Chamber Announces 2017 Economic Growth Award Winners
Published Monday, October 16, 2017 11:00 am

The Charlotte Chamber is excited to announce the winners of this year’s Economic Growth Awards. The annual event celebrates individuals and organizations that have played a significant role in the economic growth of the Charlotte region. The awards ceremony will be held Oct. 16 at the Mint Museum Uptown. Sonja Gantt, executive director of the CMS Foundation, will emcee the black-tie optional event. This year’s recipients are:

Economic Growth Champion of the Year: Fred Whitfield
Hornets President Fred Whitfield played a critical role in brokering a deal on House Bill 2, spending the better part of a year meeting with leaders on all sides of the issue. At stake (among other things) was Charlotte’s opportunity to host the NBA All-Star Game as well as the ability to book other big-name attractions to the Spectrum Center. Whitfield’s perseverance paid off in May when the NBA announced Charlotte would host the 2019 All-Star Game. The economic impact to the Charlotte-region is expected to be $100 million.

Building a successful community takes companies that care, governing bodies who care, and non-profits that care; but it also takes individuals who dedicate themselves for the good of others. In 2017 Fred Whitfield emerged as that individual when he stepped up to – personally – play a role in resolving one of the most difficult issues the community has ever faced – House Bill 2. For that reason, the Charlotte Chamber is deeply grateful and honored to name him as the Economic Growth Champion of the Year.

New Corporate Citizen of the Year: Albemarle Corporation
Headquartered in Charlotte, Albemarle Corporation (NYSE: ALB) is a global specialty chemicals company with leading positions in lithium, bromine, refining catalysts and applied surface treatments. Albemarle powers the potential of companies in many of the world’s largest and most critical industries, from energy and communications to transportation and electronics. In August, Albemarle announced the addition of 200 jobs at its two Charlotte-region locations, including 30 jobs at its SouthPark-area headquarters.

The Charlotte Chamber is honored to recognize Albemarle Corporation as its New Corporate Citizen of the Year for the company’s commitment to Charlotte. Albemarle’s impact goes far beyond the number of new jobs created, the company demonstrates its commitment to being the best corporate citizen possible by investing their time, talent and dollars across all platforms.

Entrepreneurial Champion of the Year: LendingTree
Leading online loan marketplace, LendingTree was founded in 1996 by passionate entrepreneur Doug Lebda. Two years later, launched nationally and hasn’t stopped growing since. This past November, the company announced the expansion of its Charlotte headquarters which will create 314 jobs over five years doubling its size while investing nearly $47 million in the SouthPark community. LendingTree’s revenue jumped 62 percent in the first half of 2017 compared to the previous year and its shares have soared 120 percent to $223. LendingTree ranks No. 3 on Fortune’s 100 Fastest-Growing Companies.

The Charlotte Chamber is committed to growing jobs in our community, not just by attracting new companies to Charlotte, but by also growing them at home. Our vibrant entrepreneurial community drives innovation, creates opportunity and positions Charlotte as a key national player. LendingTree has undoubtedly elevated the national perception of the Queen City as an entrepreneurial rising star.

International Corporate Citizen of the Year: Burkert Fluid Control Systems
Burkert Fluid Control Systems is one of the world's leading manufacturers of measuring, control and regulating systems for fluids and gases. Their products are used in a wide range of industries and applications – ranging from breweries and labs to medical, bio-engineering and aerospace technology. With its global headquarters in southern Germany, Burkert boasts a sales network in 36 countries and more than 2,500 employees worldwide. Some 100 people are employed its 120,000-square-foot advanced manufacturing facility in Huntersville. Burkert is a great economic development partner to the Charlotte Chamber, often providing tours and feedback to international companies considering relocating to the Charlotte region.

The Charlotte Chamber works to grow the presence of foreign-owned firms in Charlotte, with recruiters focused on the European, Asian and Indian sectors. Charlotte is home to more than 1,000 such companies, representing 66,000 jobs. International companies drive greater diversity and Burkert Fluid Control Systems is a stellar example of the value they bring to our local economy.

Regional Legislator of the Year: Representative Jason Saine
The Charlotte Chamber’s main pillars are economic growth and public policy. The chamber knows in order to have a positive impact on economic growth, we must have sound public policy at all levels of government. The chamber also is keenly aware of the need for strong allies at home and in the region. Representative Jason Saine is a thought leader in the North Carolina General Assembly on policy that directly impacts economic growth. As the Senior Co-Chairman of the Finance Committee in the North Carolina House, Representative Saine has been a strong advocate for the Charlotte region. He understands the urban-rural divide and has been at the forefront of collaborating, developing and pushing public policy that helps bridge those gaps. 

The Charlotte Chamber’s mission is to connect, innovate and grow opportunity for all through two key areas – economic growth and public policy. We work diligently to create and maintain a pro-business environment. With two lobbyists on staff, we work closely with our elected officials to ensure decisions are made that position our economy to thrive. Representative Saine is a legislative champion for the Charlotte Chamber and the Charlotte region, which is why he is our recipient of the Regional Legislator of the Year.

Talent Champion of the Year: Carolinas HealthCare System
As the largest employer in Charlotte-Mecklenburg and the broader region, Carolinas HealthCare System employs more than 35,000 people in the Charlotte region and more than 65,000 people throughout the Carolinas. Through its merger with UNC Health Care, it will have a combined employee base of more than 90,000. But CHS is more than just an employer. It is a developer of talent and an enabler of economic opportunity. The system has a robust talent management and learning development strategy framework, which cultivates both patient-serving and administrative staff. It is a national leader in diversity and inclusion and serves as a model for attracting, developing and retaining diverse talent for the healthcare industry and across business sectors.

The Charlotte Chamber has undergone significant change over the past year, and part of that change involves expanding our definition of economic growth to include talent development. If the jobs are the engine, then talent is the fuel. We have increased our focus on efforts at the primary, secondary and professional levels to ensure businesses in Charlotte can find and develop the talent they need. Carolinas HealthCare System is a proven leader in this space. We are proud to recognize them as the 2017 Talent Champion of the Year Award winner.

Economic Opportunity Champion of the Year: AvidXchange
Charlotte-based financial technology firm, AvidXchange announced plans in June to create 200 jobs in 2017 and more than 600 new jobs in Mecklenburg County by the end of next year. The company currently employs close to 1,000 people at its North Charlotte campus. Founded in 2000, AvidXchange has experienced skyrocketing growth appearing five times on the Inc. 5000 list and was recently named among the Top 10 largest fintech companies in the U.S. This summer, the chamber announced an entrepreneur in residence partnership with AvidXchange.

A successful community is one that provides an opportunity for all to succeed. Building on the work of the Opportunity Taskforce and Leading Opportunity, the Charlotte Chamber is playing a key role in career readiness and in attracting and helping to grow jobs across the spectrum. We honor AvidXchange for their innovative and creative solutions to the changing workplace and applaud their partnership in shaping Charlotte’s economy for the future.


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