Thirty Years: Top 10 Lake Norman Chamber Accomplishments

It took almost 20 years of lobbying before Lake Norman’s first public access was opened in 2016 at Ramsey Creek Beach. Not without early challenges, the swimming area is currently the only local beach available for the public.

By Bill Russell. Recently I was asked by one of our Chamber members what I considered to be the most significant accomplishments since I was hired as its CEO in 1996. While changing the name from the North Mecklenburg Chamber to the Lake Norman Chamber certainly helped brand the association and buying property for an office gave us a sense of place, these are not things which impact the members and our community as much as it does the chamber itself. Here is what I consider though to be major milestones which have impacted our commerce and community in no particular order:

1. When I arrived in 1996, North Mecklenburg High School was severely overcrowded and had by far, the largest enrollment in the state​,​ overflowing with mobile classrooms. In spite of the exponential growth in North Meck, CMS still refused to acknowledge and plan for our schools. Not only did Chamber and community leaders advocate at CMS Board ​m​eetings, we went to Charlotte, packed ​b​oard ​m​embers in cars and drove them up for a windshield tour to see firsthand our growth. Hopewell High School was just one of many new schools that extra effort produced.

2. While we had several quality healthcare providers in our region, community leaders lobbied for almost a decade to build a new hospital in Huntersville. After several failed attempts at a Certificate of Need, community and Chamber persistence paid off and Presbyterian Hospital—later to be named Novant Health—Huntersville Medical Center opened.

3. In 1997, the Cabarrus, Lincolnton and Lake Norman Chambers approached NCDOT to create an Access Management Study to both examine land use along the corridor and plan for the eventual widening of Hwy 73. A study of its kind had never been undertaken covering three counties and multiple municipal jurisdictions. Working together, the Chamber and public jurisdictions overcame the resistance from the state and the Highway 73 Council of Planning was created and still oversees the corridor today.

4. In early 2000, Chamber leaders determined that thousands of dollars of prepared meals taxes were going straight to Charlotte from North Meck. The Chamber led the charge to return those dollars to the point o​f ​origin which today represents approximately $1.8 million to the three towns. It also paved the way for the creation of Visit Lake Norman which is responsible for helping bring 93,000 visitors who spent an estimated $23 million annually in economic impact in FY16. How does hospitality impact the average person? If it were not for hospitality and tourism, the average household would pay an additional $349 annually in taxes!

5. The Mecklenburg County’s 2011 Tax Revaluation became a focus of the Chamber as both commercial and residential property owners saw their tax bills skyrocket. Through advocacy and workshops the Chamber worked with property owners to lower the tax bill which ultimately led to the review of the country’s evaluation.

6​. In 2002, the Chamber contracted an economic development firm to undertake a study to determine tracts of land which could best be used for commercial use which the three towns later adopted in their land use plans. It also established the Lake Norman EDC which was formed in partnership with the Chamber and the towns.

7​. The Chamber had lobbied county officials since 1997 for public access swimming. Mecklenburg County overturned the ban in 2009 which led to the creation of Ramsey Creak Beach in 2016.

8​. Working in cooperation with the Town of Cornelius, the Chamber led the charge to create additional left turn lanes on West Catawba (five in total) over the objection of NC DOT through special legislation.

9. Twenty-one​ years ago, the Chamber created Leadership Lake Norman, which to date has graduated more than 410 business and community leaders.

10. The creation of such programs as the Business Expo, Diversity Council, Young Professionals, Education Collaborative, Academy of Political Leadership have all made lasting impacts on our regional business community.


One Response to “Thirty Years: Top 10 Lake Norman Chamber Accomplishments”

  1. Congrats Bill and thank you for all of the hard work you and others at the Lake Norman Chamber have done to make our community a better place to live and work:)

    Posted by Kay Fisher | September 6, 2017, 10:12 pm

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