graham has joined Lippi & Co. Advertising as an account executive.

Nicole Jobes

Business & Professional American Product Distributors has won Supplier of the Year recognition from the Carolinas Minority Supplier Development Council.


october 2008

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[ontop] Baker & Taylor, Inc., the global wholesale distributor of books and entertainment products, has named Robert C. Nelson as executive vice president, strategic business development, Jeff Leonard as executive vice president and CFO, and John Lindsay as vice president, book merchandising. Resources Global Professionals, a multinational provider of professional services and



Architectural Interiors & Exteriors Editorial Advertising Industrial Corporate

the operating subsidiary of Resources Connection, Inc., has appointed Phil Walton as managing director in its Charlotte office. ACTS Retirement-Life Communities has appointed James H. Petty as executive director and Stephen Eggles as regional James Petty

vice president, Mid-South. Triune Capital Advisors, LLC has hired Patricia D. Harrity as team leader; she joined the team of Fontana, Hayes and

Stephen Eggles

Associates. Kiki Schade has

joined the team of Yercheck, Cervantes & Associates as a sales assistant. Doug Dantini has been named director of operations for the freight management division of Shiptransportal. Doug Gray has joined professional coaching firm Rich Campe International, LLC as vice president of learning and development. Mary Elizabeth Murphy, managing director of S.T.A.R. Resources, has completed her training with the Coaches Training Institute. Construction & Design Tyler 2 Construction has been selected as a finalist for the 2008 Nine Who Care Awards sponsored by WSOC-TV and their Family Focus Partners. Clark Nexsen has hired Waleed Zoabi, PE, as a senior electrical engineer, Darius Johnson, Assoc. AIA, as an architectural designer, Angelique Hudson as a project manager assistant, and Melanie R. Anderson, Assoc. AIA, as an architectural intern. Kelsey Richards, Jake Albert and Jason Burns have joined The Bainbridge Crew as salespersons.

purs uing a bal ance of busines s and life

o ct ober 2008


[ontop] Education & Staffing


it all adds up!

nity College Trustees has selected

Our Philosophy We believe we are rewarded only to the extent that we add value to those we are privileged to serve. At Daniel, Ratliff & Company, we are here to serve you, to help your business achieve its goals. We do so by learning your business and the challenges you face, then working with you to guide you toward success.

Executive Officer Award.

“We have enjoyed working with Daniel, Ratliff & Company because they have always taken a great interest in helping our business in any way they can, including bringing excellent resources to the table for all type of services, not just financial. ~ Jacqueline Ford, Co-owner and President Great Food Services, Inc., a Burger King franchisee ©2007 Galles Communications Group, Inc.

The Association of Commu-

We're not your typical CPA firm. Instead, we go beyond traditional accounting services, adding valuable insight and guidance to your growth process. Think of us as the business development partner you always wished you had - a Champion for your business!

At the lake:

Uptown office:

Daniel, Ratliff & Company 107 Kilson Dr., Ste. 205, Mooresville, NC 28117

Daniel, Ratliff & Company 301 S. McDowell St., Ste. 502, Charlotte, NC 28204



Patricia Skinner, Ph.D., president of Gaston College, as the

Dr. Patricia Skinner

recipient of the 2008 Southern Regional Chief Pfeiffer University has received the firstever American accreditation for its International Master of Business Administration degree program by ACQUIN, the German accreditation agency, following a site visit and an extensive audit. The Uni-

Dr. David Heckel

versity has also established a new school of humanities and named Dr. David Heckel its dean. Chef/instructor Mark Martin, former executive chef of Ethan’s on Elizabeth, has been named academic director of the international culinary school at The Art

Mark Martin

Institute of Charlotte. Integra Staffing & Search has been ranked No. 1158 on the 2008 Inc. 5,000 with three-year sales growth of 323.7 percent; it has also been ranked No. 55 on its annual Top 100 fastest-growing privately held Human Resource companies in the country. Jeff Anderson has joined Bankston Partners as business development manager. CEO Inc. has hired Kristen Cofield as staffing coordinator and Ellen Verhaagen as executive assistant. KnowledgePoints Learning Center has named Dr. Lawton Grier as director of learning. Engineering Kelly Group has been selected for the 2008 Best of Charlotte Award in the engineer category by the U.S. Local Business Association. HadenStanziale’s Charlotte office has added Brian Dey, PE, LEED, to its civil engineering team as project manager and Renee Robinson as a landscape designer. Bob McLeod joined S&ME’s construction department as a senior engineer/project manager.


october 2008

www. grea tercha rl ot tebiz .c om

Your Dealer Alternative


SAVE MONEY on 15k - 30k - 60k

scheduled maintenance. Car dealer not required. Is your car due?

Charynn Gross has joined the Charlotte office of PSI as business development manager.

ALMAR Auto Inc.

Finance & Insurance

Total CAR Care

Grant Thornton LLP has

4127 South Blvd. • Charlotte, NC 28209 704-522-9000 Monday-Friday 7:30-6:00

been awarded first place in the Public Accounting Report’s second quarter audit rankings. Keith Malinowski

(1 block from Scaleybark Lightrail station)

Keith Malinowski has been pro-

ALMAR Auto can do routine maintenance on all makes & models at 20% less than dealer prices! ALL MAKES | ALL MODELS Transmission • Brake • Tune-ups Oil Change • A/C Repairs • Struts & Shocks • Scheduled Maintenance Starters • Alternators • Timing Belts State Inspections

Offering honest, quality repairs & service at affordable prices since 1981.

moted to partner in the Charlotte office. Vinny Satchit has joined the company as a senior manager in the private wealth Vinny Satchit

services practice.

Elliott Davis, LLC, an accounting and business advisory firm in the Southeast, has


been selected as one of INSIDE Public Accounting’s 2008 Top 100 Accounting Firms. Jefferson Wells, a global provider of internal audit and controls, technology risk management, tax, and finance and accountingrelated services, has promoted Shawn Dahl to

The 2008 Wage and Salary Survey is Now Available!

managing director of the firm’s Carolinas practice. Bank of Granite has promoted David L.


Deal to vice president and Glenda J. Taylor

he Employers Association is the best resource for local compensation data. Capturing information from over 250 companies covering 330 benchmark positions, the 2008 Wage and Salary Survey provides comprehensive local salaries by type of business, county and company size. New association members receive a complimentary Wage and Salary Survey or it is available for purchase.

to customer service and sales manager (Morgantown); Kelly C. Melton to assistant vice president and office manager (Lenoir); and Christopher M. Cole to commercial lender. Michelle P. Keener has joined as assistant vice president and office manager (Hickory). W. David Hicks, CLU, ChFC, CLTC, financial services professional with Hinrichs Flanagan Financial, has obtained a Certified in Long-Term Care designation. John


Sanchez has joined the company as a financial services professional. Jimmy Allison, financial services professional, has been appointed to the Wesley Chapel planning

Trusted HR Advice, Tools & Training

board for a three-year term. Government & Nonprofit Mayor Pat McCrory, the Republican candidate for Governor, has appointed Luther Snyder as deputy campaign manager.

For more information on The Employers Association please visit us at or call 704-522-8011.

Patricia Zoder has joined Foundation For The Carolinas as executive director of CrossPatricia Zoder

roads Charlotte.


purs uing a bal ance of busines s and life

o ct ober 2008


[ontop] The National Kidney Foundation of North Carolina has named Nan Gray senior vice president of marketing and Nan Gray


Hospitality House of Charlotte has appointed Kimberly Melton as its new executive director. Health Care Cora Greene, MSN, RNC, Rowan Regional Medical Center’s director of women’s and children’s services, has been selected as one of North Carolina’s

Cora Greene

100 Nurses for 2008 by the Great 100, Inc. organization. Robert J. Sullivan, M.D., has joined the physicians of Southeast Pain Care providing outpatient pain management services at the Morehead Medical Plaza,


utive Park locations. Scott R. Broadwell, M.D., a

Executive Looks. Exceptional Prices. Space Planning

board certified interventional radiologist, and Laura E. Danile, M.D., a board certified Dr. Scott Broadwell


704-399-1948 | 3111 Freedom Drive | Charlotte, NC 28208

WE PROMISE TO PROVIDE OUR CUSTOMERS WITH QUALITY NEW AND PRE-OWNED OFFICE FURNITURE AND ACCESSORIES AT AFFORDABLE PRICES. OUR CUSTOMERS SPEAK FOR THEMSELVES. From planning to installation, Larner’s partnered with us, helping us utilize our space increasing its functionality and our efficiency. They managed the transition and we could trust that it was being done right. They were budget conscious but quality driven; we highly recommend them to the business community. ~ JOHN D. BLAIR, PARTNER BLAIR, BOHLÉ & WHITSITT, PLLC


october 2008


Lake Norman area physicians Daniel T. Biondi, D.O., Aubrey




Move Coordination

Office Furniture Brokering

mammographer, have joined Charlotte Radiology.



Dr. Robert Sullivan

Northcross Medical Park and University Exec-

D. Calhoun, M.D., Stephen D. Dr. Laura Danile

Ferguson, M.D., Patrick L.

Fry, M.D., Holly M. Layman, D.O., T. Basil Mathew, M.D., John L. McGuinness, D.O., Yvette Pellegrino, M.D., and Vesna Tomovich, M.D. have joined Carolinas HealthCare System. Real Estate Commercial/ Residential Pat Riley, president and chief operating officer of Allen Tate Company, has been named to a

Pat Riley

two-year term on the board of directors of Leading Real Estate Companies of the World. Mike LaRuffa has rejoined Builder Services Inc. as president.

Mike LaRuffa

www. grea tercha rl ot tebiz .c om


Jade Chong, Virginie Stewart, Maryann Althouse, Sandi Salisbury, Glenda Wolf, and Susan Dougherty as associates. Amanda Dillashaw Jones has rejoined the Providence/485 office as broker/sales manager. Michael Metallo

Local & Wide Area Networks Wiring Routers Switches Servers Wireless Workstations

©2008 Galles Communications Group, Inc.

Allen Tate at Ballantyne has added Bill Rosinski, Curt Phipps, Melanie Magglioca,


FieldStone Networking Services: Walt Fields at 704-560-4897 or Dwayne Stone at 704-560-4900

has joined the Lake Norman office as an agent. At WEICHERT, REALTORS - Rebhan & Associates’ Ballantyne/Blakeney office, Sarah Carpenter Szczodrowski has become the new office manager, Larry Gray, an associate specializing in residential sales, and Jessie L. Brown III, a broker associate. Denise Chavanne has earned both the GRI designation and e-PRO certification. CENTURY 21 Hecht Realty, Inc. has

2008” s e i r o er Mem m m u “S

hired Linda Scafidi to its sales team at the Mooresville office, Lisa Corrente has joined the sales team at the Cornelius office, and Kim Branch has joined the sales team at the Denver office. K2C Real Estate Solutions has added Robert MacLeod to its sales team. Retail & Sports & Entertainment The Mint Museum has received a $5 million grant award from the Robert Haywood Morrison Foundation to support enhancements to the Mint’s new facility, which will open in 2010 in the heart of Charlotte’s Center City. John Mitchell and Michael Manar have been added to the Black Pest Prevention sales team. Technology The Private Company Index has named NouvEON a To p 5 Gro w th C o m p an ie s fo r Q 2 , 2 0 0 8 . In c . Mag azin e

Metro GreenScape helps you remove the wall between your indoor and outdoor living spaces. Autumn is the perfect time to begin planning for next year’s enjoyment. Imagine the fun that you, your family, and your friends will be having next summer in your brand new outdoor living and entertaining space!

named the firm on its 2 0 0 8 In c . 5 ,0 0 0 , its annual ranking of the fastest growing private companies in America. 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.

Call us today for a free consultation with one of our designers and discover what a difference an outdoor living space will make nnn%d\kif^i\\ejZXg\%Zfd in your life!

purs uing a bal ance of busines s and life


o ct ober 2008


Staring is unavoidable.

Now Available

The XK Coupe and XK Convertible SCOTT JAGUAR

Call for private showing 400 Tyvola Road • 704-527-7000

Our complete inventory available at

Certified for Your Environmentally Responsible Image When we include the FSC Logo on your next print project, you’ll show your stakeholders that you value the environment. The FSC logo is the mark of responsible forestry. Cert. No. SCS-COC-001247 © 1996 Forest Stewardship Council A.C.

Call George Glisan Today

The Hickory Printing Group is registered as a chain-of-custody print provider under the FSC certification program. The Hickory Printing Group, 725 Reese Dr SW, Conover, NC 28613

1-800-HICKORY Ext 7682

4521 Sharon Road, Charlotte NC 28211 (Located across from SouthPark Mall) Call 704.532.9041 or 888.400.4447 Hours: Monday-Friday 10:00-7:00, Saturday 10:00-5:00 by appointment Offering 100% satisfaction guarantee & 90-day price protection. w w w. d i a m o n d s d i r e c t s o u t h p a r k . c o m

Greater Charlotte Biz 2008.10  

Greater Charlotte Biz

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