Friday, September 27, 2013

Ballantyne developer Smoky Bissell rocks a mean miniskirt

H.C. "Smoky" Bissell is best known as the driving force behind the company that developed Ballantyne. But who knew the man also had great legs? That's what folks here in the newsroom were saying after someone noticed that Edwin Peacock, former City Council member turned mayoral candidate, had on Monday tweeted a picture of himself and Smoky, both all dolled up in dresses and high heels, for last weekend's Stiletto Sprint benefitting the Carolinas Ovarian Cancer Fund at Levine Cancer Institute.

Bissell, who in 2004 served as chair of the Dare to Dream campaign to build Levine Children's Hospital, apparently is a man who really gets into his charitable work. In the photo, he's wearing not just a dress, but a miniskirt, accented by what looks to be red stockings reaching nearly to his knees. A blonde wig tops off the ensemble nicely. Peacock sports a slightly longer dress (and paler legs) along with some seriously avant-garde sunglasses.

The Bissell Cos. was the presenting sponsor of the event. Bissell's wife, Sara, died in 2009 after a long battle with cancer. Can imagine she got a good chuckle from the Hereafter at the sight of her beloved.

No word on whether he actually won the race, a 60-70 yard dash in heels.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The top 10 job sectors driving Charlotte's economy

The CareerBuilder job search Website and its subsidiary, Economic Modeling Specialists International, have come up with a fascinating interactive map and database that pops the hood on regional economies and pinpoints the job sectors that are key drivers for each area.

Click on Charlotte on the map and you'll find the Queen City's key drivers (and their percentage job growth since 2010) are:

  • Management of companies and enterprises -- 2%
  • Depository credit intermediation (banking) -- 5%
  • Management, scientific and technical consulting services -- 22%
  • Nondepository credit intermediation -- 15%
  • Scheduled air transportation -- 17%
  • Data processing, hosting and related services -- 14%
  • Other financial investment activities -- 20%
  • Spectator sports -- 37%
  • Wired telecommunications carriers -- 31%
  • Engine, turbine and power transmission equipment manufacturing -- 75%
It's an interesting mix of "we already knew that" jobs (financial sector)  and "say what?" jobs (spectator sports? Did two more professional sports teams move to Charlotte?). The one that jumps out at me -- other than that -- is engine, turbine and power transmission manufacturing, whose 2,477 jobs for 2013 represents a 75 percent increase over 2010. With $100,000 average salaries, you can see where this is a very encouraging sign -- and one that local officials and economic developers need to be pushing as much as possible.  

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Look who made the Top 5 hiring companies in Charlotte

With the unemployment rate still too high for comfort in North Carolina, it's always nice to get a glimpse of any data on who's hiring. The folks at Simply Hired, one of the many online job search services, have been sending me monthly updates on the job openings they see in their database for Charlotte. The one for August is interesting. Here's their top five hiring companies in town for the month:

1. Carolinas Healthcare System -- 743 jobs

2. Harris Teeter -- 711 jobs

3. Novant Health -- 617 jobs

4. Bank of America -- 580 jobs

5. Great Clips -- 542 jobs

Let's say it together, shall we? GREAT CLIPS??!! I imagine the hair-cutting chain is pretty popular. (I see about two dozen locations on a quick white pages search). But Top 5 hiring popular?? I've asked the Simply Hired folks to tell me whether these are all hairstylist jobs or if the company just announced some new corporate relocation to the city that I haven't heard about. Will update if/when I hear something.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

State film incentives: job creators, or fool's gold?

I've been getting a lot of feedback after having written this article and this one, looking at the efforts by local entrepreneur Bert Hesse and California-based Pacifica Ventures effort to build a massive movie studio complex on the Eastland Mall site. Some of the people writing me in the wake are saying it would be a shame to see North Carolina let its film incentive program die in 2014, as the TV and movie industry jobs created will simply migrate to other states. Others say its a shaky proposition that could leave the city holding a multi-million dollar liability.

I'd relayed the point in one of the stories that some say TV productions, which can stay around for years, might make better investments than movies for states looking to lure productions to town. Dana Arnold,
CEO of Pacifica Ventures, emailed me this response:

Both features and television create longterm crew development that generate permanent jobs.  Yes, permanent jobs! 

It is true that feature films do come and go, but with a competitive, politically supported incentive program… the feature films keep coming (as well as going) and as they come and go, they provide a stream of work to the same local crews, over and over again. 

A carpenter working at framing houses might make $55,000 a year as a "full" time employee working 12 months of the year for one employer ("trackable" full time employment, by job category): that same carpenter would most likely make over $85,000 per year building sets for two different features, but might only work for 7 months (considered part-time, by job category). 

If you were a carpenter, which job would you want???

What is missing in North Carolina is the "brick and mortar" infrastructure of permanent studio facilities… which is what Eastland will provide to Charlotte.

However, as you are well aware, the politics of film and television incentives can be "incendiary": especially when it means financially supporting the major studios with substantial financial incentives to bring their work.  

I find it hard to understand why incentives for auto parts manufacturing, oil drilling, airplane assembly, or chip foundries are somehow more politically appropriate than incentivizing media production.

Given the strong feelings that surround film incentives, I thought it'd be interesting to give one of its more motivated backers a chance to make his case publicly. Having heard him, what do you think?