Charlotte Chamber launches new team

Last week Rome, today Asheville for globe-trotting real estate czar Pat Riley.

Riley, this year's Charlotte Chamber chair, will start his handoff to incoming 2009 chair and retail honcho Tim Belk at the group's two-day planning event. Riley will recap progress while Belk leads the agenda-setting for the coming year and selects his exec committee.

“I'm in the rearview mirror, and he's in the windshield,” Riley said.

Riley also will unveil the 2011 chair. She is “poised, smart, proven,” he told Insider.

The mystery leader will be the chamber's fourth woman at the top. We already know the 2010 chair is Charlotte native David Darnell, president of BofA's commercial bank.

About 160 business leaders and others are expected at the Biltmore Estate, surrounded by the mountains' early fall color. Riley's daughter married there last year, so for him, it's a very special place.

It's also closer and newer than the little medieval Italian town where he had his best meal last week while in Rome attending the international meeting of the Leading Real Estate Companies of the World. Riley, president of Allen Tate Co., was named last month to the board of the group, which is a leader in relocation and whose members deal in luxury properties around the world.

What, no hockey?

Besides big business execs, the chamber getaway features a dazzling parade of powerful sports figures, gathered for a panel discussion simply titled “Sports in Charlotte.”

Check this out: Brian France of NASCAR, Jerry Richardson of the Panthers, Bob Johnson of the Bobcats. Want more? How about Mac Everett of the Wachovia Championship and Don Beaver of the Charlotte Knights?

While fans might have choice words for these VIPs, all are dealing with crucial economic issues that affect their sports' futures in Charlotte. Will high gas prices continue to curb crowds at races? Would a Panthers fade resurrect gripes about PSLs? What will it take for the Bobcats to get more fans in that arena? And when, oh when, will that baseball stadium ever be built uptown?

Pressing questions all. Maybe Asheville will provide some answers.

And no $7 beer, either

The team had taken the floor, the scoreboard was on and – cue the PowerPoint? Oh, yes: In the current economy, all businesses are looking to save money wherever they can, which explains how Lowe's ended up holding its annual analyst and investor conference at Time Warner Cable Arena.

Yes, that was Lowe's at the arena.

In the past, the company has held the meeting at places such as the uptown Westin. However, because of its sponsorship agreement with the Bobcats, the Mooresville-based retailer is allowed limited use of the roughly 20,000-seat arena at no charge and took advantage of it for Wednesday's invitation-only gathering. The moved saved about $200,000, Lowe's spokeswoman Chris Ahearn said.

The approximately 150 analysts and investors in attendance sat at tables set up on the basketball court, while company executives such as CEO Robert Niblock spoke in front of the lowered giant scoreboard, which was indeed used to show a slide presentation.

Surf's up for boomers

Give Wachovia's chief economist credit. He admits that his generation will fully exploit Medicare, to the likely detriment of all U.S. taxpayers.

During an invitation-only economic update last Thursday to about 80 financial executives, John Silvia said the drain from baby boomers on Medicare will be a huge issue in the future economy. Nothing, he said, will keep guys in their late 60s from – after working for more than 40 years – hitting the beach, going surfing and immediately dislocating their shoulders.

“We're spoiled brats,” Silvia said. “That's what we're going to do.”

Staff reports