Business

The Lake Norman Chamber: On a mission since day one

The way we were: Former Chamber chairs Front row: Randy Ford – 1992, John Cherry – 1987, Donna Moffett – 1998, Scott Hinkle – 1999; Second row: Richard Wilson – 1994, Darrell Gettys – 1995, David Christenbury – 1997, Mike Hoffman – 1993, Scott Lawrence 1996

In August of 1987, businessman John Cherry gathered approximately 50 people together at the old Home Federal Bank building at Exit 28 in Cornelius to discuss the formation of a North Mecklenburg Chamber of Commerce. The 20 to 25 businesses represented elected John president and created a board with 12 members. The initial 12 were representative of all three towns and included then-Mayor Sarah McAulay of Huntersville as all three North Meck towns were to have a hand in shaping the Chamber for the next three decades.

The original Articles of Incorporation were accepted by the NC Secretary of State on Sept. 23, 1987. The Chamber has served as a catalyst for positive change for our regional community ever since. One of the first initiatives was getting a handle on growth. Cherry said, “We wanted controlled growth, not urban sprawl.”

Cherry added, “The Chamber brought the three towns together. It highlighted that Davidson, Huntersville, and Cornelius had more in common with each other and we should look at North Mecklenburg as a geographic area, not just separate towns.”

North Mecklenburg citizens had felt largely overlooked by Charlotte for some time and the water rates from CMUD (the predecessor to Charlotte water) angered many. At that time there was no district representative from the North Mecklenburg area on the County Commission or School Board. The young Chamber pushed to get the northern communities better representation.

Under the leadership of Gary Knox, the Chamber began hosting “Power Luncheons” sharing pertinent information on education, infrastructure, and legislative reports as a formal way to educate the business community on local issues. From its beginning, Knox said the Chamber was always “community-based.”
By the mid 1990s, the towns began feeling the significant growth as new neighborhoods and commercial developments were approved. The Chamber, which had grown with the community, opened an office and Visitors Center at Shops on the Green where it would remain until a new headquarters was built on Catawba Avenue in 2005.

Among the most notable accomplishments was working with the three towns to create Visit Lake Norman in 2002 and a year later the Lake Norman Economic Development Corp. Those two new organizations virtually created the travel and tourism and economic development markets which the region needed to diversify the tax base and provide employment.

In 1999, the Chamber officially changed its name to the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce under the leadership of Scott Hinkle reflecting the significance the lake played on commerce and quality of life.
Each Chamber chair, board director and member has played a significant role in the success of the Chamber. In 2015 the Lake Norman Chamber was named the “Most Outstanding Chamber of Commerce in North and South Carolina” by the Carolina Chamber of Commerce Executives.

Perhaps the words of past Board Chair Bob McIntosh sum it up best: “The Chamber simply MUST be the single tie that binds business in the Lake Norman region. We can re-invent the wheel all we want with referral and leads groups, but there is no substitute for a strong Chamber united for the good of its members and the region at large. It is only as strong as the commitment of officers, board bembers and general membership to the Chamber’s goals and objectives. Get behind your Chamber. It’s a great investment for your business and our community.”

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