Public Policy Update
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Energy Summit Touts Charlotte's Growth
The chamber’s 2013 Energy Summit was held on Nov. 15 at the Ballantyne Hotel and Lodge. Keynote speaker Christine Todd Whitman, co-chair of The Clean and Safe Energy Coalition (CASEnergy) and former governor of New Jersey and EPA administrator, spoke about key efforts being implemented that impact the reliability and sustainability of nuclear energy. She also gave a shout out to North Carolina, a leader in the nuclear industry, as she reflected on the economic impact of the industry in our state. CASEnergy is an advocacy group dedicated to the nuclear energy industry that accepts members at no fees. Click here to learn more.
A panel discussion focused on the role of technology in energy’s future. That technology includes smart and micro grids, cyber security and bulk storage. Panelists shared perspectives with us on current initiatives and spoke about challenges in leveraging new technologies for energy innovation.
Attendees learned about the role of gas in our nation’s future and what to look for in the years ahead. Additionally, the 2013 Wells Fargo Green Awards were presented to JW Demolition and Charlotte Latin School for their sustainability efforts related to environmental responsibility. Stay tuned for late spring 2014 when the application process begins for the 2014 Green Awards. Click here to view videos of the 2013 Wells Fargo Green Awards winners.
The chamber looks forward to hosting the 2014 Energy Summit and continuing conversation on the emerging industry’s economic impact on the Charlotte region. You may view the 2013 Energy Summit presentations here.
How Many Generations Are in Your Workplace?
The modern-day workplace is an environment that typically houses up to four generations. What are some challenges and opportunities that come with the range of generations working together? At the next Workplace Issues Committee meeting on Dec. 11, Karen Shearer Dunn, professor at Queens University and owner of Karen Dunn Consulting, will talk of generational differences and best practices in cross-generational communication in the workplace. The meeting will take place on Dec. 11 from 8-9:30 a.m. at the chamber offices located at 330 S. Tryon St.
The meeting is free and open to all chamber members, but registration is required. Click here to register and reserve a spot.
LYNX Blue Line Extension Public Meeting
Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS) and the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Planning Department are hosting public meetings to gather input on the LYNX Blue Line Extension (BLE). On Dec. 5, CATS will host a meeting to update the public on the progress of the BLE. Attendees will learn about the construction impacts and what to expect in the near future. The meeting will be held from 4:30-6:30 p.m. at Sugaw Creek Presbyterian Church located at 101 W. Sugar Creek Road.
On Dec. 10, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Planning Department will conduct a workshop to engage the public and receive feedback on the three University City transit station area plans. The workshop will take place from 4:30-6:30 p.m. at the Oasis Shriners Center at 604 Doug Mayes Place. Click here to view additional details on both meetings.
Eastland Mall Update
On Nov. 21, the City Council Economic Development Committee met to hear updates from Studio Charlotte Development, LLC (SCD) on converting the Eastland Mall site into movie studios, a hotel and retail space.
In August, City Council authorized the city manager to enter into a six- month memorandum of understanding with SCD to develop a framework for the site. On Nov. 21, the Economic Development Committee and city staff reviewed the full financing plan and discussed potential funding gaps that would require financial support from the city. Over the past year, SCD has tried to enter into a public-private partnership for the project.
SCD’s current plan asks for the city to donate the 80 acre site, which was purchased for $13.2 million in 2012 by taxpayers, or sell it to SCD for $1 along with an additional $24.7 million in city and county grants. In the past, the city has financed projects through Tax Increment Grants. This method of financing allows the developer to build new taxable property, and the city and county then reimburse a portion of the new tax dollars to the developer to help pay for the project. The city and county gain additional property tax revenue from the new property. SCD has been asked to come back to a future meeting with more detail regarding private investments for the project.
The Economic Development Committee made no recommendations on the plan at the Nov. 21 meeting. Full council will vote on this issue in 2014 with the new mayor and council members.
Transportation Infrastructure Funding Discussion
The chamber’s Transportation Committee met on Nov. 20 to discuss alternative revenue sources and consider recommendations for future policy positions. At-Large Charlotte City Council Member David Howard and Huntersville Mayor Jill Swain, chairs of the Transit Funding Working Group (TFWG) of the Metropolitan Transit Commission, provided an update on the group’s work. Key takeaways include educating the community about the gap and the critical need to fund transportation infrastructure. The TFWG has been reviewing models and hearing from experts in other states on innovative funding mechanisms, such as public private partnerships (P3s). Kerri Burke, the chamber’s contract lobbyist with McGuireWoods, spoke about potential alternative revenue models.
Jake Cashion, Director of Government Affairs for the NC Chamber of Commerce reviewed transportation challenges and opportunities in our state. Click here to presentations from all speakers at the meeting.
In 2014, the Charlotte Chamber, in partnership with the Charlotte Area Transit System and Foundation for the Carolinas, will host a P3 Infrastructure summit on March 5-6. We are excited to be a part of the effort to continue the discussion for improving infrastructure in the community.
Tax Reform Package Requires New NC-4 Form
House Bill 998, the tax reform package that passed earlier this year in the North Carolina General Assembly, becomes effective on Jan. 1, 2014. The legislation requires all employees as well as recipients of pension or annuity payments to complete a new withholding allowance certificate. The new form will verify the correct amount of state income tax is withheld for payment periods beginning on or after Jan. 1, 2014. Click here to view the new NC-4 form and visit the N.C. Department of Revenue website for additional information.
Clean Construction and Diesel Standards
The Charlotte City Council Environment Committee met on Nov. 18 to continue the discussion of clean construction and diesel standards. No action was required at this information session, as council simply asked city staff to research the topic in more detail. Areas discussed were air quality, health impacts, estimated cost to the city and contractors to use cleaner diesel equipment, legal considerations and a CONNECT assessment. The city is currently in ‘Attainment’ for Particulate Matter (PM) and is in ‘Non-attainment’ but improving for eight-hour ozone. A little more than half of the national sources of diesel emissions are derived from highway diesel and nonroad construction emissions.
Dr. Lawrence Raymond of Carolinas HealthCare System discussed the health implications from diesel pollution, explaining the smaller the particulate matter size, the more danger exists. Approximately 21,000 yearly deaths are associated with diesel exhaust. The estimated total cost to replace all equipment engines for the city of Charlotte would be almost $2 million. Legal considerations consisted of HB 74 and state public bidding statutes. Concerns with HB 74 include restrictions on contracts with private entities and temporary limitations on enactment of environmental ordinances by cities and counties pending legislative study. The state’s public bidding process lends concerns that city-imposed requirements or incentives for clean equipment could be considered unrelated to the bidder’s ability to perform the work, therefore conflicting with spirit of statues. CONNECT’s goal is to address black carbon (BC) emissions through two assessment projects: the Climate Change Planning Assessment (Clean Air Carolina) and Diesel/BC Assessment and Feasibility Study.
Possible approaches for improving diesel emissions include: identification of local sensitive receptors on city construction plan drawings, implementation of other low-cost strategies, collaboration with Mecklenburg County Air Quality to promote GRADE grants and with CONNECT on the assessment projects.
Councilman David Howard recommended the Environmental Committee continue discussions on the issue with the new council members in 2014.