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Focus is on getting around as Chamber blows into Windy City

Transportation: That seems to be one of the topics Chamber biggies heading off to Chicago this week are most interested in studying about the Windy City. Getting from Point A to Point B without your SUV wasn't Charlotte's top priority a year ago. But with gas at $4 a gallon, taking a close look at Chi-Town's elevated trains seems like one “el” of an idea.

This year's Chamber chairman, Pat Riley, as amiable a guy as you'll ever meet, is dead serious about studying all aspects of Chicago. That's why he wishes he could catch all of Mayor Richard Daley's talk Wednesday – even though Riley has to duck out early because he has the honor of throwing out the first pitch at Wrigley Field that evening.

Riley is top dog at Allen Tate real estate – just behind Mr. Tate himself, the courtly king of Queen City real estate. By the way, congrats to Tate for his rumored engagement to the lovely Bessie King. The two have been spotted out and about and are, for my money, the cutest couple in town.

Only in Charlotte could the Chicago trip loop in all the major players in town. Another reminder that in this town the Chamber is the epicenter of business activity. Take, for instance, the James Worthy breakfast last week at the City Club, where Chamber Prez Bob Morgan hosted major biz and government leaders. Morgan, former Gaston Chamber chief, is old friends with the hoops legend, whose hometown is Gastonia.

So it's off to Chicago! Also leaving on the junket Wednesday: Queen of the networkers Lynn Wheeler – on her 17th Chamber inter-city visit. You kiddin' me? She hasn't missed one since 1991. That's some institutional knowledge right there. Bring us back some deep-dish pizza.

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That's power couple Patty and Tommy Norman. Send business news tips to jelder@charlotteobserver.com, or call 704-358-5032.

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