Carolina Women in Business Annual Conference

This year’s conference at the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School features a strong line-up of leading executives and thought-provokers. Throughout the day, there will be opportunities to engage with experts in career development workshops and dynamic panels that explore a range of topics from mentorship to negotiations. On behalf of Carolina Women in Business, we look forward to welcoming you to our campus.

Breaks for Big Business and Higher Taxes for Us

Originally Published on May 2, 2016

Are North Carolina tax incentives a new profit motive?

Pat McCrory has been handing out millions of taxpayer dollars to draw new businesses to North Carolina and pay his top staffers.

Now, before I get bombarded with all of the GOP talking points on how we just can’t afford to tax the job creators, please hear me out.

Why does a business need to secure tax cuts to ensure quarterly profits?  When did businesses start holding states hostage to demand lower taxes, better roads, higher speed internet, utilities, and cheaper labor in a right-to-work state?  Could it be that the decline of the middle class over the past thirty years has caused even our biggest businesses to turn away from a consumer-based economy to corporate welfare to stay in business?

Over the past decades, the middle class has lost the battle with the likes of Art Pope, Charles and David Koch, and Las Vegas casino mogul Sheldon Adelson on dividing America to push their view of smaller government through lower taxes.  Thom Tillis was recorded back in 2011 explaining how he planned on dividing the sick against the poor to push his cut to unemployment through in 2012.

How will Art Pope find the funds to continue corporate welfare when other states have deeper pockets and can offer more cuts to look good for political gain?

Raising property taxes.  It is the only steady revenue left they can bank on.  Orange County announced a property tax increase to cover shortfalls caused by tax cuts passed in the General Assembly after offering $1.4 million to a candy company to create only 60 jobs.

Now his staff, which will be paid with money from our gas tax, tells us he’s given $17 million to a parts company to move their headquarters to Raleigh?

Where will the money come from?

You guessed it.  Higher property taxes, more service taxes, and newer fees generated from our daily activities.  Budgets from Raleigh must support the middle class because businesses need to rely more on customer spending rather than government handouts to stay in business.  When businesses have more demand than supply, you guessed it, more jobs.

— Wiley Post

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Orange County’s “Retail Gap” Is Growing

This probably won’t come as a huge surprise – but the amount of money that’s spent by Orange County residents exceeds the amount of money that’s actually spent in Orange County.

That’s a phenomenon with a technical term: it’s called a “retail gap.”

Delivering his annual “State of the Community” report this week at the Friday Center, Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce president Aaron Nelson said Orange County has a retail gap partly because we haven’t gone out of our way to bring in major retailers. “Retail is something that we’ve not historically recruited in our market,” he said, because “it generally (offers) low-wage jobs, and we’ve been thinking about (recruiting higher-paid) jobs.”

Get the full State of the Community report here.

But that means a lot of the big retail centers are outside county lines – think Tanger Outlets in Alamance County, New Hope Commons and Southpoint in Durham County, and the new Walmart in Chatham. Orange County residents often leave the county to spend their money – and while other people do come to Orange County to shop and eat (especially to eat!), it’s not enough to make up the difference.

How big is Orange County’s retail gap? Citing figures from the NC Department of Commerce, Nelson says Orange County residents spent about 1.8 billion dollars in 2014, but Orange County saw less than a billion dollars in retail sales. That’s a “retail gap” of 866 million dollars in a single year, far more than any other county in our area.

Orange County's retail gap is larger than those of nearby counties. (Via

Via Orange County’s retail gap is larger than those of nearby counties. (What about Raleigh? The NC Department of Commerce reports retail demand of $13.5 billion and retail sales of $11.8 billion in Wake County – a $1.7 billion retail gap. That’s larger than Orange in real dollars, though Orange’s is higher by percentage.)


And Nelson says while other nearby counties have been reducing or eliminating their retail gaps, Orange County’s has been growing.

Via (Data for Wake not available here.)

Via (Data for Wake not available here.)


Nelson said a growing retail gap is a sign that Orange County could still use more retail development – the better to increase sales tax revenue.

Via Almost half of Orange's retail gap is attributable to two categories: "motor vehicles parts and dealers" and "general merchandise stores." (The latter category would include Walmart, for instance.)

Via Almost half of Orange’s retail gap is attributable to two categories: “motor vehicles parts and dealers” and “general merchandise stores.” (The latter category would include Walmart, for instance.)


But there are also signs that sales tax revenue is already on the rise. According to the NC Department of Revenue, Orange County saw a 36 percent increase in sales tax revenue per capita in just one year, 2013.




Orange County now ranks 42nd out of North Carolina’s 100 counties in sales tax revenue per capita; prior to 2013, Orange County hadn’t cracked the top 60 in years.



Chapel Hill Stores Prepare For Final Four With Voodoo And Graffiti

Every time UNC wins a basketball game this time of year, local retailers see a rush of customers looking to buy the latest merchandise, but Johnny T Shirt division retail manager Cameron Gunn said some have higher hopes.

“We have some customers come in and they seem like they want to tempt fate,” she said. “So they come in and say ‘oh I’m going to wait until Monday.’ Okay, I’m just going to find a wood source and just knock.”

Monday is the date of the NCAA National Championship Game, featuring two teams that are yet to be determined.

Ken Jackson, who owns Wentworth and Sloan and Carolina Corner, has been in business in Chapel Hill since 1968. He said this is always a superstitious time of year.

“You see all these things,” he said. “All this voodoo comes out of the closet when it’s this close to the Final Four. All of those, you know, I wear the same pair of socks, I don’t ever take a shower before the game.”

Jackson opened Carolina Corner in University Place after the closure of Roses left a void for those wanting UNC gear without having to enter the fray of Franklin St.

But for those closer to the heart of the action, Gunn said they will be taking precaution this weekend, especially if UNC wins Saturday.

“We actually board the windows just to take care of the store,” she said. “We have these wooden boards at the warehouse and I think some of them have graffiti on them from the 1993 win.”

She said the store hasn’t experienced any physical damage, and to those who hoped to vandalize Franklin St., it turns out they were more useful than they might have thought.

“I’ve just heard (the boards) have graffiti and it helps because you have to piece them together,” she said. “So the graffiti helps.”

But even owners have their superstitions. Jackson said he didn’t want to talk about the Tar Heels playing on Monday, but that doesn’t mean he’s not preparing shirts all the same.

“I’m going to pull that voodoo out of my closet now,” he said. “But if all things go well on Monday, we’ll have them Tuesday morning.”

Weaver Street Realty Adds New Ownership

Weaver Street Realty has added three new owners to its ownership group.

Brokers Clayton Nell, Crystal Fisher and Terri Turner join Gary Phillips, Louise Barnum and Jay Parker as the owners and operators of the firm that has been open since 1982.

“We’re very excited to be welcoming Crystal, Clayton and Terri into the Weaver Street family,” said Phillips, who is the original founder of the business. “They’re people of great integrity, diverse skills and open minds, which is a great combination.”

Barnum became an owner and partner shortly thereafter.

“Our three additional partners will fit right into our ‘anything but cookie cutter’ approach to real estate,” Barnum said. “Amongst a host of very fine skills, Clayton brings a quiet depth to his listening, Crystal an infectious laugh that can carry a room, and Terri a yearning for knowledge. All will carry Weaver Street forward in stride.”

Owner Jay Parker added, “Gary, Louise and I have had a great time, lo these many years, serving our clients and communities. It’s been a great partnership. Now that our teeth our lengthening, having Crystal, Terri and Clayton join us heightens our energy, enthusiasm and connection. I couldn’t hope for a better group to carry Weaver Street into the next generation.”

Nell, Fisher and Turner had been agents at Weaver Street Realty.

Rise Biscuits Donuts To Open in February

Rise Carrboro will open 7 a.m. on February 27 at East Main Square in Carrboro.

Rise Biscuits Donuts was founded in 2012 and opened its first store in Durham.

They offer sweet and savory breakfast options, including glazed and filled donuts and biscuit specials.

The store will donate 10% of opening day sales to nearby Carrboro Elementary school and will also offer free donuts on Tuesday, February 23rd from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m.

It has been named the Triangle’s best biscuit and now has deals in place to expand to 22 locations, including locations outside of North Carolina as the company has announced plans to open its first locations in the Dallas, Texas metro.

New Barbecue Restaurant Replacing Southern Rail in Carrboro

A new barbecue restaurant will be opening in the space formerly occupied by Southern Rail in Carrboro.

CrossTies Barbecue will be opened in the downtown Carrboro location by Venable chef and owner Andrew Moore.

A release says CrossTies will “serve authentic Carolina ‘que with all the fixin’s and feature a varity of smoked meats in a full service menu.”

Diners will have the option of choosing seating in a larger central dining room in one of the two historic train cars or patio seating.

The lease also includes the former The Station and The Tiger Room businesses.

The Station will re-open as a bar and live music venue in March, after some minor updates, according to the release.

The Tiger Room space will be converted into a smokehouse and prep-kitchen.

Construction is underway and CrossTies Barbecue is slated to open in May.

Moore also owns B-Side Lounge in Carrboro.

Southern Rail closed last month.

Crepe Traditions Opens on Franklin Street

A new restaurant opened its doors with a ribbon cutting ceremony on Friday.

Crepe Traditions sells sweet and savory crepes for all occasions, along with coffee and other items.

“I see food as lightening you up,” said owner Sree Valluru. “You have something tasty in your mouth that goes into your stomach it’s just lightening your whole day.”

Valluru offers a number of traditional and non-traditional crepes, but perhaps his most outside the box invention in the PBJC.

“We have our chef’s favorite PBJC which is a unique concept,” he said. “Peanut butter and jelly with chicken.”

He said he has not heard of another restaurant selling anything like the PBJC.

“We have sweet and we have savory so we thought okay let’s have a combination of sweet and savory in a single crepe,” he said. “That’s how the whole thing came about.”

Valluru lives in Cary, but said he loves coming to Chapel Hill.

“I’m a huge Tar Heel fan and Chapel Hill is like my second home,” he said. “I come here pretty much every day. I support the teams, I cheer for the teams and Franklin Street is where I’ve always wanted to do something.”

Varsity Theatre Meets Kickstarter Goal

The Varsity Theatre tweeted out on Wednesday evening that they met their $50,000 Kickstarter goal.

With these funds the Chapel Hill staple will be able to upgrade one theatre to digital operation from 35mm film and continue operation. You can still donate to the cause through the Kickstarter page. The owners of the Varsity have said that any money raised above their goal would go toward renovating their second theatre.

Nominate A Business Of The Year

Would you like to see your favorite local business recognized? The Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce is seeking nominations this week for their annual Business of the Year awards.

The nomination period is open through Friday; finalists will be announced at the Chamber’s annual meeting on Thursday, January 29.

“We have categories for large, mid-size and small businesses, and also the non-profit of the year,” says Chamber vice president Kristen Smith.

Last year’s winners were Sweeps in the small-business category, Vimala’s Curryblossom Café in the mid-size category, ARCA in the large-business category, and the Orange County Rape Crisis Center in the nonprofit category. Also recognized last year were three individuals – Mark Chilton, Irene Briggaman, and Gordon Merklein – for their community service work.

To submit nominations for this year, click here. Winners will be announced at a special event later this spring.