Tuesday , November 13, 2018

April 2015

Featured In This Issue

April 2015

BizProfiles

 Just last year, France’s largest privately owned design firm opened a U.S. headquarters in Charlotte. Team Créatif USA, located uptown in the Carillon Building at 227 W. Trade Street, brings with it a powerhouse of branding and package design from working with some of the world’s leading brands.

      “The agency was founded in 1986 by Sylvia Vitale Rotta and Nick Craig, two designers who met in Paris, France,” explains Team Créatif USA CEO Attila Akat. “The company’s first major brand was Dannon, the yogurt company, and as Sylvia and Nick grew the business, the pet care division of Mars joined our family of clients.”

      With its global headquarters in Paris, Team Créatif now has international offices in in São Paulo, Brazil, and Jakarta, Indonesia. Approximately 60 percent of its business is generated in 50 countries. The company has annual turnover of approximately $30 million and currently employs 235 people.

      The agency’s work has garnered considerable praise and awards, including winning Design Agency of the Year for the third time at the XXXVe Grand Prix Des Agences De L’année in 2014.

      As Sylvia Vitale Rotta, founder and CEO of the international agency says succinctly, “While advertising gives the consumer a reason to buy a product, very often, the design of the package or product plays a crucial role in swaying the consumer’s choice and staying on top of the mind. Advertising has little meaning without design; clients worldwide are seeing the importance of this craft and its contribution to brand equity.”

      Team Créatif’s global clients include Mars Inc. and its brands Pedigree, Royal Canin and Whiskas; Danone and its brands Volvic, Actimel, Activia and Nutricia; the BEL Group and its brands Bousin and Babybel; Sara Lee; Chiquita Europe; and many more international and national brands.

      The new Charlotte operation is designed to support Team Créatif’s global concept of working with local customers.

      “We chose Charlotte because of its vibrant and international flair and the great creative talent pool in the area,” remarks Rotta. “The combination of lower business costs, direct international and domestic flights, and the proximity to our U.S. customers made uptown Charlotte the perfect location for our U.S. business.”

      Akat adds, “We work on a global level with most of our clients and Charlotte’s international airport and growing global presence, both in terms of the business world and in terms of lifestyle, were compatible. Also, one of the firm’s major clients, Mars’ pet care division, is located in Nashville.”

 

Growing Into Charlotte

      Akat joined Team Créatif in a rather roundabout way. Fifteen years ago, he had been working with Unilever but left to join Mars as the vice president of marketing for the European division. There, he worked closely with Sylvia Vitale Rotta on developing branding for Mars’ pet care products. Eventually, Akat left Mars and joined Dannon, where he once again worked with Rotta on a number of products in the baby care division.

      Hailing from Germany, Akat ended up moving to the Charlotte area to work with Food Lion/Hannaford as the senior vice president of marketing for the private label division. He comments, “We found a lot of good talent in Charlotte. A lot of people are migrating from the north to the south, and Charlotte was and has been growing.”

      As things turned out, Akat and Rotta reconnected, and Akat came on board Team Créatif to start up its U.S. presence.

      Although Team Créatif USA receives some projects from its Paris headquarters, the Charlotte office is focused on creating relationships in the U.S. while growing business.

      “A lot of American clients who worked with Paris like to work with us,” Akat says. “Sometimes we’ll work in parallel with Paris. Sylvia is managing things on a global level and we’re in constant communication. She travels here every month or so to assist in our development in Charlotte. We’re still in a start up mode here, in a way, and our Paris office has been fantastic in providing support.

      “We’re working hard to build brand awareness in Charlotte and nationwide and we’re excited to be here; our team is in this for the long haul,” he assures.

      Not surprisingly, Akat has invested a lot of time into strategic planning. Currently, he and his team are in the second phase of a three-phase process: “The first phase consisted of doing plenty of market research, finding the best location for our design space, and hiring the right people. Once that was in place, we sent our team to Paris for six weeks of training, which was a blast.”

      The second phase consists of reaching out to the Charlotte community to form relationships and start conversations. Currently, Akat spends nearly 60 percent of his time on business development while leading his team of design professionals and account managers.

      On the business development side, Akat uses personal contact, social media, email, phone calls, online videos, and more to connect with potential and existing clients, while on the account management side, he oversees communications with not only clients, but also with Team Créatif’s other offices around the globe.

      “Our business philosophy is to not just to become an agency partner,” he clarifies, “but to actually become an extension of our clients’ marketing departments. We completely invest our talent and expertise into the brands we represent. In fact, we’ve done such a good job that Sylvia Vitale Rotta is sitting on the Global Brand Board for Mars.”

 

Everything is Possible

      At the Team Créatif USA office, the notion “Everything is Possible,” is emblazoned across a wall in large print. It is the company’s approach to client relationships. “Once we are completely embedded with a client and we’ve built that relationship,” says Akat, “we really do everything possible to ensure satisfaction. If we need to sit here until 11 p.m. at night, we do it.”

      He goes on, “We’re not just a design agency, we’re not just designing for the sake of designing. We start the design with strategy—really understanding the brand, the divisions of the brand, the brand positioning—and then based on that, we work on the actual design.”

      “We not only talk about the design, but also the products,” says Akat, “so we are really integrating ourselves as a consumer and as a shopper, which is an integral part of our success, both in Charlotte and around the globe. The client’s brand manager or marketing manager, they can import the company’s values, allowing for a very team-centric, family-like professional relationship.”

      A significant part of the company’s success is its client-centric approach as a team.

      “We work very closely as a team…after all, our name is Team Créatif, so the team is very important and the creativity is very important,” maintains Akat. “The account team services the accounts, but they are also the strategic thinkers who work hand-in-hand with the creative side, and the creatives are working closely with the creatives in Paris. We’re very interlinked, and we view Team Créatif as a family without a huge bureaucracy of managers upon managers upon managers.”

      As a result of this approach, Team Créatif has been able to not only build brand loyalty, but attract new clients. Akat says there are many instances where they’ve worked with a marketing professional at one company, who then moves to another company, and asks Team Créatif onboard.

      Team Créatif works directly with clients most of the time, but it also works with other agencies that don’t possess the branding and packaging design expertise that Akat’s team provides.

 

The Charlotte Team

      Given Team Créatif’s over 30 years in business on a global scale, they know more than a little about team-building. When it comes to finding the right people, Akat says he seeks clear communicators who are ready to invest in Team Créatif’s brands—individuals who are efficient, yet effective, in strategic thinking. On the creative side, he requires design professionals who can provide a portfolio that shows not only talent, but creativity and a desire to excel.

      Akat describes the company’s management style by stating, “Management is all about working together as a team. My experience, initially coming from the client side, is that it’s not about controlling a team. It’s about being involved and being a part—that’s how we do things.

      “Also, it’s about flexibility. Creativity does not simply come along at 9 a.m. on a Monday morning. Sometimes, it’s at 11 p.m. at night. You can’t plan for it, and when it hits, it hits. That’s what matters when I am managing our designers and account professionals.”

      When working on branding designs and structural packaging design, Team Créatif’s employees are also conscious of the changing trends in the food production industry. As more and more people have become aware of the dangers of junk food and fast food, there has been a large shift for producers in not only the ingredients and production of food products, but also in the packaging and branding.

      “I see a major shift in the food branding industry, especially in the younger generation. A lot of people are no longer willing to put junk into their bodies like they used to,” Akat confirms. “The products are becoming healthier with less sugar, less preservatives, and therefore, the design will be a lot more authentic, more truthful. Consumers are no longer willing to put up with half-truths in product labeling.”

      In addition, Team Créatif keeps abreast of the discussion on genetically-modified foods and how these products are impacting communities, both in Charlotte and abroad. Also, with the increasing incidence of allergies, whether this will increase demand for gluten-free products and organics in general.

      Packaging design trends are definitely shifting toward clean, truthful labels that provide consumers with accurate information so that they can make the best choices for their health.

 

Thinking Differently

      “Technology has a major impact,” Akat reveals. “If you think about technology for the yogurt industry, for example, we’re seeing a trend of going back to nature. So how do you make the products in factories and facilities while still viewing things through this lens?

      “So that is also some of the dialogue that we have with clients. It’s not just about making designs or putting the product in nice packaging—it’s about what our clients actually put in the containers.”

      Taking it a step further, Team Créatif is also concerned with timing in telling a brand’s story, to influence the consumer’s purchasing decisions. “The biggest concern is how we can create brand awareness faster for our clients,” says Akat. “They have something great to offer, a great story to tell, but it’s not only about creating that awareness, but it’s also about having the best timing.”

      Akat also points up that brands are looking to redesign and evolve their products in a far shorter span of time: “We used to design something like a bottle, a product, a food form, a shape, an identity and it would last for many years. You could keep looking after it and polishing it.

      “Now, however, things are going faster and clients want to react quicker, which is of course fantastic for us because they have realized that you must never be fashionable but have to be contemporary, answer the consumer needs and you must never become old.

      “Design, branding and packaging are evolving towards more essentiality,” Akat continues. “Stronger, simpler images, more real and natural, less in the superficial ‘cute’ arena; that is where the big brands have realized that they have to be focused. Design has become more essential, more focused and more respectful of the environment.

      “Influenced by the success of certain brands such as Coca-Cola, Apple and Activia around the world, with their incredible designed look, today many of our clients realize the importance of design to be top of mind of the consumer. And, they are seeking out strategic inputs in design, knowing that it is very expensive for them.

      “They are realizing how design and packaging is the first touch-point—not all people watch television, they do not go to the same websites and they do not do the same things anymore. So, the experience has to start somewhere more solid and that is with the product or the service. Successful branding and packaging sells.”

      “Our plan over the next three-to-five years,” says Akat, “is to grow the business to at least $5 million in revenue as well as to have at least 30 employees here to really extend the team.

      “Additionally, we want to grow our portfolio of clients as much as possible in Charlotte, in North Carolina, and abroad. Currently, worldwide, we have 30 million euro in revenue and are growing nicely.

      “The key is to continue building client relationships,” he adds, “while taking our base business model that has worked very well in Europe and marrying these approaches together. We can’t wait to see what the future brings, and we’re proud to be a part of the Charlotte business community!”

Blum has been conceiving, developing and building brilliantly functional and ergonomic home storage solutions for over 60 years. Amazingly smooth, superbly damped motion for doors, pull-outs and lift systems combined with outstanding use of storage space is the Blum hallmark.

      The Blum mission is summed up as “Perfecting Motion.” Their goal is to make the opening and closing of furniture all over the house—but especially in the kitchen—a special experience. The same goes for commercial offices, retail showrooms, hotels and food and beverage outlets.

      Some of the Blum products include: AVENTOS lift systems, TANDEMBOX pull-out systems, TANDEM runner systems, CLIP hinges and ORGA-LINE dividing systems—all designed to inspire with perfect motion: movement so silent and effortless it has to be seen to be believed.

 

Blum-ing in Charlotte

      Around the world some 6, 500 employees are working on behalf of Blum to create perfect motion in over 300 patented products. Internationally, Blum has seven factories in Vorarlberg, in Western Austria, as well as production facilities in the United States, Brazil and Poland, delivering to more than 100 countries.

      “The company has its roots in Austria,” explains Blum USA’s CEO Karl Rudisser, “and our global headquarters is still located there today in a city called Höchst. Blum was established in 1953 by blacksmith Julius Blum, who, after World War II, began manufacturing horseshoe studs. At the time, horses were used in the area to pull the logs from the forest, and in winter, when the roads were icy, studs were incredibly helpful in traction control.”

      As the company grew and expanded, the U.S. market for furniture manufacturing was growing, centered around the Carolinas and Virginia—Hickory, N.C., in particular. Rudisser, a native of Austria, who is proud to have worked in virtually every position within the company during his tenure, was tasked with determining where Blum would best be positioned for breaking into the United States.

     “We began as a two-man team in Hickory during 1978, but by 1979, we moved to the Charlotte area,” Rudisser explains. “Initially, we brought the products in from Austria, warehoused them here, and then started selling. Although the furniture market was strong in the Hickory area, after careful thought, that really wasn’t our target industry. As we expanded, both in the United States and abroad, our eye was on serving kitchen designers and manufacturers as well as cabinetry professionals, with advanced concealed hinges, drawer systems, and seamless lift systems.”

      Eventually, Blum began to bring the manufacturing of its products to the current location in Stanley, N.C., taking small steps along the way. By the early 1990s, manufacturing had become a key element to Blum’s business model in the U.S. Today, Blum’s U.S. location boasts over 380 employees and is comprised of a number of buildings, including an 85-foot tall, 37,000-square-foot automated warehouse that contains robotic cranes which handle everything from raw materials to finished goods, all of which are perfectly married together through innovative design.

      Rudisser’s day-to-day operations include overseeing and leading teams, in addition to the company’s strategy as a whole, but he is also focused on organizational development.

      “I have a lot of freedom to do things here as long as we are profitable,” comments Rudisser. “The owners are very open to providing freedom and allowing me to innovate. It has been a great experience for me to work here, and undoubtedly, we have a great team of people to work with, many of whom have been with us for over two decades.

      “I moved here from Austria via England where I worked for two years, and started my family here in North Carolina. In fact, now I’m a proud grandfather. I think Blum is a great company, and as a family-owned business, which is unusual for a company of this size, I love the business model and atmosphere that Blum provides.”

      Actually, it’s that family-owned sense that has allowed Blum to thrive. At the company’s U.S. location, a centralized lobby area exists that connects both the manufacturing side with the administrative office side, allowing employees from various departments to congregate, discuss ideas and experiences, and keep in contact regarding challenges that each side of the company is facing.

      This type of interaction and feedback has proven to be invaluable to Blum’s growing success. Rudisser also credits Blum’s orientation process, something that is not only provided to employees upon hiring, but is also promoted throughout an employee’s career.

      “We have what we call our orientation for all employees, and basically this is something that I am very much involved in. I want to make sure people understand our orientation, an outline of our philosophy, from managers on down,” Rudisser explains.

      “We discuss things like what does it mean for us in business internationally, what kinds of products and services we provide, how do we see employees, how do we see society in general, what kind of organization we are. We have 10 subjects that we discuss in the orientation, and we take it very seriously that we spend the time to communicate our philosophy and culture to our employees.”

 

Apprenticeship 2000 A Game Changer

      In adding to Blum’s innovative approach to employee relations, the company has also partnered with Central Piedmont Community College (CPCC) and other businesses in the community to participate in the Apprenticeship 2000 program. Through this program, senior-year high school students and CPCC students are able to not only learn valuable hands-on skills in the manufacturing and design industries, but they are also able to earn a paycheck while doing so.

      “In the early ‘90s, when we started manufacturing in the Charlotte area, we constantly brought people over from Austria, mainly technicians, and they would stay for a couple of years and then go back,” explains Rudisser. “To find and train skilled workers, we wanted to start an apprenticeship program, which is very common in central Europe, so we partnered with five other companies in the Charlotte area that had the same interest in such programs.”

      Rudisser goes on, “We approached CPCC and they were very excited about the idea, and we basically took the curriculum that the schools teach in Austria or Germany or Switzerland, translated it, and CPCC took it almost verbatim and started the program. Our high school students attend class during the day and then they come to learn at Blum. In the second year of the program, post-graduation, they work four days here and go to CPCC for one day for physics, math, communication skills, and so on, and they get paid for their time as well.”

      Through the program, which encompasses three different sections, apprentices are able to take advantage of dedicated, experienced training instructors who not only provide classroom learning, but also hands-on learning that demonstrates real-world scenarios that an apprentice may encounter during the manufacturing process. Each apprentice will need to complete 8,000 hours over four years in order to graduate and be considered for a position within Blum, and the program is recognized by a variety of institutions, including the Lincoln County School System, Gaston County Schools, Mecklenburg County Schools, CPCC, and the North Carolina Department of Commerce, the last of which provides graduates with a Journeyman’s Certificate upon successful completion.

 

Choosing Charlotte

      Rudisser explains that the Charlotte’s growing and vibrant potential was a major draw in locating Blum’s U.S. operations.

      “My wife and I like to go to movies and plays, and in the past, we’d go to New York in order to get our fill of culture and lifestyle, but now, venues such as the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center offer so much that we have no reason to travel for entertainment. In addition, this location is perfect because you don’t have to be directly in the city, but we have access to all of Charlotte’s amenities.

      “People can live on Lake Norman,” Rudisser continues, “we’re only about 30 minutes outside of the city, but if somebody wants to live in the country, they can do that as well and still have easy access here. People have the choice as to where they can live and still comfortably work with Blum.”

      In the end, although Rudisser has an Austrian upbringing, he states that he, and Blum, recognize and embrace the need for the company’s Charlotte-area location to be American in culture. Upon forming Blum USA, Rudisser fully embraced the culture of not only the United States, but also of the Carolinas.

      “We didn’t want to imitate an Austrian company, we wanted to be an American company and adapt to the culture. As a result, we’ve become a very attractive employer for people who look for longevity, people who want to work with and retire from a company. The bottom line? We want people to stay with us for a long, long time. We offer attractive benefits, health care, vacation, and sick leave, things like that. We’re very flexible with work time, and we speak to our people’s needs.”

      With around 25 subsidiaries, as well as manufacturing sites in Austria, North Carolina, Brazil, and Poland, Blum, is able to provide attractive employment options around the globe. As the CEO of the American branch of the company, Rudisser provides guidance for five different departments, including human resources, logistics, production, and sales and marketing, the latter of which uses trade publications and trade shows in order to promote the brand.

      “We have a large sales organization of about 50 people,” says Rudisser. “They’re in territories and they basically call on distributors that sell our hardware or the direct kitchen manufacturers.”

      “We work with mainly kitchen designers in the Charlotte region and around the world,” he continues, “but also woodworkers and cabinet makers as well as original equipment manufacturers.”

 

A Win-Win Situation

      Although woodworking has been around for thousands of years, Blum relies on technology in order to design and manufacture its many products in the 21st century.

      “Technology is definitely the most important thing for us,” describes Rudisser. “Whether in our manufacturing facilities or in our partnerships with kitchen designers and installers, technology is at the heart of what we do each and every day. Technology is also at the heart of our apprenticeship program.

      “These are very technical people who have big ideas. If we aren’t able to offer the latest in machines and devices, we wouldn’t be able to appropriately teach or keep up. Technology in terms of energy also fuels our business here. One of the major draws to the Charlotte region is that energy costs are low.”

      Looking to the future, both in the Charlotte region and globally, Blum is poised to expand as a result of technology. Through its partnership with CPCC and other companies, Blum has a more selective hiring process that allows it to recruit more skilled and qualified employees. This translates to increased productivity, which in turn leads to higher revenues.

      Rudisser comments, “Technical positions will always require a more rigorous screening process, but being within the Charlotte area is always a plus in attracting the right people.”

      “I think the future is very positive for manufacturing in general. There’s been a trend of companies moving back to the U.S. in recent years. I think, partly to be in closer proximity to the customer. It’s very important that materials are available right away, and that’s one of the many advantages that Charlotte offers to Blum.

      This is a tremendous market that continues to have positive growth, and that’s what’s important for us, both in terms of professional success and in terms of personal satisfaction.”

 Celebrating 20 years in the linguistic services business, Choice Translating founders Michelle and Vernon Menard look back as witnesses to a technology revolution that has certainly changed the fundamental ways in which they do business. Yet what has been most critical to them has been to maintain their extreme dedication to accuracy, precision and localized style—something that has been appreciated by the organizations they serve.

      One client, Travis Dowell, director of international sales with Otto-Environmental Systems, speaks to their performance. “The services and support Choice Translating has provided us have been ‘second to none,’” he says.

      “The team’s assistance on a conference call with our Mexico City distributor was extremely helpful in gleaning every nuance on a sales call and led to large orders for Mexico. We may not have realized record sales to Mexico without Choice Translating’s support and accurate services.”

 

Transition to Translating

      The Choice Translating story began with Michelle, who was at the time pursuing degrees in French and International Business at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. The manager of the restaurant where she was working part-time asked about her post-graduation plans. She replied that she wasn’t sure.

      He asked, “Why don’t you start your own business?” Seeing her blank expression, he added, “translating.”

      The manager’s question didn’t just come out of the blue. He knew Michelle was fluent in French, that she did some freelance translating, and that she sometimes edited her mother’s translating assignments. It came naturally to Michelle, born in Charleston, S.C., of a French mother and schooled in France for grades 1 through 3.

      “Until I was 18, I spoke more French than English,” she remarks.

      With her mother, Michelle started Choice Translating & Interpreting in 1995. From their home, they translated written documents and interpreted the spoken word.

      It worked that way until 1998. Michelle graduated from UNC Charlotte and mother and daughter took separate business paths. Soon after, Michelle met Vernon Menard, who owned a Charlotte company that made and exported racks, enclosures and accessories for data communications equipment.

      Vernon had concentrated on International Studies and Spanish at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota. He spoke fluent Spanish but knew he needed professional help with translating sales and marketing material for South America.

      “Vernon was working on a Saturday and faxed a document to the business,” Michelle remembers. She arranged a business meeting with him. Ten months later, they started dating; they married in September 2001.

     Vernon invested in Choice Translating. In 1999, Vernon and Michelle moved the firm into the Ben Craig Center, a business incubator now known as PORTAL (Partnership, Outreach, and Research to Accelerate Learning) at UNC Charlotte. The same year they hired their first employee, and Vernon sold his business in 2000.

     In the incubator, the couple learned quickly. “They taught us how to get government contracts,” Michelle says. “They taught us how to grow, but not too fast, and about human resources issues and hiring the right people.”

     When the pair emerged from the incubator, they’d simplified the name to Choice Translating and adopted a gyroscope logo because, Michelle says, “It is used for navigation and represents stability in motion.”

 

Translating Success

      Choice Translating’s uptown office location is central to their regional customer base and not far from where they now live on North Church Street. The offices are designed with a quiet area for translating, separated from the louder interpreting function.

      On the 15th floor of Tryon Plaza, they have a suite of individual spaces and conference rooms for their staff of project managers and the technology infrastructure to provide translating and interpreting services in over 200 languages.

      The homegrown business now has 20 years of service, with 15 employees, 300 independent contractors in Charlotte, and many more contractors around the globe, and will achieve $3 million in annual revenues in 2015.

      “Choice Translating has become a full-service linguistics company concentrating on translating, interpreting, linguistic and cultural brand name validation and tagline localization,” touts Vernon. “We serve many industries— manufacturing, law, energy, health care, HR, marketing, eLearning, government and non-profit sectors.”

      Selected as one of the Charlotte Business Journal’s 2014 Best Places to Work, Choice Translating leverages industry best practices for quality, world-class project managers, highly trained professional translators and interpreters, and the latest technology to ensure client success in the global economy.

      Michelle remarks, “We tailor our process and adoption of industry best practices to our clients’ needs and guide them through the translation process to deliver optimal quality and excellent customer service.”

      By services, she means translation, interpretation, software and website localization, desktop publishing and voice-overs. The company is a certified Woman-Owned Business and a champion of diversity.

     The business has grown consistently in annual sales and is now the Carolinas’ largest locally-owned linguistics agency. The company is in the top 50 such firms in the United States, out of several thousand.

      “It’s a very fragmented industry,” Vernon explains. “We’re already in the top one percent. There’s a small group of companies that are significantly larger. We will stay true to our purpose and core values, enjoy what we do while helping our clients be successful, and have steady, healthy growth.”

     Michelle smiles as she remembers her original goal of attaining an annual sales number that “required two commas.”

      “We first hit $1 million in 2001,” she says. “We’ve grown every year.” She remarks that they have just completed their fifth quarter with record sales of a new planning cycle. She had set a goal of doubling their business in three years and they are on track to meet that objective.

 

Translating the Difference

      Vernon is the self-proclaimed “Entelechy Guy,” a word dating back to Aristotle meaning making real what was previously only potential. “Entelechy is part of everything we do at Choice Translating,” contributes Vernon. “We maximize the power and reach of our clients’ communication, and we continually develop the capabilities of our team. In short, we don’t just see potential; we identify and develop unique ability, and then find delivery vehicles for it in order to make the world smaller, more connected, and a better place to be.

      “At Choice Translating every member of our team has something important to contribute and each one of our stakeholders—including suppliers, colleagues, community and clients—is integral to our success.

      “Because our team is proactively accountable and engaged,” Vernon adds, “we provide maximum freedom and flexibility through a Results-Only Work Environment (ROWE). Our people thrive in small, focused, solution-oriented teams and high-energy environments, and believe that everyone has the ability to change the world, one word at a time.”

      Besides its staff, Choice Translating employs independent contractors around the globe. The Menards used to find them while attending industry conferences but, these days, linguists as far away as Russia and Saudi Arabia contact the company.

      Choice Translating’s project managers and account managers quote prices based on individual projects. “We have experience handling lots of different projects, so we give firm quotes,” Michelle says.

      In testament to their services, a client from Physicians Reach Out comments, “I never hesitate to call Choice Translating when I have an urgent need for interpreting services for our patients. Choice Translating staff members consistently accommodate us on a last-minute basis, as well as work with us on routine requests.

      “Without a reliable interpreting service, some of our patients would have no access to health care information in their native languages. Choice Translating provides them with the bridge they need to follow through on their health care needs.

      “That’s something on which we cannot place a value. It is a pleasure working with such a wonderful group of folks at Choice Translating that recognize the importance of providing quality customer service. Kudos to them for their positive, winning attitude.”

      Choice Translating has also had kudos from one government agency that is a stickler for accuracy, “The important thing to us is that Choice Translating’s translators are certified. There are lots of people who speak languages, but with a certified translator, we’re confident that when we need to communicate information, whether it’s updates on public projects or what to do in emergency situations, it’s translated clearly and accurately.”

 

Translating Today

      “Translation has been around since the beginning of time, but especially since we launched in 1995, it has become extremely high tech,” remarks Michelle. “To achieve the accuracy, precision and localized style required by organizations serving diverse local and international audiences, our professionally trained project managers integrate teams of highly specialized human translators, editors, proofreaders, graphic designers and technology experts by leveraging cutting-edge, cloud-based project management and collaboration tools, industry best practices and the latest translation quality assurance technology.”

      At the same time, Michelle is insightful about the future: “As far as Google Translate and other machine translation tools, one day they will do certain kinds of translation competently. Then professional translation agencies will harness that productive capability to expand production capacity, speed up turnaround time and dramatically reduce costs for consumers.

      “Essentially, machine translation will one day take over the work of translating basic, straightforward, completely unambiguous texts, and translation of highly complex, highly specialized and highly nuanced text will remain in the hands of human specialists.”

      Choice Translating leverages high-end technology. For example, in one situation they were tasked with translating a training document for a gas turbine power plant in Mexico. It was filled with thermodynamics terminology. Expert project managers, industry best practices, and technology tools helped a 22-member translation team create a 3,500-line glossary of technical terms that kept word usage consistent for 3,000 pages.

      Choice Translating prides itself on dependable service and helping their clients be successful. Rob Hawse, founder and president of CRAFTED, shares, “Our client and the CRAFTED team were very impressed with Choice Translating. Their staff were very knowledgeable, professional and pulled together. Thanks for making us look good!”

      “We want long-term customers,” Michelle assures. “If they are extremely satisfied, they’re going to spread the word about our business.”

      For brand name validation services, Choice consults with linguists in more than 80 countries. Using a customized Web-based application they answer questions about the possible meanings and connotations of proposed product names. Michelle remembers a name for a diet pill that its maker was fond of. Research showed the proposed moniker meant “You’re fat” in French.

      The Choice Translating team believes strongly in community and have dubbed their community service focus, “Choice Cares.” “Our community service program is a commitment to donate one percent of our time, one percent of our product, and one percent of our profit to reduce poverty and promote peace at home and around the world,” says Michelle.

      The team is also active on many boards and committees including: UNC Charlotte’s Foundation Board, Women in Leadership Board, Belk College Board of Advisors, the Charlotte Chamber Soccer Task Force, the Charlotte Compassion Action Network, the Charlotte International Arbitration Society’s Advisory Board and International House’s Young Professionals Board of Advisors in addition to participating in many community development projects including the City’s Immigrant Integration Task Force.

      In addition, Choice Translating provides interpreters free of charge to help the Charlotte Community Health Clinic serve indigent immigrants who do not speak English.

      Laura Rankin-Allen, from the Charlotte Community Health Clinic, comments, “We are blown away with the response we have gotten from the Choice Translating team. They are amazing and are making such a difference in the care the patients receive, not to mention the mental health of our providers! Thank you, thank you, thank you!”

      Michelle and Vernon believe the company culture is healthy and powerful. Says Vernon, “Clients recognize us as ‘yes’ people who leverage the positive, creative power of ‘yes’ and avoid the limiting power of ‘no.’ We are proactively accountable (See it, Own it, Solve it, Do it) as individuals and as a team, and all of our team members strive to be anticipatory leaders in their areas of responsibility.”

      Michelle adds, “We support the growth of the Charlotte USA region as an international trade hub and world-recognized center of commerce, knowledge and culture. As we serve our clients and the community, we make the world smaller, more connected, and a better place to be.”

   “In business, the greatest rewards come to those who can adapt to the changing dynamics of a global economy without losing sight of their core values. These are the ethical entrepreneurs—innovators and leaders who understand that maximizing profits and maintaining integrity aren’t mutually exclusive,” maintains Dr. Anthony Negbenebor, dean of one of North Carolina’s rising star schools and insightful thought leader.

      That is how success is defined at the Godbold School of Business at Gardner-Webb University, a private Christian school with its main campus in Boiling Springs, N.C., and satellite campus in Charlotte. The school’s renowned graduate programs—including its online M.B.A., ranked No. 1 in the U.S. in 2012 (U.S. News & World Report) and No. 9 worldwide (BusinessMBA.org)—are led by seasoned practitioners from around the world.

      Godbold School faculty bring their multicultural perspectives to bear as they provide students with a strong foundation in theory, experiential learning and ethics, enabling graduates to compete globally and make a profound impact in their chosen fields.

      “Ours is an entrepreneurial setting with a strong foundation in ethics. In fact, ethics is in the fiber of every course we teach. When graduates leave here, they are prepared to adapt to new companies, cultures and situations with uncompromising integrity,” affirms Negbenebor.

 

A Strong Foundation

      Gardner-Webb University derives its name from O. Max Gardner, distinguished governor of North Carolina in the 1930s, and his wife, Fay Webb Gardner. Founded in 1905 as Boiling Springs High School, it became Boiling Springs Junior College in 1928; was renamed Gardner-Webb College in 1942; became a university in 1993; and officially named its Godbold School of Business in 2008.

      The Godbold School was so named in honor of the generous contribution to Gardner-Webb by John and Linda Godbold from Shelby, North Carolina. John Godbold founded Carolina State Bank which has become Fifth Third Bank in that region. It was the Godbolds’ ambition to create a unique learning environment for students and individuals seeking to improve their lives and pursue business careers.

      The school’s founding campus is in Boiling Springs, just 50 miles west of Charlotte, with branch campuses in Charlotte and Winston-Salem where the university owns its own buildings, and satellite locations in partnership with local community colleges.

      The school describes its mission as providing “outstanding undergraduate and graduate education that is strongly grounded in the liberal arts while offering opportunities to prepare for various professions. Fostering meaningful intellectual thought, critical analysis, and spiritual challenge within a diverse community of learning, Gardner-Webb is dedicated to higher education that integrates scholarship with Christian life.

      “By embracing faith and intellectual freedom, balancing conviction with compassion, and inspiring a love of learning, service, and leadership, Gardner-Webb prepares its graduates to make significant contributions for God and humanity in an ever-changing global community.

      “The Godbold School of Business provides students with a unique learning environment,” confirms Negbenebor, “where a high standard of excellence embraces integrity as much as knowledge and skill.

      “At Gardner-Webb, we seek to educate men and women to compete effectively in tomorrow’s business world. In addition to world-class skill development in business, students build up ethics skills and credibility to become true leaders in today’s society.

      “Our undergraduate and graduate programs offer a variety of opportunities to help students meet career goals by providing business skills that can be used across all industries,” confirms Negbenebor. “Our small class sizes allow professors to provide individual attention in classrooms that are equipped with state-of-the-art computer equipment and facilitate hands-on exercises and experiential learning.

      “We take pride in a student-centered approach where faculty, staff and community members partner closely with students throughout their academic journeys and beyond, guiding each student’s unique sense of purpose and empowering graduates to be difference makers for God and humanity.”

      Indeed, Gardner-Webb’s logo embodies all of these components: The interwoven flames represent the Gardner-Webb student, Christ as the light of the world, and the warm and welcoming environment of the university; while the shield conveys the university’s environment where students are provided a supportive community for spiritual and intellectual growth.

 

Igniting the Mind

      As dean of the nationally accredited Godbold School of Business, Negbenebor constantly reinforces his ambitions for students to not just learn, but understand the application of that learning.

      “When a student comes to me for counsel, I care about them learning something new they can learn to better themselves in the world. I tell them, ‘Don’t worry about the grade; learn the material and how it applies. When you know that, the “A” will follow.’

      “Just getting good grades does not ensure success. You have to be practical. Employers don’t merely care about grades; they care if you can apply what you’ve learned to help their company. ‘Don’t tell me; show me,’ especially in this high technology world.”

      Negbenebor has been on the faculty for over 25 years now, having arrived at Gardner-Webb in 1989. He first joined the faculty as professor of Economics and International Business. He is a graduate of Mississippi State University.

      Across the board, the faculty members in the School of Business hold both the academic and professional credentials to offer quality education. Godbold faculty members bring their multi-cultural perspectives to bear as they provide students with a strong foundation in theory, experiential learning and ethics, enabling students to compete globally and make a profound impact in their chosen fields.

      Additionally, most faculty members have significant professional experience to lend understanding and application to the theories that they teach. “The experience of our faculty includes engineering, sales, legal counsel, technical writing, line management, and senior management,” says Negbenebor.

      “This experience comes from such diverse industries as oil and gas refining, consumer product manufacturing and sales, industrial product manufacturing and sales, restaurant management, health care administration, and consulting. Nearly half of our faculty have lived and worked overseas. Both the domestic and the international experience allow us to give our students a well-rounded perspective on the theories and practices of business.

 

Courses of Study

      “In trying to determine which path of education to pursue, the School of Business can offer undergraduate as well as graduate programs that provide insight and opportunity in a variety of disciplines,” says Negbenebor. “We prepare students for careers across the spectrum of business disciplines; from traditional areas like Accounting and Finance, to ‘hot’ disciplines such as Management Information Systems and International Business.”

 i     Undergraduate is the larger school. “For undergraduates, we have what is called the DCP program—degree completion program. It is designed for evening adult students to return to school and finish their degree. Also, for those from community college and working.

      “We have students from community colleges all over the state because we have branches all over the state with faculty members traveling to each site. Now we can also reach those students with our online options as well.”

     Gardner-Webb offers the following undergraduate Bachelor of Science degrees from the Godbold School of Business: Accounting, Business Administration, Computer Information Systems, Economics and Finance, International Business, Marketing and Healthcare Management. They also have various undergraduate offerings through the Broyhill School of Management.

      On the graduate level, Godbold’s most populated program is the M.B.A. with different emphases including: banking and finance, economics, forensic accounting, human resource management, management information systems, and marketing, among others.

      “Our M.B.A. online is our largest program. It is consistently ranked in the top 50 in the country by all the ranking institutions,” comments Negbenebor.

      The school of business also offers an International M.B.A., Master of Accountancy (M.Acc.), and Master of Wealth and Trust Management (M.W.T.M.). Joint M.B.A. programs are offered with the School of Divinity (M.Div./M.B.A.) and the School of Nursing (M.S.N./M.B.A.). Also offered are MBA Plus certificates allowing those who have earned their M.B.A. to come back and take courses in a specialized area and to teach at the college level.

      As one of only two institutions in the U.S. offering the M.W.T.M. degree, Gardner-Webb has developed the Brinkley Financial Group Master of Wealth and Trust management program. It gives graduates a significant competitive edge in the banking, insurance and financial services industries, where asset management is a critical specialty.

      Negbenebor speaks with great pride of the school, its programs and its certifications. “We just added the Wealth and Trust Management degree this past summer. Its first class is nearly half-way through the two-year graduate program designed to prepare graduates to sit for the Certified Financial Planner (C.F.P.) certification.”

      The Godbold School of Business has added also certifications from Bloomberg and Morningstar Direct so that financial planners will be prepared to use these valuable tools.

           “We want them educated on the most up-to-date and savvy financial planning and management software available,” comments Negbenebor. “These students are completing graduate degrees for jobs including investments and portfolio management, finance, retirement and estate planning, trust management, securities, private equity, risk management and banking.”

      “We also offer disciplines that are not taught at every university,” continues Negbenebor. “We started a Healthcare Management Program last spring geared towards graduate students that would like to be healthcare administrators, also nursing students, hospice and sales reps.

     “Hospitality and Tourism Management started this past summer, geared for those individuals who would like to manage hotels and hospitality institutions, those who aspire to be directors of tourism, or those who would like to work in reservation, housing development, and so forth.

     “Our Sport Management major, offered jointly by the School of Business and the Department of Physical Education, Wellness, and Sport Studies, has become one of our most popular areas of study. The Sport Management major prepares students for employment by professional athletic organizations and by public or private athletic facilities as coaches, club professionals, or in running athletic facilities.”

 

A Well-Rounded Education

      The School of Business also offers a variety of opportunities outside of the classroom.

     “You may choose to complete an internship with one of the companies in our area, to study or travel abroad through the university, or to take advantage of our Campus New York program,” describes Negbenebor. “You may also want to pursue a leadership position in student organizations such as Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE) or the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA) Program.

     “A variety of organizations and classes take advantage of Gardner-Webb’s Broyhill Adventure Course, allowing student s to learn and stretch their skills and confidence through climbing and other team-building exercises. All of these opportunities help students develop themselves into the type of individual that is attractive to prospective employers.”

      Numerous accolades attest to Gardner-Webb’s success. The U.S. News & World Report also ranked Gardner-Webb as one of the “Best Universities” in the South that offer “a full range of undergraduate and master’s programs.” Gardner-Webb’s core curriculum ranks in the nation’s top two percent for quality and breadth according to the recent What Will They Learn? study by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA).

      Gardner-Webb was selected by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching for its prestigious Community Engagement Classification, recognizing the University’s institutionalized commitment to service. Gardner-Webb has also been named to the John Templeton Foundation’s Honor Roll for Character-Building Colleges and Universities.

     Negbenebor is not one to rest on laurels, however. He believes strongly, “A good liberal education is not just about learning to write well or to think critically, or any other specific outcome or competency. It is about putting students into contexts in which they are exposed to new ideas, asked to think about them, and to talk or write about them. One hopes that students will be engaged and questioning—and even thrilled—by what they learn.

     “In addition to mastering the basic competencies, we as educators need to ensure that students will have the intellectual experiences that apply directly to real life experience. And that they are well equipped to make ethical choices and act with integrity.

      “We know that the world is always being interpreted, and these interpretations are shaped by the categories of thought that we use to make sense and to make meaning of the world around us. A good education should offer experiences that reshape those categories so that our interpretations—in fact, the world itself—appear different to us before and after the educational process.

      “To that end,” Negbenebor continues, “the Godbold School of Business seeks to turn out graduates that are compelled, not only by ambition in the business world, but by being honorable men and women as measured by traditional Christian values. The university’s mission is to serve God and humanity.”

  According to the United Nations, 1.2 billion people, or one-fifth of the world’s population, live in areas of water scarcity. It’s a problem that affects every continent and is expected to be an issue for many societies in coming decades.

     In the United States, drought levels from moderate to exceptional stretch from California to Texas; the Colorado River is starting to run dry in places; and Lake Mead, which currently supplies water for 22 million people, may be a thing of the past by 2021.

     When most people think of water scarcities, they think of water for household use: water for drinking, showering, washing clothes or watering lawns. What many don’t realize is the essential part water plays in their local economy.

 

Water as an Economic Driver

     Water is an economic driver. The agricultural sector most obviously depends on water availability, but so do many other industries. Water supply/demand imbalances also affect decisions on corporate locations and expansions. In other words, an adequate water supply supports a region’s economic growth.

     For the same reasons, a growing region requires more water. And Charlotte is growing. With a projected annual population growth rate of 1.98 percent and an annual job growth rate of 3.1 percent, the Charlotte Metro Area (including parts of Upstate South Carolina) ranked ninth in Forbes 2015 list of America’s Fastest-Growing Cities.

     Water for the people and businesses in the Charlotte Metro Area is supplied by the Catawba-Wateree River Basin extending from the headwaters of the Catawba on the slopes of Grandfather Mountain near Blowing Rock, N.C., to the Wateree River’s confluence with the Congaree River east of Columbia, S.C.

     The Catawba and the Wateree Rivers are essentially one 224-mile river that begins in the Blue Ridge Mountains of western North Carolina and flows through the Charlotte metropolitan area into Lake Wateree in South Carolina, 30 miles northeast of Columbia. The name of the river changes to the Wateree River in Lake Wateree and eventually joins with the Congaree River upstream of Lake Marion.

      There are 11 major lakes or reservoirs in the basin and the dams that form these lakes have a major impact on the flow of the river. Largest of these in terms of usable storage capacity are Lake Norman, Lake James and Lake Wateree which provide recreation, water and hydroelectric power for the area. Duke Energy is the managing authority for the reservoirs and 13 hydropower stations (Catawba-Wateree Hydro Project) under a license from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

      The licensing process defines how the basin will be managed over the license term, which could be up to 50 years. During Duke Energy’s re-licensing process with FERC (the license, issued in 1958, expired in 2008), a water supply study uncovered a critical problem. Namely that, without intervention, given the current rate of growth in this region, the water demands on the Catawba River would reach maximum capacity by the year 2048.

      It was in conjunction with the re-licensing process, in concern for this situation, that the Catawba-Wateree Water Management Group (CWWMG) was formed in 2007.

 

Catawba-Wateree Water Management

      The CWWMG is a 501(c)(3) non-profit formed to identify, fund and manage projects that will enhance the capabilities of the Catawba-Wateree River to provide water resources for human needs such as water supply, power production, industry, agriculture and commerce, while maintaining the river’s ecological health.

      The CWWMG has 19 members; one member representing each of the 18 public water systems in North and South Carolina which rely on the 4,750-square mile river basin, and one member representing the utility company Duke Energy Carolinas, LLC, which built the reservoir system beginning in the early 1900s through the 1960s.

      “The CWWMG actually started as something adversarial and turned into something great,” remarks Barry Gullet, director of Charlotte Water and CWWMG chairman since its founding.

      “During Duke Energy’s re-licensing process, Duke explored the idea of charging a withdrawal fee from the public suppliers who take water from the lakes,” Gullet continues. “The water suppliers, naturally, weren’t happy about paying a new fee. We had a lot of back and forth but Duke was very forthcoming about the purpose of the fee—for reinvestment to improve the system.

      “The water suppliers agreed this was a good idea but wanted a voice in the improvements. So we decided to create an entity to include the water suppliers and Duke in which all members paid dues and had a voice in how the money was spent and the management of projects.”

      Funding for the group consists of annual membership dues totaling $550,000 and approximately $1.5 million of contributions from third parties collected since the group’s formation.

      “That sounds like a lot of money,” says Jeff Lineberger, water strategy and hydro licensing director for Duke Energy and CWWMG secretary/treasurer, “but it’s not when you’re talking about doing things on the scale of a river basin. We’ve been able to bring in resources and get meaningful, necessary and important work done that wouldn’t have been done without the CWWMG.”

      “The CWWMG is unique in the region and perhaps, in the country. Both our membership and focus are broad,” Gullet explains. “We’re not a regulatory group and we don’t make policy. Our group’s mission is as a platform and foundation for policymakers, doing the work and providing the science they need to make policy.

      “Also we’re incorporated as a 501(c)(3) which allows us to bring in resources from areas even outside the basin to benefit the region. That’s one of our successes.”

      To date, the group has provided training to public water suppliers in a structured auditing process, partnered with the USGS (U.S. Geological Survey) to expand and monitor a network of groundwater monitoring wells, and set up critical points in the lake to provide data about sedimentation rates to improve their forecast modeling.

      They’ve also worked with North Carolina State University and Duke University on a study of smart irrigation controllers and collaborated with the Water Research Foundation on The Safe Yield Study.

      “‘Safe yield’ is how much water you can rely on getting from the river under all conditions. It measures the dependability of a water supply source,” explains Gullet. “The study looked at what other river systems globally had done to make their rivers last longer, and identified the options available to us for the Catawba and how we should factor in the effects of climate change on long-term projections and in the modeling we had done. The study was a critical foundation for the Water Supply Master Plan (WSMP).”

 

Water Supply Master Plan

      Issued in 2014 and funded by the CWWMG, Duke Energy Foundation, North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources, and South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, the WSMP is the largest and most ambitious CWWMG undertaking so far.

      The goal of the WSMP is both critical and far-reaching: to ensure the water supply of the Catawba-Wateree River Basin can fully support the region’s growing needs into the next century. Water conservation is a cornerstone of the plan.

      “Without significant effort to manage water consumption, this generation could see a time when there will not be enough water flowing into the Catawba-Wateree River to support more people moving into the heart of North or South Carolina,” warns Gullet. “Not enough water to support new jobs, produce more electricity drive new industry or ensure the quality of life we currently enjoy.”

      “Water is a limited resource,” adds Lineberger. “It’s rainfall dependent. If we don’t change something about the way we use water, we’re going to have problems.”

      Lineberger, a Duke Energy employee for 25 years whose responsibilities include water resource planning and drought management for Duke Energy’s 42 Carolinas’ reservoirs, speaks from experience.

      “It was August 2002 and we were in the fourth year of, at that time, the drought of record for this river,” Lineberger remembers. “Inside Duke, we were sweating the remaining water supply in the lake system from a power generation standpoint. If it didn’t start raining soon, we were going to have serious issues.

      “We called all the water suppliers dependent upon the system to a hotel in Charlotte and informed them that if we didn’t start getting some significant rainfall by the very next summer, we might exhaust the usable water storage in the Catawba River and lake system.

      “That was the worst day of my working career,” he remarks. “I remember thinking that I never want to have to stand in front of these folks again and tell them that I’m afraid we may run out of water.”

      Over four years and with input from public stakeholders representing lake users, local governments, state agencies and environmental interests, the CWWMG updated long-term water use projections for the river basin, evaluated options and developed long-term basin-wide strategies.

      Through the process, the CWWMG found the following. Average annual regional precipitation has decreased about 10 percent over the last 50 years. Through growth, net water use is expected to increase by 122 percent by 2065. Available water could be considerably reduced by climate change due to an expected 11 percent increase in evaporation by 2050. And, basin-wide water use has decreased from 113 to 85 gallons per person from 2002 to 2011.

      The plan’s recommended strategies include further improving water use efficiency and raising summer lake levels in Lake James, Norman and Wylie to increase storage.

      The WSMP also revised portions of the Low Inflow Protocol (LIP) to generate a quicker response to drought conditions. The LIP allows Duke Energy and other large river basin water users to determine the state of the water supply, and through a series of triggers based on conditions, take prescribed actions to conserve that supply.

      If the WSMP is implemented, the CWWMG estimates that the river basin’s water supply can be extended an additional 50 years to 2100, providing a reliable source of water for drinking, continued economic development capacity, and support for the electric power needs of the growing region.

 

The Water/Energy Nexus

      “This is a long range plan,” emphasizes Lineberger, “but with this plan we’re doing long-range planning across two sectors: water and energy. There’s a water/energy nexus. It takes water to produce energy and meet our customers’ needs but it also takes energy to supply water to our public water suppliers and their customers.

      “You need to plan water and energy together because they both use the same resource and serve the same households. We have to become more water usage efficient to preserve our water supply, but because of the link between the two, becoming more energy efficient will also help preserve the water supply.”

      To that end, Duke Energy has more than 20 different energy conservation programs available to households and businesses in North and South Carolina. “You can be more efficient by paying attention to how you use water and electricity,” says Lineberger. “When you have the opportunity to make changes in your home or business on items that use a lot of water or electricity, our programs can help you make better decisions.”

      While the WSMP is the most significant effort to manage the water supply of the Catawba-Wateree Basin since construction of the reservoir system, it is not without its critics.

      The Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation (CRF), a 501(c)(3) founded in 1997 to advocate and educate for the preservation of the Catawba-Wateree River Basin, has commented on the Water Supply Master Plan as falling short in considering all variables, impacts and possibilities; claiming it fails to take into consideration the economic impact of drought on the revenue to counties, local governments and businesses along the waterway as well as lost recreation to the public.

      They also criticize the water supply plan for not addressing issues about Duke Energy’s power plants’ water consumption and the dramatic effect on water supply made by inter-basin transfers in which water is removed from one river basin and transferred to another river system.

      The CRF also took issue with elements of the CHEOPS (Computerized Hydroelectric Operations and Planning Software) model that provides the statistical foundation of the WSMP.

      “The Water Supply Master Plan is not a ‘one and done,’” says Lineberger. “The current plan is a snapshot of where we are right now but the process is ongoing. There’s going to be more work, more scope added, as well as maintaining data and monitoring trends to make sure we’re on the path we thought we were with the assumptions and recommendations we made.”

      “Water quantity was the first phase but we’re planning another phase to address the critical issue of water quality,” says Gullet. “Once we receive the necessary regional support to advance the master plan, we look forward to pursuing subsequent phases. We will also update the master plan as appropriate or at least by every 10 years to ensure it remains a living document.”

      “There’s a lot more work to be done and the CWWMG is taking on that challenge,” adds Lineberger.

 

It Takes a Region

      The CWWMG has many supporters. One of particular note is Charlotte Mayor Dan Clodfelter. “If you look around the state, what the CWWMG is doing is very much ahead of the curve,” says Clodfelter. “Ensuring an adequate, sustainable supply of water is critical to the future competitiveness of the region.

      “There’s overriding federal regulatory decision-making over all U.S. navigable waters but in terms of developing strategies and how we’re going to provide sustainable water supplies, those initiatives and that leadership has to come from the local level.

      “If the region grows as projected, a large amount of that growth will occur outside of the Catawba River Basin, so in the next stage of this planning, after that 50-year horizon, we’re going to have to look at the economics of developing the water resource in the Yadkin-Pee Dee River Basin.

      “We’ll need to work with other communities. We’re going to have management and regulatory challenges. We’ve already seen the controversy that occurred a few years back with the inter-basin transfers of Concord and Kannapolis.”

      Not only is water a critical community issue, it is also a controversial one. Concord and Kannapolis’ inter-basin transfer (IBT) out of the Catawba River Basin sparked a Supreme Court case.

      In South Carolina v. North Carolina, South Carolina sought equal apportionment of the Catawba River, claiming that the IBTs allowed by North Carolina limited water flow downstream and harmed South Carolina communities and businesses.

      The case was settled in 2010 in a relatively short period of time, partly because of the relationships and communication engendered by Duke Energy’s re-licensing process and the outgrowth of groups from that process to include the CWWMG, according to Clodfelter.

      “One of the most impactful results of the group is the communication among the water suppliers up and down the basin and with Duke,” says Gullet. “Before the re-licensing process and this group, chances are a water supplier didn’t know the water supplier more than one county away. Now, we not only know each other, but we also know what each supplier is doing and we’re working together on plans.

      “Part of the CWWMG’s five-year strategic plan and a natural outgrowth of the WSMP is a more regional water supply master plan.”

      Currently, North and South Carolina are working well together and Lineberger credits the CWWMG as a fundamental reason for that. “Because of the CWWMG, water suppliers in both states have worked together,” he says. “They’ve recognized that water is a limited resource and we all have our straws in the same cup. We’ve got to be mindful of what each of us needs, not just our own needs, and share in the management responsibility.

      “The river doesn’t care about manmade political boundaries,” Lineberger continues. “Rainfall drives a river and rainfall only follows the law of gravity so we’ve got to figure out ways to get beyond political jurisdictions. We can’t work like self-contained entities from a water standpoint.

      “Water is a global issue with local solutions. This water management group is working together to come up with solutions so the Catawba-Wateree River Basin can last for a long, long time.”

BizXperts

  Foreign financial account reporting, despite existing for years, came into the spotlight in 2014 due to the implementation of FATCA, the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act. While the act became law in 2010, its main provisions, which require foreign financial institutions to disclose information about U.S. customers, did not come into force until July of 2014.

     With the disclosure of accounts held in foreign financial institutions imminent, many U.S. taxpayers became aware—many due to letters from their foreign banks—that they had a filing requirement with the Department of Treasury, specifically the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCen).

     Determining who and what needs to be reported can be difficult, even for the savviest tax accountant. Below are the quick who, what, where, when, why and how of foreign financial account reporting.

 

Who must report foreign financial accounts?

     Any U.S. person who has a financial interest in or signature authority over foreign accounts with an aggregate value greater than $10,000 must report the account(s). A U.S. person can be an individual (either a U.S. citizen or resident), trust, estate, or any legal business entity.

      As one might expect, financial interest means ownership by a U.S. person, but it can also include indirect ownership. For example, ownership can be attributed to an individual through a business entity in which they are a 50 percent, or greater owner.

      Signature authority refers to the ability to control the disposition of assets held in the foreign account. While the U.S. person does not legally own the foreign account, they are capable of controlling it through communication with the foreign financial institution, which includes electronic funds transfers.

 

What must be reported to FinCen?

     Foreign financial accounts can include, but are not limited to, a simple checking or brokerage account. They can also include accounts as complex as commodity futures, life insurance policies, even foreign retirement accounts.

 

Where does the account have to be held in order for it to be reported?

     For an account to be reportable it must be located outside of the U.S. If the account is held in a branch of a U.S. bank located outside of the U.S., it must be reported. On the contrary, accounts held in a U.S. branch of a foreign bank need not be included.

 

When do the accounts need to be reported?

     Foreign financial accounts must be reported when all said accounts owned by a U.S. person have aggregated balances, at any point during the year, greater than $10,000. Each account must be assessed individually for its highest daily balance and those balances are combined to determine if the $10,000 threshold has been exceeded.

      For example, if the U.S. person has 10 accounts, with $1,000 maximum balances, at various times during the year, that U.S. person has a filing requirement. The most detailed information available must be used to determine the maximum value of an account; however, quarterly or annual account statements may be relied upon, if necessary.

 

Why should the accounts be reported?

     There are multiple reasons that the accounts should be reported, most importantly, because it’s the law. The penalties for not reporting when required are substantial. The penalty can be $10,000 per unreported account per year for accounts that are not reported. If the non-reporting violation is considered willful, the penalty leaps to the greater of $100,000 or 50 percent of the account balance.

      This information is collected for the same reason that the Department of Treasury collects information about cash transactions in excess of $10,000: to combat money laundering, terrorist financing, and tax evasion. As a result, noncompliance is pursued aggressively by the Treasury and penalties are punitive.

 

How must the accounts be reported?

     The accounts must be reported on FinCen Form 114. Form 114 must be electronically filed by June 30th of the year after the reporting year. For example, Form 114 for 2014 is due June 30th, 2015. Unlike other forms used to report information to the U.S. Treasury, Form 114 cannot be extended.

      For taxpayers with international assets, the filing requirements can be complex. In addition to Form 114, there are a number of other disclosures that may be required with your income tax return, and they carry their own stiff penalties.

     The above should provide insight into the complexity of foreign financial account reporting, as well as its importance. If you believe you may be required to report a foreign financial account, it is imperative that you consult a knowledgeable international tax advisor.

Content contributed by GreerWalker LLP, a Charlotte-based accounting and business advisory firm offering assurance, accounting, tax, and consulting services primarily to privately held middle-market companies, their owners, and their executive management teams, as well as a range of consulting services directed to publicly traded companies. Content written by Jennifer Gaitsch-Aguirre, CPA, Senior Tax Associate. For more information, contact Jennifer Gaitsch-Aguirre at jennifer.aguirre@greerwalker.com or 704-377-0239 or visit www.greerwalker.com.

As we have been discussing in the past two articles, the personal decision to sell your business is usually based upon some combination of the following:

·         A desire to “take the chips off the table.” Your tolerance for risk just isn’t what it used to be.

·         The joy of going to work each day is fading. Not only has the fire in your belly gone out, but it’s been replaced by the desire to do “something else,” known or unknown.

·         The “successor designate” can’t and/or won’t succeed. Neither child nor employee is able and/or willing to fill your shoes.

·         You realize that now is the time to sell because you can attain financial security.

·         There are a lot of activities other than running a company that you still want to experience.

 

Along with the personal motives listed above, there are objective conditions that must be present to maximize your chances for a successful business sale. These include:

·         Your company should be experiencing increasing cash flow.

·         Your company should be maximizing the “value drivers” recognized by investment bankers as causing your company to be more valuable.

·         The merger and acquisition (M&A) market should be vibrant and near the peak in deal activity and pricing.

 

     On a regular basis (no less than annually), you should discuss with your “planning team” (which normally includes your CPA, attorney and personal investment advisor) current business value and how best to increase and protect it. If your business has reached a value threshold that permits a sale that allows you to realize your financial goals, you have reached a point where you may be able to sell.

     If this is the case for your business, then the next step is to discuss with your team the process for selling to an outside third party. With access to an experienced “deal team” (including a transaction intermediary) who can estimate the marketability and pricing if you sold your business today, a professional legal advisor (preferably one with substantial experience with sale of business transactions) can help guide you through the process of cashing out of your business and moving on to the next stage of your life.

     If your business is not ready to be sold, even though you are ready to sell it, you may need to focus on increasing cash flow. This is best achieved by employing value drivers recognized by the M&A professionals.

 

     The following value drivers are just a few of the key value drivers which are important to selling your business for the highest price:

1. A motivated management team tied to the company by “carrots” (stay bonuses and ownership or ownership-like incentive arrangements) and “sticks” (non-competition and non-solicitation agreements)

2. Quantified operating systems

3. A diversified customer base (no one customer constitutes over 10% of your revenues)

4. Recurring revenues and multiple streams of revenue

5. Realistic growth plan and scalability

6. Financial systems and controls to withstand due diligence

7. Financial growth in all three areas at once (revenues, cash flow, and profitability)

8. Protected intellectual property

9. Owner already removed from the business

10. Relational health (engaged employees, engaged customers and engaged suppliers)

 

      Again, meeting with your planning team is key to maintaining a focus on increasing business value and cash flow through value drivers. The planning team will help you make the decision to sell as early as practical—hopefully years before the actual sale—so that the business is ready when you are!

     Remember, it usually takes years to significantly and consistently increase cash flow and business value. Once you’ve made the decision that you would like to someday sell your business, the time to begin planning and implementing begins immediately.

     If you are ready to exit, and your business is saleable given the current M&A marketplace, the decision is usually straightforward. It is when you are ready to sell, but your business isn’t, that the chance for burnout increases. Be sure to choose an experienced exit planning professional so that your potential for owner burnout is minimized and you are able to exit on your terms and in your preferred time frame.

 

Article presented by Robert Norris, a Partner and co-chair of Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick, LLP’s Emerging and Middle-Market Practice Group. Norris is also a member of Business Enterprise Institute’s International Network of Exit Planning Professionals. 2015 Business Enterprise Institute, Inc. Reprinted with permission. Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick, LLP partners with owners of closely-held business to provide comprehensive legal services in all areas of business, tax, exit planning, succession planning, purchases and sales of businesses, estate planning, real estate, employment law, intellectual property and litigation. For more information, contact Robert Norris at 704-945-2926 or rnorris@slk-law.com or visit www.slk-law.com.

Have you been asked to connect with someone on LinkedIn that you didn’t know? Have you ever asked someone to connect with you that you didn’t know? If either of these scenarios is familiar, we have some time-tested advice about how to handle both.

     LinkedIn is a dynamic tool for meeting new people, creating new business relationships and developing collaborations. Take the time to ensure you are building your network strategically.

 

Connection Request Sent To You

     Over 95 percent of all connection requests within LinkedIn are made without a personal note attached. In many instances this is a direct result of someone effortlessly clicking on the ever-present “Connect” button located throughout LinkedIn’s desktop and mobile apps.

     On one hand, LinkedIn has fostered this impersonal approach by making connecting too easy. On the other hand, connecting with someone should be done with a purposeful objective.

     We’re constantly asked how to handle a LinkedIn connection request from someone you don’t know. The answer isn’t a simple one since LinkedIn enables reconnecting with previous business acquaintances, connecting with existing business partners and making new connections. Each person has his or her own criteria for accepting a request to connect.

     We use the following criteria to decide if we accept a connection request. We review the person’s profile prior to accepting their request. This allows us to determine whether there is value in connecting with them. If the potential exists for possible collaboration, new business, or if the person is connected to over 500 people, we will most likely accept their request.

     Think about asking the person why they want to connect with you. Here’s an example of a note you may send to them prior to accepting or ignoring their request:

     “Thanks for the connection request.

     If we have met, I apologize, I don’t recall.

     My network is very important to me. It’s not about the number of connections I have. It’s more about the quality of the relationship and its potential for collaboration.

     LinkedIn is a great tool for connecting and I’m open to meeting new people. In that spirit, I’d like to know what is it about my profile that caused you to request a connection.

     Also, please share a little about yourself and how we might both benefit from the mutual connection.”

     Using this method will help you discern the quality connectors from the quantity seekers. If they respond, you will have a much clearer understanding why they are seeking you out and if it makes sense for you to accept.

     If the person requesting a connection took the time to customize their note to you, that should also weigh in your decision to accept. It’s a simple way for them to exhibit they have actually taken the time to review your profile and think there is a genuine reason to connect.

     How you handle connection requests from individuals you do not know is entirely your decision. We believe the spirit of LinkedIn is about expanding your network and creating new meaningful business relationships.

     Once you accept, follow up with your own note, thanking them for the connection request, and ask for a 5 to 10 minute introductory phone call.

 

Connection Request Made By You

     While it’s easy to understand why someone sent you a request to connect without customizing it, there is absolutely no excuse for you to ever send an impersonal connection request. Proper business etiquette is not a default message like the one you receive saying, “I’d like to add you to my LinkedIn network.”

     Business is personal. Therefore, you should only connect from the other individuals’ profile and write a well thought out message. At this time it’s the simplest and most consistent avenue to connect with a personal note. Using the “Connect” button from any other area on the platform will result in sending out the default connection message.

     Similar to what you expect of an individual requesting a connection from you, you should always cite why you’re seeking the connection from them. Review the persons profile for common interests, groups, organizations or shared connections. Include those common elements in your request. Think about asking one of your shared connections if it would acceptable to reference them in your invitation. All this is designed to increase your success rate.

     You have spent a lot of time seeking out new connections. You have one chance for acceptance. Make the most of it. Do your homework. Make your request so compelling, engaging or intriguing that the person will accept it readily.

     Finally, once your request is accepted, always follow up with a thank you note and request a 5 to 10 minute phone call or meeting.

 

Content contributed by Linda and Ira Bass of IB Media LLC, an advertising media planning and placement firm built using the strategic power of LinkedIn to serve agencies and marketers with a targeted approach to reaching their customers. For more information, please contact Ira Bass at IraBass@IBMedia.biz or 704-989-3790. Learn more at www.IBMedia.biz or www.LinkedIn.com/company/IB-Media-LLC.

   Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT) is already the sixth largest airport for flights in the U.S. and the eighth busiest in terms of commercial traffic. In 2014, over 44.3 million passengers traveled through CLT and it is only expected to increase. Approximately 80 percent of fliers are transferring and 20 percent locally originating.

     Six major carriers, 14 regional carriers and three foreign flag carriers offer 680 daily flights from CLT with nonstop service to 147 destinations, including 37 international locations.

     Projections call for moderate growth at CLT of 3 percent to 3.5 percent into the 2030s, which is well below the pace of the previous decade, but still higher than the industry average.

     Billion-dollar expansion and renovation projects continue on many fronts as airport executives strive to remake the city’s most important economic asset for the 21st century. CLT is one of the strongest assets Charlotte and the region have for keeping and recruiting jobs and companies, with an economic impact estimated at $10 billion to $12 billion annually.

     Over a year ago, the airport hired Landrum & Brown Aviation Consultants to analyze growth and demand at the CLT airfield and the terminal over the next 20 years. They are using these projections to help them formulate a master plan for expansion.

     They periodically share updates to the master plan with Charlotte City Council, designating the more immediate projects and presenting contracts and bids to Council for approval. Passenger and user fees and bonds repaid from airport revenue (airline leases, parking, food and drink sales) pay for the various projects.

     Brent Cagle, CLT interim aviation director, recently met with City Council to update them on the expansion plan. Cagle discussed projects likely to come before council members during the next year, aimed at meeting the demands of the next five to 10 years.

     Among the top priorities: a fourth parallel runway, expanded and renovated concourses, and a makeover of the main terminal and entrance.

     Over the next seven to eight years, the airport wants to widen entry roads to the upper and lower levels of the main terminal, build pedestrian skybridges and underground walkways connecting the terminal with the main parking deck, and expand the terminal by 80 feet for ticketing and baggage claim areas. Also in the works are plans for construction of a new air traffic control tower; the existing tower was built in 1979.

     Expansion of the terminal in phases will increase the number of gates to 164 from the current 93. In the next 10 to 12 years, the total would grow to 125.

     CLT most recently completed construction of a seven-story $120 million hourly parking deck with 4,000 hourly public parking spaces and capacity for 3,000 rental cars and check-in counter next to the main terminal. Workers spent three years building the deck which covers 12 acres and 3.2 million square feet, or twice the square footage of the main terminal.

     CLT is now the second largest hub for the combined American Airlines and U.S. Airways, the world’s largest airline. American Airlines accounts for about 90 percent of the local traffic at the airport.

     The airport is in the process of negotiating a new lease with American Airlines. The current lease was agreed to 28 years ago and ends on June 30, 2016. CLT will also need environmental studies, approval from the FAA, and a long-term financing in place by July 2016.

     CLT is being demand-driven to make investments to meet the projected growth of the airlines, passengers in the terminal and runways. Without their approval and financing, CLT will not keep up with the expected growth, confirm consultants Landrum & Brown.

     According to Jack Christine, CLT chief operating officer, assuming traffic meets expectations, the number of flights and passengers at CLT in 2033 will be similar to the current rates at Chicago-O’Hare and Hartsfield-Jackson in Atlanta. The consultants’ projections demonstrate a 3.3 percent annual growth in domestic air travel and 5.1 percent in international travel.

     In 2014, there were 545,000 operations (take-offs and landings) at CLT. With the projections, that could grow to be 953,000 operations by 2033.

     Asked by a city councilman whether the constant construction and expansion at CLT will ever stop, Cagle responded, “We are trying to make the growing pains not so painful,” but also made remarked that American Airlines has an expectation for each of its hub airports that require a mix of value and quality.

     Another councilman commented on the ambitious expansion blueprint for CLT by saying, “Thanks for skating to where the puck is going to be.”

     “The growth of Charlotte Douglas is a testament to our strength as a premier airport hub,” Cagle noted. “Our location and strong business partnerships are key factors in our success.

     “We need to get out and talk about what growth at the airport means. What are the pros and cons? I think you’re going to see that as a major piece for the next year for the airport.”

Publisher's Posts

One of the most frequently overlooked attributes of the Charlotte region is its central location on the East Coast and proximity to Southeastern shipping ports that carry goods around the world. Many may overlook this advantage simply because Charlotte is not located right on the ocean, but Charlotte is very definitely an inland port with access to the world, and we ought to start branding ourselves as such.

     The Global Vision Leaders Group has made bold steps in the past two years to get to know our neighboring seaports. We have had face-to-face visits with representatives from the NC Ports Authority, the SC Ports Authority, the GA Ports Authority, and plans are in place to meet with the Virginia Port Authority.

     In meeting with these representatives, we wanted to learn about their interest in working with companies located in this region and what we could do to support their efforts. Their interest in the Charlotte region is especially high given the expected increase in shipping demand to and from the East Coast with the expansion of the Panama Canal scheduled to be completed in 2016.

     Norfolk, Charleston and Savannah are dredging their ports to the necessary 50-foot depth to accommodate the larger ships that will be traversing the Panama Canal once its expanded locks are completed. Current locks will allow ships that are no longer than 965 feet long by 106 feet wide. Ships this size carry a maximum of 4,800 TEUs. (TEUs are 20-foot equivalent units or containers.)

     The larger ships can be up to 1200 feet long by 160 feet wide and carry a maximum of 12,600 TEU containers. These ships require ports that are at least 50 feet deep. The Port of Wilmington will not be dredged to a 50-foot depth. It will not become a deep water port; however, it will be maintained as an important supplementary port.

     Larger ships will carry more containers for less money per container. It is expected that more ships will be delivering to the East Coast as a result. Large shipping companies will be consolidating shipments and docking at ports that can off-load their containers as well as reload them with shipments going in the opposite direction. Shippers will seek shipments that will occupy their space and match their schedules so that they can operate more efficiently. Therein is the key to the Charlotte advantage.

     Having a location that allows businesses to negotiate with shippers at multiple ports gives them some leverage over the prices being charged at any particular port. If a company has no choices, they will have to pay the going rate at the port to which they are most proximate.

     The distance and time to a port can substantially boost the shipping costs per container. Delivery of shipments to the ports is most often by truck (80 percent) or by railroad (20 percent). In the Southeast, Norfolk Southern and CSX railroads are working hard to take business away from the trucking industry, so they are very competitive. Charlotte businesses have access to both.

     Consider the difference in miles from Atlanta, Charlotte and Greensboro to their closest ports. From Atlanta to the Port of Savannah is 257 miles and to the Port of Charleston is 305 miles. From the Charlotte to the Port of Savannah is 253 miles, to the Port of Charleston is 210 miles, to the Port of Wilmington is 207 miles, and to the Port of Norfolk is 332 miles. From the Greensboro to the Port of Savannah is 326 miles, to the Port of Charleston is 282 miles, to the Port of Wilmington is 214 miles and to the Port of Norfolk is 246 miles.

     When you examine the distances to deep water ports from Charlotte versus Atlanta and Greensboro—and even Greer—Charlotte is the least distance from the ports of Savannah, Charleston and Wilmington of any of them. (Greer is roughly the same distance to Charleston, and slightly more to Savannah. Greensboro has the advantage for Norfolk.)

     That makes Charlotte the advantaged location for advanced manufacturing distributing its goods around the globe. That key factor will help to shape the future of economic development for this region. There is no reason why Charlotte should not compete for businesses relocating to the Southeast USA region. In fact, we should become more aggressively competitive for these businesses types.

     As a matter of fact, Charlotte should be more successful than ever in recruiting advanced manufacturing for this very reason. And this stands alongside our strong community college and technical school workforce training, our already diverse business base of over 1,000 foreign-owned business entities, our extremely low-cost natural gas and electricity advantage, our moderate cost of living, our high quality of life, our access to the I-85 manufacturing corridor, our cost-competitive Charlotte Douglas International Airport, and our newly completed intermodal facility.

     What other requirements can we meet to attract businesses to this region? Let us know and we will go to work on those requirements as well!

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