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Luncheon Summary

Dena Diorio, the First Woman Mecklenburg County Manager talks about the State of the County and Plans for the Future

Who you missed:  Dena Diorio is the Mecklenburg County manager, responsible for executing the policy decisions of the Board of County Commissioners and overseeing the administration of County departments. She advises the Board on operational and financial matters, services and other issues, and submits an annual operating and capital budget for consideration. Raised in Westchester County, New York, Dena started her career in New York City, eventually working for the then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Later she took jobs in Stamford and Danbury, Connecticut until moving to Mecklenburg County in 2007. She has a B.S. in Social Services from the State University of New York at Plattsburg and a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from Columbia University. Dena is married and lives in Huntersville. 
 
What you missed:  CREW Charlotte’s March luncheon featured the first woman Manager for Mecklenburg County, Dena Diorio. Dena’s presentation focused on the state of the County, where we are headed in the future, and her role as a woman leader. 
 
In the combined city-county government structure, Mecklenburg County provides Health and Social Services, Education, Library, Economic Development, and Parks and Recreation services to residents. Following the 2007-2009 Recession, the County has experienced a return to fiscal health, including increasing the employment base by approximately 50,000 new jobs and a corresponding drop in the unemployment rate. Future efforts by the County include continuing efforts in the county-wide property revaluation, working to improve the efficiency of the building permit process, which balances customer service with safety, and creating strategies to address the current lack of income mobility facing the region.
 
Why:  Commercial real estate makes up approximately 40% of the Mecklenburg County tax base. County operations affect commercial real estate in three key ways: (1) Mecklenburg County provides incentive grants to attract new businesses, such as Met Life, Electrolux, and Chiquita, (2) Inefficiencies in the building permitting process are being addressed to promote development in the County, and (3) Through education, competitive tax rates, and workforce development, Mecklenburg County is working to remain highly competitive to potential future relocations.

The Evolution of Commercial Real Estate

Who you missed:   
Tammy Whaley, Economic Development Manager of Duke Energy
Tammy is responsible for working with local economic developers and companies looking to relocate or expand in North Carolina.  Tammy helped implement Duke’s Site Readiness program to help counties develop marketable properties for economic development.
 
Anne Johnson, Senior Vice President of CBRE
Anne is one of the most active brokers in the Carolinas, typically participating in over 60 transactions per year.  Anne’s primary focus areas include tenant representation and listings on manufacturing, bulk distribution, and office/warehouse space.
 
Debbie Duniec, CFO of Childress Klein Properties
Debbie started as an Accounting Manager with Childress Klein and has worked with the company for nearly twenty years. Debbie is responsible for the company’s financial planning and accounting practices.
 
What you missed:
February’s luncheon featured a lively conversation between Tammy, Anne and Debbie focusing on the Evolution of Commercial Real Estate.
 
Why:
A consistent theme throughout the discussion was the importance of persistence and hard work.  Tammy quoted “If there’s something you want to do, go after it and never give up.”  She also gave examples of how preparation and personalization to a customer can make a difference in their experience and make a lasting impression.  Anne suggested to take the deals that no one wants, keep trying and work hard because things will work out eventually.  Debbie added by discussing the importance of being less naïve and more aggressive and assertive and bring the same energy for yourself as you do for your company.
 
Specific changes in the industry include the use of technology.  Companies have become more sophisticated with preparation and plans for success.  However, real estate is still a relationship business and deals take place based on comfort level and need balance with credibility and market knowledge.  Taking care of customers will earn respect and create a track record. Customers will pay a premium to know what product will be delivered to them. 
 
The speakers gave insight on the next generation in the industry. Even though there has been growth in the amount of women in the field, there are still few young women getting involved in real estate.  The work/life balance for men is increasing which makes it easier for women to focus on their careers. The key takeaway was to not attempt shortcuts but to work up to the challenges and use the familiarity with technology as a strength.

The Value of Partnerships with Pat Rodgers, President & CEO of Rodgers

Who you missed:
Pat Rodgers, President & CEO of Rodgers. Pat has served as chair of the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce, and chaired or served on more than a dozen boards, ranging from the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra and Mint Museums to the Carolinas Chapter of The Associated General Contractors of America. She has been honored as the Charlotte Business Journal’s Business Person of the Year, as well as their Lifetime Achievement Award. Her community involvement includes serving as chair of the Foundation for the Mint Museums, and has been a board member of Foundation for the Carolinas, Charlotte Merchants Foundation, the UNC Charlotte Foundation, and Central Piedmont Community College Foundation.
What you missed:  
Rodgers started by outlining the three requirements for an effective partnership, which are compromise, willingness to learn, and focusing on the rewards associated with the partnership. Headquartered in Charlotte, Rodgers has been in business for over 50 years and has been a part of many business partnerships. Rodgers continued by outlining a number of projects in which the partnership was not only mutually beneficial, but resulted in a stronger finished product. Throughout these examples, it was made very clear that businesses should not be afraid of collaborating with larger/smaller organizations as both big and small can often learn from one another.
 
Why:
A consistent theme throughout Pat’s presentation was the importance of senior leadership mentoring employees in an effort to build the organization and add value. In partnering on projects, Pat also quoted “if you have a problem, hang a lantern on it.” Put simply, when partnering, the parties involved have to be able to have a conversation, focus on the problem, and agree to a solution before moving forward.