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Luncheon Summary

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. 


A Conversation with Mayor Vi Lyles

Submitted by Anna O'Neal, Wells Fargo Bank

At CREW Charlotte’s October Luncheon on October 9, 2019, Mayor Vi Lyles covered a broad range of topics facing Charlotte including affordable housing, infrastructure, environmental justice, social equity, and the Mayor’s Youth Employment Program.  She also reflected on her years in Charlotte and her experience as an African American woman in a leadership position.

Mayor Lyles sat with moderator Stacia Neugent of GreerWalker and spoke with candor about the challenges facing the City and various paths to improve our great City, including reliable transportation, private-public partnerships for affordable housing, and taking reasonable action to combat climate change. She stated, “Charlotte is at its best when we have a dialogue that is about collaboration.”

Finally, the Mayor urged everyone to take action to be involved with the City of Charlotte, beginning with voting in the upcoming elections on November 5. She encouraged the audience to review everyone on the slate, including the City Council, and think about how we can move Charlotte forward.

The Rebirth of Resiliency: Implementing Sustainable Practices to Build Adaptable Communities

Submitted by Stacia Neugent, GreerWalker

On Tuesday, August 13th, CREW Charlotte hosted a panel on the rebirth of resiliency at Byron’s Southend. The panel featured Dylan Kirk, sustainability coordinator for Mecklenburg County, Kristina Held, partner at Insight Architects, and Zack Wyatt, executive director for Carolina Farm Trust. Emily Buehrer, landscape architect and project manager with Stimmel Associates, served as the moderator.

In a time when there continues to be frequent extreme weather events, designing with the environment in mind has become even more important. Resilient design is the intentional design of buildings, land, communities and regions in response to these vulnerabilities.

One of the topics discussed at the luncheon was the cost associated with “green development”. Kristina confirmed that there are additional costs associated with making sustainable choices, but they are relatively small on a percentage basis. It is also important to keep in mind that this references the monetary costs, but there are many other costs to be considered when making the decisions regarding development. You have to consider the impact to the land being consumed as well as the impact to the communities in which you are developing. The panel discussed that the “urban sprawl” effect is one of the biggest issues impacting the Charlotte region. The impacts of urban sprawl include increased air and water pollution, increased infrastructure impacts and reliance on cars due to longer commutes.

While we may have a ways to go to get to where we need to be, the panelists acknowledged that recognition is the first step and discussions like this luncheon are shedding light on this important topic. Emily concluded the luncheon with a powerful Dr. Seuss quote, “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot. Nothing is going to get better, its not.”

Coworking: The Past, Present and Future

Submitted by Sivilay Xayasaene, Gresham Smith

On June 11, 2019, CREW Charlotte’s luncheon program featured a panel of all CREW members who addressed the many questions surrounding Coworking.  The panel included Wendy Hill with IWG, Hunter Fleshood with WeWork, Mary Wilken with Insite Properties and moderator Virginia Luther with Savills. The luncheon was also CREW Charlotte’s FIFTH annual Bring Your Intern to Lunch.

The panel discussed where they see the future and evolution of coworking and agree that the trend isn’t slowing down. With market unpredictability, the need for flexibility in real estate has increased as companies of all sizes across industries are less likely to pursue longer term leases.  The ability to scale quickly globally is attractive to large companies and the ability to have access to amenities otherwise out of reach for many small firms makes the coworking solution attractive to most organizations.

Across the country, over the last few years we’ve seen a shift in power from employer to employee. According to research from IWG, flexible working is an expectation as a company offering, not just a perk. In the war for talent, having a flexible work environment can be a deal breaker. This approach allows firms to hire people where they want to live – extending their candidate pool for attracting talent, and sustaining retention which are paramount. It’s an ideal choice during good times as well as during a downturn.

Second Annual Signature Luncheon with Mira

“No one would exploit a child if there wasn't someone there to buy the services of that child.” These powerful words were spoken by award winning actress, Mira Sorvino. Sorvino was the keynote speaker at CREW Charlotte’s Second Annual Signature Luncheon.

On Wednesday, May 15th, Sorvino spoke to a crowd of 350 CREW members and guests about the atrocity that is human trafficking. Sorvino is a United Nations Goodwill Ambassador who works tirelessly to combat human trafficking and slavery. She spoke about the work she has done and also about personal encounters she has had with victims. However, nothing was more compelling than the human trafficking survivor, “Katie” that joined Mira for the luncheon. "A lot of people have a stereotype of what they think a trafficker or a buyer looks like,” Katie said. “I want to blow that stereotype out of the water. I was sold to rich guys, poor guys, old guys, young guys, sold to some women. You know, you have the legislators, lawyers, cops, coaches, the guy that just lives down the street.”

Katie’s story brought many in the audience to tears. Although it is hard for her to tell her story, she is using it as a way to show others that human trafficking could be happening right in front of your face.

There are several organizations across our city and state that work to end human trafficking and slavery. If you want to learn more about how you can join the fight, you can click here. If you have any concern that a child you know is in danger, please call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-373-7888.