Charlotte Chamber: Jobs, inclusiveness to be focus

The Charlotte Chamber touted its job creation numbers Tuesday night, as almost 2,000 people gathered to hear its accomplishments at the business group’s annual meeting at the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

“I think it indicates Charlotte’s really coming out of this sluggish recovery,” said Michael Tarwater, CEO of Carolinas HealthCare System and outgoing Charlotte Chamber chairman. The chamber said it announced 5,518 new jobs and $528 million worth of capital investments so far in 2014, partly as a result of its business recruitment efforts.

At its annual meeting last year, the chamber said Charlotte landed 7,208 new jobs and $728 million in new capital investment.

The group also presented Mac Everett the 2014 Citizen of the Carolinas award. Everett, a former Wachovia executive, was praised for his business accomplishments, volunteer activities and support for the development of the uptown basketball arena and the UNC Charlotte football program.

“I’m humbled and very appreciative of this award,” said Everett.

Past recipients include Michael Jordan, former Charlotte Mayor Harvey Gantt and former Bank of America CEO Hugh McColl Jr.

“Without Mac Everett, a lot of the great things that have happened in Charlotte wouldn’t have happened,” Gov. Pat McCrory said in a video praising Everett.

Incoming chamber Chairman Tom Skains, CEO of Piedmont Natural Gas, wore a hardhat and accepted a sledgehammer instead of the traditional gavel. That was meant to symbolize the upcoming renovation of the chamber’s uptown headquarters on South Tryon Street, where the group recently renewed its lease.

Demolition work on the space is set to start Monday.

Skains said the chamber building’s new open lobby and glass facade will be a good doormat welcoming businesses to Charlotte. “It’s a place that invites business growth in our city,” Skains said.

The theme for the chamber’s coming year is “Together for Charlotte.” Skains said it will be important to emphasize creating an inclusive culture across Charlotte’s business community, as the city continues to grow and change.

“Charlotte has changed immensely over the last 20 years,” Skains told the audience. “We need to develop a pattern of collaboration.”

Skains also said the Charlotte Chamber will have to figure out how to effectively work in the new economic development structure in North Carolina. A new public-private partnership, the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina, has been created to spearhead job recruitment efforts. Chris Chung, an economic developer from Missouri, was named to head the organization Monday.