Gastonia's turning into a superstar magnet

Yet another superstar who can't wait to plug into the scene in Gastonia.

Could it be the fried baloney sandwich at Tony's Ice Cream on Franklin Boulevard? Clearly, that's a handful of heaven, but more than just that appears to be luring Tar Heel and Lakers hoops legend James Worthy back to his hometown. “I love that place,” confides the money-in-the-bank scorer.

At a breakfast Wednesday in the City Club, high above our quickly evolving metropolis, Worthy proudly proclaimed his undying love for The Gas House. And he reached his long arms out to Charlotte business leaders like Michael “Baldwin Brother” Smith of Center City Partners, gravelly voiced good guy Ronnie Bryant of the Charlotte Regional Partnership, and smoothie Clarke Allen, who runs party planners Charlotte Arrangements. Worthy, who won an NCAA title at North Carolina and three NBA titles with the Lakers, invited each biggie in attendance to lunch. (Baloney sammich?) He's offering his services to help companies target local markets and reach out to communities. He's been doing that in California for years, and wants to bring things back home to the Charlotte area.

On Monday, Worthy hosts a golf tournament benefitting firefighters and sponsored by Citizens South Bank of Gastonia ( “We're circling Charlotte,” said Cit So Prez Kim Price of his bank's success in surrounding counties.

Is Worthy sincere about connecting personally with folks here? Hey, how many superstars give obnoxious reporters their cell phone numbers? Worthy's digits are … not even I would do that.

Charlotte players do Chicago

It's off to Chicago next week for 134 members of the Chamber – the biggest group in the 53-year history of the Inter-City visit. A highlight of this year's trip could be Allen Tate biggie Pat Riley throwing out the first pitch at the Cubbies game Wednesday night against the Orioles. “I'm dreading it,” this year's Chamber chair told me, still looking to escape the duty. “It was supposed to be Jerry Richardson!” But the Panthers Big Cat was instrumental in arranging a meeting with Chicago's Mayor Daley. ( Richard M., the living one.) Whoever has to throw out the pitch must leave the meeting with the mayor early. And Riley says everything in Chicago seems to run through the mayor's office. (That would be in sharp contrast to our fair city.) Wachovia lobbyist Walter Price, who helps organize these jaunts, notes that we're now checking out larger cities than in the past – signs of our economic growth? Where once we scouted Nashville, Tampa and Indianapolis, this year it's Chi-Town, and next year the Chamber is considering Boston.

Steeling away

More economic good news! Dan DiMicco, Nucor's Man Of Steel, says his firm is proving its metal with joint ventures in Europe – with Duferco in Italy and Sidenor in Greece and Bulgaria. (Who knew about the Charlotte-Bulgaria economic pipeline?) DiMicco and wife Marilyn celebrated their 35th wedding anniversary over Memorial Day weekend with a trip to Vegas. Among the shows they caught: Cher. No word on whether she crooned “I Got You Babe” just for them.

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That's basketball legend James Worthy. Send business news tips to jelder@charlotte, or call 704-358-5032.