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Luncheon Summary

The Culture of Equality in the Workplace

sumbitted by Colleen Brannan, Branstorm PR

Presented by Caroline Dudley, Managing Director of North American Recruiting for Accenture, our May virtual luncheon was based on recent Accenture research, The Hidden Value of Culture Makers. During this one-hour interactive Zoom session, Caroline kept a group of CREW Charlotte members engaged by making participants apply study findings to their own beliefs and company cultures.

According to the study, the majority of leaders surveyed (68%) believe an inclusive workplace environment/culture is vital to the success of their business but just 21% say it’s a priority (76% cited financial performance.) Interestingly, two thirds of leaders (68%) feel they create empowering environments in which employees can be themselves; raise concerns and innovate without fear of failure. However, just one third of employees agreed.

While it seems we have a long way to go on culture as a priority, Caroline said we can all do our part to create a culture of equality no matter what your role is in the organization. Some suggestions included:

  • incorporate culture into personal goal setting for yourself and those you manage
  • create employee incentives related to culture to celebrate culture makers in your company
  • remember cultures of equality extend outside the workplace to our roles in the nonprofit community and professional organizations like CREW.

When culture makers lead, organizations grow twice as fast. Here’s the Culture Makers video to get the conversation started at your company.

Other Accenture studies, such as Getting To Equal 2017: Closing The Gender Pay Gap and COVID-19 The Industry Impact of Coronavirus can be found at


Circular Charlotte

submitted by Sivilay Xayasaene with Gresham Smith

Our virtual June luncheon presented by Amy Aussieker, Envision Charlotte Executive Director, highlighted Charlotte as the first in the US to take on the challenge to become a circular city. Circular Charlotte’s model is designed to produce zero waste simply by adopting a comprehensive waste diversion strategy while also creating more than 2,000 jobs. Amy identified business cases of textiles and food waste that can be diverted from landfill and be reused or upcycling food waste into compost.

The Innovation Barn will be the hub for circular economy, housing many case studies. Within the barn is an incubator lab, plastics lab, 3D printer, chipper, extruder, aquaponic garden and hydroponic garden. The labs are open to the public and provide opportunity for entrepreneurs to develop their circular economy ideas. People will have the ability to bring in plastic and make a new phone case or rapidly prototype products straight from the lab. In addition, Electrolux will have a teaching kitchen that will also supply the Café and serve refreshments. Maintained by Envision Charlotte, the Barn is designed by Kim Marks’ team at Progressive AE, constructed by JEDunn at 932 Seigle Avenue and schedule to open late fall.

Members who attended the luncheon expressed excitement to tour the new facility as well as volunteer. More information on the Innovation Barn and what can be recycled can be found here.

To see Amy's complete presentation, please click here.

Mecklenburg County Manager Talks Next Phase Reopening Plans

Submitted by Sivilay Xayasaene

For our July Luncheon, Mecklenburg County Manager, Dena Diorio, provided an overview of how the county responded to covid-19 and details of reopening plans. The detailed timeline provided insight on why decisions were made and how they responded to things that came before we had our first case.

Planning efforts begin on February 28th with the modification of the Pandemic Influenza Response Plan to meet covid-19 and the activation of the Policy Group. The Policy Group includes public health staff, emergency management, CMPD, Atrium Health, Novant Health, medics, CMS, the Sheriffs Office, the Courts, City of Charlotte, the six towns and all our Public Information Team. This group is designed to make collective decisions about our community wide response to covid-19 and allowed tracking of the virus. On March 9th the EOC (Emergency Operation Center) was opened allowing the county to access federal and state dollars. Dena continued to address the challenges of acquiring PPE’s, prioritizing testing with limited test kits, and gaining understanding of what a medical surge would look like for the community.   

The beginning of the crisis started with Governor Cooper declaring a State of Emergency and the county’s first presumptive case of covid-19. CDC recommended guidance were followed. As crisis continued hotels were rented out for homeless residents to increase social distance or isolate those infected.  First responders who were exposed or tested positive and did not want to return home were also provided hotels. Park and rec facilities were open to provide child care for first responders. On March 17th, county services were closed and transitioned to a virtual platform. A shining star during this time was Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters (VOAD) who coordinated the efforts of 210 non-profit organizations that wanted to provide volunteer services and resources to people in the community.

On March 26th, a stay at home proclamation went into effect. By early April conversations started with hospitals on needs for field hospitals. County was asked to coordinate with the state of North Carolina to build a field hospital to manage a surge of 3,000 in hospitals. Projected peak was late April. Construction was ready to begin for the facility at UNCC until FEMA stated federal government would not be able help with any supplies needed or staff in order to make the hospital functional.  Another request was for a 600 bed facility at Charlotte Convention Center. After further evaluation request for field hospitals were withdrawn. On April 16th there were 1,098 cases of covid-19 and projected peak flattened and moved from early May to mid-July.

On April 29th Governor Cooper announced the three phase reopening plan.  On May 8th there were 2,007 cases of covid-19 and the county moved through Phase 1. On May 22nd Phase 2 went into effect with about 3,000 confirmed cases. By June 24th, Governor Cooper extended safer at home order to July 17th and required face coverings when social distancing is not possible. At present date, data continues to show an increase in positive cases. Check out the audio and presentation to hear more about the data collected including questions and answers from the group in attendance.

Future of CRE: Impacts of Augmented Reality on Real Estate

Submitted by Erica Buffington with Shield Engineering

Karen Whitt, with Colliers International, introduced the future of augmented reality (AR) and its impacts on the real estate industry.  AR is a technology that allows for digital information to be layered on top of real world objects without having to attach anything to buildings or other structures.  Using AR allows for advertising and signage to become completely digital.  The real estate industry will forever be transformed by AR because buildings can be canvased for content and information which will allow for immediate e-commerce and data analysis.  The smartphone is going to play a very large role in all things AR.  Even Tim Cook of Apple has stated that AR is, “the future of the smartphone”. 

Integrating artificial intelligence technology will further enhance the personalization of the experience by identifying who you are and define your preferences, ensuring marketing preferences are targeted.  AR rights can be retained in a property sale by either party and they can also raise the valuation of an asset.  Exclusive rights to a building to use for AR will be sold at a premium. 

Facebook’s Live Maps research aims to empower people to connect and share in deeper, more meaningful ways by improving how we access information and understanding the context of a situation to deliver a shared experience through AR.  It will change how we engage with the world making it feel more immediate, more intuitive, more nature, more human.  AR glasses are the next technology coming to market (expected in 2023) and they will likely replace smartphones.

The State of Hospitality: COVID Edition

Submitted by Julie Ayers, Aprio

Tom Murray, CEO from the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority moderated our all-star panel to talk about the hospitality industry in Charlotte.   According to the panelists, the outlook does not look sunny and with PPP funding ending and the colder weather arriving the short-term future will be rough….

Tom reviewed several statistics and reminded us that this has been the most damaging event in hospitality history. Tom also reminded us that the employees in this industry are some of the most impacted in the US and since hospitality jobs make up one out of every nine jobs locally it is a considerable impact on our local economy.  

Dan Hooks, President of Party Reflections, an event planning company, talked to us about the employees that they had to let go in this pandemic. Their 62-year-old company went from 240 employees to 55 employees within a week. The company was able to obtain PPP funding; however, they have almost spent through those funds and he is wondering if there will be additional government assistance available. At this point it looks like their revenues have been cut in half from 2019 since their best months in the Spring and Fall fell under the limited gathering restrictions. Dan said he used to think “there is no way to stop somebody from getting married” then enter 2020…

Vinay Patel, principal at SREE Hotels, a company with many Charlotte area hotels, shared with us some insight on how the industry is doing.   He pointed to closings in the industry such as the iconic Hilton in Times Square that is closing in October as indicative of the trends. Vinay mentioned that when occupancy was the lowest in April, the industry was down 90% that month, there were times that there were more employees in the hotel than guests. While the industry has turned around some the industry predictions are it will be 2024 before it is more stable. Hotels in destination areas are doing better than others, which may help Charlotte if we can become more of a destination.   

Kara Taddeo owns VBGB and 8.20, most of the revenue from these companies is based on large events due to their proximity to Live Nation’s outdoor amphitheater and Fillmore music club so they are down 70% in revenue. Kara mentioned that with large concerts and events there is no answer on when they will come back, and we are just waiting on the facts. Currently, 8.2.0 remains closed and Kara is concerned that people may not be ready to dine inside. With the changing weather, people will be less willing to be outside so revenues could drop further. She mentioned the next six months are going to be scarier and they may need to close during January and February.

In the long run, there are some encouraging things in Charlotte such as hotels being built – Grand Bohemian and JW Marriott, restaurants being opened, and hopefully larger events allowed soon. Maybe things will take a turn for this industry…. It was said that we are looking to keep Charlotte’s small business personality, so let’s spend accordingly!

Helping Area Non Profits from Home During the COVID-19 Crisis

Our April Virtual Luncheon featured SHARE Charlotte Marketing Director, Melissa Hovey, teaching our members how to #ShareFromHome. Just in time for Do Good Week April 19-25, 40 participants gathered via Zoom on April 21 to learn the many ways we can help area nonprofits from direct donations and purchase of Amazon Wish List Items to virtual volunteering activities.

Since we’re all accustomed to paying a $40 luncheon fee, we asked members to donate that same amount to a local nonprofit. 21 members (that we know of because they reported back) responded to the challenge with donations to 19 different nonprofits totaling $840!  Here’s where those do good dollars went:

  1. Katharine Arno, DAR Service to America
  2. Alexis Baker, Baby Bundles
  3. Colleen Brannan, JDRF
  4. Becky Cheney, Salvation Army
  5. Patty Drummond, Safe Alliance
  6. Robin Haddock, Humane Society
  7. Camille Kanofsky, Common Wealth Charlotte
  8. Spencer Lueders, Safe Alliance
  9. Marie McLucas, American Cancer Society
  10. Cristy Nine, Red Cross
  11. Anna O’Neal, Pat’s Place
  12. Kristen Pleasants, GOTR
  13. Ann-Fleming Powell, Loaves and Fishes
  14. Nikki Ratchford, Florence Crittenton Services
  15. Angela Saladino, Foster Village, Charlotte Black Dogs, Humane Society and Harvest Center
  16. Misty Shaffer, Safe Alliance
  17. Kelly Steele, Safe Alliance
  18. Natalie Stevens, Humane Society
  19. Irene Suchoza, Bright Blessings
  20. Robin Turner, Ronald McDonald House
  21. Sivilay Xayasaene, Loaves & Fishes

In related news, CREW Charlotte sponsored SAFE Alliance’s SHARE SHINE membership fee for the year and appears on its SHARE profile. To learn more about SHARE Charlotte, visit

Evolution of Economic Development in the Charlotte Region

Submitted by Colleen Brannan, BRANSTORM PR

The sold out March CREW Luncheon addressed the evolution of economic development in the Charlotte Region. Charlotte Business Journal Real Estate Editor, Ashley Fahey moderated a discussion between Tracy Dodson, Assistant City Manager/Director of Economic Development for the City of Charlotte and Janet LaBar, CEO of the Charlotte Regional Business Alliance.

The trio covered a lot of ground in 30 minutes including what has changed since the mergers of The Charlotte Chamber and Charlotte Regional Partnership, the City’s role in project management and how collaboration between the two organizations is delivering big results—proving ED is truly a team sport. They wrapped up by highlighting a recent trip to Paris that started with a Hornets game abroad and became a highly successful business recruitment opportunity. Evidently selling Charlotte is easier with Michael Jordan in the mix!

“New Year, New You?”

Submitted by Sara Whitten with Shiel Sexton

On January 14, 2020 Dr. Dawn E. Chanland, Professor of Management, Queens University of Charlotte, kicked off the 2020 CREW monthly luncheons with a presentation on “Personal Change Strategies to Maximize Your Impact in 2020.”

40-60% of people set resolutions at New Year, only 8% achieve them. Change is daunting and you need to diagnose your demons! How can we make change stick and gain maximum impact? You must care about the change you want to make. You must strongly value it and do it differently than you did before. Make small but meaningful behavioral changes:

  • do some sit-ups at night
  • do arm weights 3 or 4 times a week
  • say no to sweets…sometimes!

Write down your goals and tell your people; they will hold you accountable. Pick someone who you can be vulnerable with; who is your “person”?! We change when we strongly care about the change and when we value ourselves. However, don’t have too many goals – achieve them one at a time and say “no” to more. Do Less, Then Obsess.  Wield a Razor on Unnecessary Stuff. What will I look like if I’m at my very best?

How committed are you to this change in 2020?

CREW Charlotte 2019 Impact Awards

Submitted by Diana Quarry, Womble Bond Dickinson

On December 10, 2019, CREW Charlotte members and guests gathered to celebrate the best and brightest of our chapter over the past year.  In Sallie Jarosz’s final luncheon of her presidency, she thanked all members, especially the 2019 Board of Directors, Committee Co-Chairs, past chapter presidents and long-standing members, for their hard work and dedication to CREW Charlotte’s mission.  Attendees also had the honor of hearing from the 2020 CREW Network President, Christine Gorham, about new initiatives and efforts in store for CREW Chapters during the upcoming year. 

Keynote speaker Cindy Wolfe, Chief Banking Officer at Bank OZK and past CREW Charlotte president, spoke to members about the value of investing in oneself and not always asking one’s employer to carry the cost for any professional development programs.  She believes that, while mentors and sponsors at work are valuable resources, there is a special benefit to paying your own way for a coach or program that will push you outside of your comfort zone.  She noted that women are generous with donating their time, talent and money to CREW and other causes, but that it is important to allocate some of that towards one’s own growth and success. 

Finally, Ms. Wolfe announced our 2019 Impact Award Winners.  The award program had been refreshed for 2019, with some new awards being granted.  The esteemed winners were as follows:

  • The Ground Breaker Award honors a new CREW Charlotte member who positively impacted CREW Charlotte through active service since joining.  This year’s award went to Nijah Wilson.  Ms. Wilson has been an active member on the Student Outreach committee, assisting with UCREW efforts by participating in several college fairs and building relationships with university faculty.  She was also critical to the reinstatement of the CREW Careers Program.  She was also a graduate of the 2019 CREW Charlotte Authentic Leadership Program and will be sitting on the Leadership Program committee in 2020 to help develop the curriculum for future programs.
  • The Carrie Sharp Power Connector Award honors a CREW Charlotte member or sponsor who went beyond networking and actively established or strengthened relationships with fellow members or sponsors.  This year’s award went to Scarlet Powell of Unified Technology Systems.  When collecting nominations for this award, CREW Charlotte received an overwhelming number of nominations for Ms. Powell – a testament to just how many people she has made strong connections with over the past year.  A member since 2009, Ms. Powell has been a constant and reliable presence in the Charlotte chapter, graciously volunteering her time over the years. She has played vital roles on the Board, as well as the Programs, Sponsorship and Communications Committees.
  • The Member-to-Member Business Award honors a CREW Charlotte member or sponsor who consistently demonstrates an extraordinary commitment to marshal CREW talent, resulting in measurable business for other CREW members or sponsors. This year’s award went to Dianne Jones of Maxis Advisors.  Ms. Jones has formed a network within CREW that she uses to refer business to others. By always staying informed, she even makes connections on deals in which she’s not involved.  She promotes fellow CREW members, opening doors and assembling member talent whenever possible to provide insight on new projects.
  • The Career Advancement for Women Award honors a CREW Charlotte member or sponsor who consistently exemplifies CREW Charlotte’s commitment to elevating the status of women in commercial real estate by working to advance the careers of other women.  This year’s award went to Denise Dexter of JLL. Over the last 18 years, Ms. Dexter has risen through the ranks of commercial real estate, learning from the ground up.  Her entire career has revolved around hard work, being prepared and nurturing others.  As the mother of twin teenage girls, she appreciates the importance of women in the workplace and is an advocate for diversity and inclusion at her firm. She not only nurtures women in the workplace, but all intelligent young professionals, providing the level playing field we all desire.
  • The Entrepreneurial Spirit Award honors a CREW Charlotte member or sponsor who achieved a unique career success or milestone in the past 12 months as a result of an exceptional entrepreneurial spirit. This year’s award went to Randy Hopkins, owner of Hopkins Consulting & Review. Ms. Hopkins was already a successful entrepreneur as the president of a boutique appraisal firm. As a result of self-evaluation, she participated in the inaugural CREW Charlotte Authentic Leadership Program, where she realized she wanted to use her innate strengths to re-envision the next phase of her career. Over the past year, she closed her prior company and formed a single-member LLC to showcase her talents as a review appraiser and consultant. Ms. Hopkins has shown that one can always continue to grow and evolve.
  • The Circle of Excellence Award is CREW Charlotte’s top honor, and recognizes a member or sponsor who consistently delivers excellence and whose efforts advance the commercial real estate industry and support CREW Charlotte’s mission. Ms. Jarosz presented this year’s award to Katie Barker of Childress Klein. Ms. Jarosz noted all of Ms. Barker’s help in executing on the 2019 strategic vision for the Chapter.  Ms. Barker was also tasked with improving the sponsorship experience, raising money and working tirelessly to be a change agent. She also played a vital role with coordinating sponsorship focus groups, and then organized the overall feedback from those sessions into clear actionable items that became the genesis of new sponsor events.

Ballantyne Reimagined

Submitted by Diana Quarry, Womble Bond Dickinson

On November 12, 2019, CREW Members and guests had the pleasure of hearing about a critical piece of the revitalization of the Ballantyne area of Charlotte from the Northwood Office team – John Barton, President of Northwood Office, Kim Kendall, VP of Leasing, and Jana Dolder, Director of Property Management.  Northwood purchased over 500 acres in Ballantyne from Smokey Bissell in 2017, and shared its vision for the area’s continued development over the next few years.

The core of the redevelopment, packaged as Phase I of the vision, will focus on building a destination for work, living, fitness, retail and recreation.  Mr. Barton highlighted some of the features of Phase I, which will include an outdoor amphitheater, Stream Park (said to be the “Central Park” of the area), a walkable retail strip, and a series of curated restaurants.  Ample green space is an important part of Phase I, and Northwood anticipates making the most of this space by hosting farmer’s markets and outdoor yoga events.  Phase I will also include approximately 1,000 multifamily units for rent, 300,000 square feet within the entire mixed use community and 200 hotel rooms.  Northwood is targeting that Phase I be open within 5 or 6 years from Q1 2020. Phase II of the redevelopment will follow completion of Phase I, and will contain another 1,000 multi-family units plus 300 townhomes, in addition to 400,000 square feet of office space.

Ms. Kendall elaborated on the specifics of a Class A office building which will be built across from Phase I and will be loaded with amenities.  In addition to a 10th floor balcony and a rooftop terrace, the building will feature a 2,500 square foot fitness facility, a restaurant and retail on the main level, and the entire 11th floor dedicated as an amenity space for tenants of the building, including a 50-person conference room, kitchen and event space.  She also described an adjacent residential project which will house 212 units and will feature a rooftop lounge, dog run and resident “speakeasy”.  Both buildings that Ms. Kendall described are slated to open in 2021.

Finally, Ms. Dolder spoke to Northwood’s commitment to community engagement, which is a core value for the developer.  They show this commitment through planning monthly programming and events including free yoga, social hours, an annual wellness fair and Earth Day events.  They also host and sponsor numerous volunteer projects and charitable drives to give back to people in their community.