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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.

http://chapelboro.com/news/business/varsity-theatre-meets-kickstarter-goal/

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.

http://chapelboro.com/news/business/nominate-business-year/

Chapel Hill Drug Manufacturer Ends Agreement with Johnson & Johnson

Chapel Hill-based drug developer Pozen has been in the spotlight a lot as of late. In mid-December the FDA did not approve the company’s latest drug application. And, on Monday, Pozen broke off a licensing relationship with Johnson & Johnson.

Pozen and the industry giant mutually agreed to end their licensing agreement over a drug produced by Pozen, according to the Triangle Business Journal.

TBJ’s Jason deBruyn says that he believes Pozen thinks they can get a better offer than what Johnson & Johnson was providing for Pozen selling their migraine treatment in Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru.

“This is a little bit of speculation on my part,” he says, “but from Pozen’s perspective, by terminating the deal with this one company, they will potentially sign a deal with a different company.”

He adds the new deal may provide Pozen with a more formidable agreement.

deBruyn says that it is commonplace for a company the size of Pozen to team up with a larger business to utilize their resources.

“Instead of Pozen going in and directly selling it,” he says, “they’ll license the product to another company – that already has all the regulatory hoops they’ve jumped through.”

There’s no word yet on who Pozen may choose to enter into an agreement with regarding the marketing and sell of their migraine drug at this point.

This is not the first time Pozen has ended a licensing agreement with a large company. deBruyn says that, after years of public quarreling, Pozen ended an agreement with drug giant Astra Zaneca in recent years.

He adds that Pozen also recently had a deal terminated with Sanofi, but adds the details surrounding that split are much different.

Pozen has been in the late stages of development of an aspirin-containing drug that is said to reduce chances of developing ulcers while taking the medication. The FDA, however, has not approved the drug for sale in the US either time through inspections, according to deBruyn.

“Pozen has a contract with a third company that manufactures the drug,” he says. “The FDA didn’t find any problems with the science of the drug, itself. But found some deficiencies at the manufacturing site.”

deBruyn says these issues were enough for Sanofi to back away from their agreement.

He adds that Pozen has a different business model than the majority of companies their size in the Triangle. Rather than putting revenue brought in from royalties back into the business, deBruyn says Pozen appears content to collect royalties and pay dividends to investors.

He adds that, in his estimation, this appears to show that Pozen may be contemplating winding down production from the Chapel Hill-based drug manufacturer and solely bringing in revenue from royalties through the agreements they have in place.

http://chapelboro.com/news/health/chapel-hill-drug-manufacturer-ends-agreement-johnson-johnson/

Downtown Chapel Hill Businesses Continue to Evolve

Downtown Chapel Hill has seen a lot of things change over the years and that is continuing with new businesses coming into the area.

Kristen Smith, with the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce, says she is anxious to see where the changes in downtown Chapel Hill lead.

“I think downtown is evolving. And that’s what makes it exciting,” she says.

She adds that many businesses view downtown as a place they can thrive, and it is important to find the right pieces to complete the puzzle.

“Downtown is so desirable, these spaces don’t stay empty,” she says. “It’s just about finding the right mix.”

Smith points out that there are already areas of downtown where you can see the evolution as businesses revamp certain locations.

“Graham Street has transformed,” she says. “We’re seeing new businesses, and I hope that people take an opportunity to get involved.”

Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt says that overall there is a very low retail vacancy rate in Chapel Hill, but adds turnover is important to continue pushing the economic climate in the right direction and find businesses that can plant long-term roots in the area.

“A healthy downtown, or a main street, is going to have a fractional vacancy rate,” he says. “So that you can continue to freshen the mix of retail options for consumers.”

Smith says the possibility exists of, literally, building up in downtown. She adds that as certain developments grow taller that will open more possibilities of living space in downtown Chapel Hill. The extra population could turn into high retail foot traffic and add another layer of economic input to those downtown businesses.

“Downtown Imagined” has grown out of the “Rosemary Imagined” project. More information about all of the undertakings in development for downtown Chapel Hill can be seen on the Town of Chapel Hill webpage.

http://chapelboro.com/news/development/downtown-chapel-hill-businesses-continue-evolve/

Town of Chapel Hill Named among Healthiest Companies in Triangle

The Town of Chapel Hill has been named one of the 35 healthiest employers across the Triangle by the Triangle Business Journal.

Jason deBruyn, with TBJ, says he is very excited about a new program that has been launched by the Town of Chapel Hill.

“They do some pretty progressive stuff,” he says. “They have a free employee health clinic. That’s staffed with a nurse practitioner, a registered nurse, and a health coach that are all employed by UNC Health Care.”

deBruyn says that the clinic is open to all town employees – eliminating many of the excuses we use for not going to the doctor.

“By having this clinic on site, and by the Town of Chapel Hill saying that the employees can come during work and get checked out, people are a lot more likely to use it,” he says.

deBruyn says he expects the use of on-site clinics to increase in the area, especially in locations where multiple companies share an office park and can split the healthcare costs.

After a long tenure with their headquarters in Chapel Hill, Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina has transitioned to a more central campus in Durham.

deBruyn says Blue Cross Blue Shield has been on the leading edge of providing a healthy workplace in recent years.

“They offer various incentives to encourage employees to lose as much weight as possible,” he says. “They’ll even group them into teams.”

deBruyn adds that BCBS was one of the first companies in the Triangle to begin offering this program. He says that breaking the participants up into teams can also build strong bonds among the employees.

Overall, the region has actually regressed below the national average in terms of the health workplaces, but deBruyn says a portion of that can be caused by the fact that companies have been working to stay ahead of the curve for so long.

He adds that having healthy employees can be very beneficial to the companies as well.

“There have been some really good studies,” he says, “that show that for every dollar invested in a wellness program – or in some kind of a health benefit outside of traditional health insurance – it returns as many as three, four, sometimes as much as five dollars in work productivity and in less lost time.”

Both the Town of Chapel Hill and Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina have both been on the annual list in recent years. For 2014, BCBS checks in at number 7 in the region and the Town of Chapel Hill ranks 14th.

http://chapelboro.com/news/health/two-chapel-hill-companies-among-healthiest-triangle/

Organizations Team Up To Help Unemployed

Getting the unemployed back to work is the goal of a new program being rolled out by a partnership of local organizations.

The Orange County Partnership to End Homelessness and Chapel Hill-based Community Empowerment Fund are joining forces to launch a new program called Job Partners.

“We’re starting Job Partners, which is a program that’s designed to combat unemployment in the Chapel Hill area through facilitating connections between local employers and community members,” says CEF’s Kaity Taylor.

Taylor says that Community Empowerment Fund started in 2009 by micro-financing loans to help people get back in the job market.

“We started offering savings opportunities [and] financial education, as a support for people who are looking to seek employment, housing, and financial freedom,” she says.

Jamie Rohe, with the Orange County Partnership to End Homelessness, adds that there is one thing that stands out about the Job Partners program.

“[I’m impressed with] how relational they are. They will have one-on-one advocates working with their clients, sometimes two-on-one.”

Rohe says, “It’s so important and it’s so effective to make their clients feel like someone really cares about them. Somebody takes the time to learn about them.”

According to Taylor, maintaining those connections is paramount to the success of Community Empowerment Fund.

“CEF really focuses on developing those relationships, exploring those relationships, understanding the factors that are at work, and the things that are impacting people’s lives.”

Rohe adds that the relationship extends far beyond the job search.

“They work very hard to make people become job ready,” she says. “And then (they) really cream off the people who are ready and connect them to employers. And then maintain that connection after the people are employed, to make sure it’s working out.”

The organizations are looking for community members that live in Chapel Hill, have strong connections in the area, and are willing to use those connections to better the entire community.

If you would like more information on how to get involved, you can visit the Orange County Partnership to End Homelessness website or call CEF at (919) 200-0233.

http://chapelboro.com/news/business/organizations-team-help-unemployed/

State Unemployment Rate Continues Climb

North Carolina’s unemployment rate increased for the second consecutive month and the third time in the last four months, according to the August figures release by the state’s Department of Commerce.

LAST MONTH: Unemployment Up For Second Time In Three Months

Nearly 10,500 more people claimed unemployment compared to July while more than 28,500 fewer people had jobs, according to the release. That increased the state’s unemployment rate 0.3 percent to 6.8 percent.

That still shows a 1.2-percent improvement from August 2013 with nearly 29,000 more people claiming employment from 2013 to 2014.

These numbers are seasonally adjusted, already accounting for the shift in work patterns, such as schools not being in session over the summer.

The national unemployment rate decreased 0.1 percent from July to August this year and now sits at 6.1 percent.

August 2014 N.C. Unemployment Figures Release

http://chapelboro.com/news/business/state-unemployment-rate-continues-climb/

Downtown Chapel Hill Experiencing Better Summer Business

Things are looking up for the downtown Chapel Hill area, as local businesses are claiming to experience a record-breaking summer.

Chapel Hill Mayor, Mark Kleinschmidt, spoke with WCHL’s Aaron Keck about the success stories from such local businesses he has heard and how the town’s economy is growing.

“There’s so much more activity,” says Mayor Kleinschmidt. “There’s so much more life happening in these really slow days. This town economy is really starting to steer towards a 12-month year, and it’s really exciting.”

With the amount of recent developments in downtown, including the amenities of 140 West, Mayor Kleinschmidt says that simply talking about the growth has even played a role in how members of the community participate in making the area bigger, better, and more exciting.

“As people moved in, it raises expectations,” Mayor Kleinschmidt says, “and the fact that the people are thinking about that gets them downtown, and because they’re downtown, it does become what they say.”

Mayor Kleinschmidt says that though he has not heard much about as many closing businesses, he says that the few places that do go out of business have for more understandable reasons.

http://chapelboro.com/news/business/downtown-chapel-hill-experiencing-better-summer-business/

OC Jobless Claims Down In June

Unemployment claims dropped in 81 North Carolina counties in June, according to the Department of Commerce’s not-seasonally-adjusted release Wednesday.

Orange County remained in the top five for best unemployment rates in the state, improving by 0.1 percent to 4.8. Polk County joined Chatham and Currituck already ahead of Orange, with Currituck topping the list at 4.2 percent.

The Triangle continued to show strong improvement with a May-to-June change of 0.2 percent fewer people claiming unemployment. From June 2013 to June 2014, 1.8-percent fewer people claimed to be without work.

To see the complete county-by-county breakdown for unemployment in North Carolina, click here.

Statewide unemployment rates for July are scheduled to release August 18. In June, North Carolina’s rate flattened out at 6.4 percent since peaking at 11.3 percent in February 2010.

http://chapelboro.com/news/business/oc-jobless-claims-june/

DSI Comedy Takes Root On Franklin Street

In May, the DSI Comedy Theater – a fixture of the Carrboro arts scene for nearly a decade – became a fixture of the Chapel Hill arts scene when it moved from Carr Mill Mall to a new, larger location on West Franklin Street.

The move was initially prompted by a crisis (Carr Mill Mall elected not to renew DSI’s lease), but theater owner Zach Ward chose to see it as an opportunity – and now, just a few months later, he says the company is thriving in its new spot.

In those few months, DSI completely renovated the old Mansion 462 club at 462 W. Franklin, rebuilding it on the inside from the ground up. Now, the theater occupies about four times the space it had in Carrboro, including an expanded bar and (for the first time) its own separate rehearsal facility. In the process, the theater has added to the burgeoning cultural/commercial scene on West Franklin Street – which now includes newcomers like Al’s Burger Shack and the soon-to-arrive Carolina Ale House alongside older establishments like Local 506, the Cave, Carolina Brewery, and West End Wine Bar.

Zach Ward and DSI company members Ashley Melzer and Vinny Valdivia joined Aaron Keck (who’s also a DSI company member) on the WCHL Afternoon News.

As part of the move, DSI is inviting special guests to perform from around the country. This Friday and Saturday, the theater is welcoming Junior Varsity, an improv team from New York’s renowned Magnet Theater – and next month, the theater is hosting the hip-hop-based improv team North Coast as well as a one-night-only performance by nationally-acclaimed standups Myq Kaplan (a veteran of the TV show “Last Comic Standing”) and Zach Sherwin (a writer and performer on the popular YouTube series “Epic Rap Battles of History”).

Visit DSI’s calendar page for show dates and times.

http://chapelboro.com/news/arts/dsi-comedy-takes-root-franklin-street/