THE STATE OF THINGS
We welcomed mayoral-candidate wannabes, money men,development behemoths, and new arrivals making their mark in Charlotte, all swirling in a roomful of people nibbling muffins and stollen. Indeed, on Friday, Uptown was the place to swap tales and spin deals when Bisnow hosted its first-ever State of the Market event at the Westin Charlotte.
More than 350 jammed the hotel's Grand Ballroom (we ran out of chairs but not croissants) to hear some of Charlotte's most successful CRE notables discuss the city's past, present, and future.
Esteemed panelists included Beacon Partners' Pete Lash (middle) and Merrifield Patrick Vermillion's Jim Merrifield (right). At left, event sponsor and moderator The Reznick Group's Josh Northcutt.
Bank of the Ozarks? Cindy Wolfe, BECO South?s Chris Epstein, and The Bissell Cos ? Ned Curran rounded out the dais. A subject of much discussion was Ballantyne, Bissell's seemingly downturn-impervious SW Charlotte masterpiece. But the sprawling, 2,000-acre suburban city-within-a-city also bore the brunt of a few good-natured jabs. Pete noted that next year's Charlotte-hosted Democratic National Convention may bring worldwide attention to the Queen City, but the beneficiary will no doubt be Ballantyne. ?Some CEO will stay at the Ballantyne Resort Hotel for the convention, and the next thing you know Bissell will be building a 1M SF office building,? Pete said.
The City of Charlotte's Dennis Marstall presented opening remarks, noting that growth across the country has been less than encouraging. Only 18,000 jobs were created in June nationwide, even as Charlotte has managed to produce projects that include Time Warner Cable?s recent announcement that it will hire an additional 225 employees at its Charlotte Corporate Campus and invest more than $100M over the next three years with the construction of two new buildings. (And it's not even a Ballantyne project.)
Balfour Beatty?s Robby Lowe, ai Design Group's Kim Marks, and Cassidy Turley's Maxwell Hanks milled through the crowd, grazing for deals. ?The good news is, I?ve got some people to meet here today, now, with some real nuggets in real time,? Maxwell told us. (We'll be following up.)
Bissell's Lars Wilson, Josh, and Ned took a few minutes before the event to get acquainted. But it took us a while to get to some of the other participants. (We bumped through the crowd, camera in tow , as best we could.)
As Dennis went through opening remarks, Jim and Pete were on deck, patiently waiting for the call to step up to the podium. ?People are working harder and getting less,? Jim says. ?Attitude is the key.?
Meanwhile, we caught Chris and (event sponsor) Choate Construction's Dave Priester talking some bidness. Choate is GC for BECO South?s $30M makeover of the 200-acre Innovation Park, IBM?s former campus in University City. ?Competition is fierce, but it's better than it has been,? Dave told us. Chris, meanwhile, pulled us aside to dish out some grief about a recent photo we ran of his family vacation in Paris. (Oh well. We'll send Chris some of our vacation pix from Gaston County.)
We found auctioneer Ligon Co's Randy Ligon bending Cindy?s ear about selling off distressed properties as the (early) morning drew to a close. Cindy offered a banker?s perspective on the current state of affairs in CRE. We decided she had the quote of the day when she discussed how certain ?other banks? in town had gotten clobbered with overly ambitious loan programs that are now haunting us all. ?Hope is not a plan.?
We'll have more from the Charlotte State of the Market on Thursday. Stay tuned. It includes a mini-review of uptown?s Chima Brazilian Steakhouse. Keep those cards and letters coming firstname.lastname@example.org.