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January 2005
Changing Leadership, Changing Times
By John Paul Galles


     The New Year is always a time for new beginnings, and this year will herald some significant new beginnings for leadership in the Charlotte business community. We will see new faces with new ideas, new energy, and new focus that will hopefully help us grow and meet the challenges of the future.

     One change that has already occurred is Tim Newman’s selection as the new president of the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority (CRVA). After serving for three years at Charlotte Center City Partners, Newman assumed his new position just recently in November. The CRVA became official last July as a result of a merger between the Auditorium-Coliseum-Convention Center Authority and Visit Charlotte, the convention and visitors bureau. Created to combine the facilities management of Charlotte’s publicly owned meeting facilities with the sales and marketing component, the new CRVA is responsible for all of these activities and has full accountability for their success. As the top tourism destination in the Carolinas with $2.6 billion in annual tourism revenue, Newman, along with Mike Butts and Mike Crum of the combined organizations, should bring a wealth of valuable experience and serve our city and region ever more successfully.

     At the Charlotte Regional Partnership (CRP), Michael Almond has announced his retirement in March 2005. Almond has been incredibly effective at raising revenues and targeting those dollars to attract businesses from all over the world to the Charlotte USA region. Bank of America’s Michael Mayer is the current chair of the partnership and has begun the task of finding a replacement. He has formed a search committee and says that they will look for someone with substantially the same focus on their mission to promote economic development and market this region to businesses nationally and internationally. With sixteen counties in North and South Carolina, the individual counties and their diverse interests are complex and competitive. Nevertheless, we are better served by an organization that promotes our collective and mutual interests to a broader audience.

     At the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce, Carroll Gray’s leadership as a president ends at the end of 2005. His steady and consistent leadership will be missed after so many years of service. The chair of the Charlotte Chamber is Bank of America’s Cathy Bessant. She and Wachovia’s Paul Grube are carefully undertaking the task of finding a new chamber president. Keeping Charlotte competitive and business-friendly requires that we choose a new executive leader who is intelligent, savvy, thoughtful and engaging. It is essential that we seek the best and the brightest to guide the Charlotte Chamber for the years to come.

     Also important to note is the departure of Harriet Sanford as president of the Arts & Science Council (ASC).  Sanford stepped down in February of 2004; Lee Keesler was named president and CEO this past fall following a six-month national search. It turned out that Keesler was found locally and had served as board chair of the ASC in from 1998 to 1999. With all of its success in fund-raising, it makes sense that the ASC would select someone intimately familiar with our community and that organization.

     Charlotte Center City Partners is also looking for a new leader with Tim Newman’s departure. As the organization dedicated to the promotion and enhancement of business, cultural, retail and residential initiatives in Charlotte’s central business district, it, too, will need knowledgeable and energetic leadership as our inner city grows outward and evolves into an even more vibrant and active community serving the region as a whole.

     As we continue to deal with the decline of our manufacturing base, we will need to apply more of our collective intelligence and energy to expanding our job base and creating new opportunities for wealth creation. New leaders bring new experience, new ideas and new energy that can be extremely valuable to our future. While we are especially thankful for Charlotte’s retiring leaders and their contributions to this region, we are excited about the opportunities created by the new leaders and our continuing evolution.
John Paul Galles is the publisher of Greater Charlotte Biz.
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