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Lynx ridership update

The UPoR reports that Charlotte light rail ridership is now back to 2008 levels, when high gas prices pushed people to tack the train to work. That may not be that impressive though. As the story notes:

However, the train’s seven years have shown that it’s been difficult for CATS to get new riders, even as uptown employment has grown significantly and thousands of new apartments have been built along the line in uptown and the South End. Many of the apartments were built because of the proximity to the train.

Former UNC Charlotte transportation consultant David Hartgen, a transportation consultant, said ridership suggests light rail is losing market share in the commuting corridor along South Boulevard, Interstate 77 and Park Road.

“The fundamental assumption is that the Lynx traffic would increase as the region got denser,” he said. “That hasn’t happened.”

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Chiquita leaves town

Been out of town and now slowly digging my way out… So Chiquita Brands International is leaving town, after only having been lured to Charlotte from the other Queen City not that many years ago by $22 million in state and local incentives over 10 years. So, as the UPoR reports, some county commissioners are now saying that the county should now rethink its economic incentives policies. Sample quotes:

“You can’t expect loyalty from any company if you’re paying them to move,” said Mecklenburg County commissioner Bill James, a longtime critic of incentives. “Government was basically prostituting themselves to get them here. … Nobody falls in love with a prostitute.”

And:

County commissioner Matthew Ridenhour said Chiquita’s pullout provides a case study for why the board needs to review its incentive grant program.

“I think it shows the reality of these grants,” he said. “We can be excited when businesses choose to locate in Charlotte, but just as easily as they come, they can also go somewhere else.”

Ridenhour said the board’s economic development committee, which he chairs, had already begun to review the incentive grants program. “Now we’ll need to discuss how the Chiquita case will change our program, if at all.”

While James makes a good point about incentives not buying loyalty, that’s not the real lesson here. The state, city, and county just didn’t do their due diligence — Chiquita was a very unhealthy company when it moved to Charlotte. Ultimately, it got bought out, which is what happens to a lot of underperforming companies, and that often results in a move or combining of headquarters. So the shocking development here isn’t Chiquita is leaving town, it’s that anyone is surprised that they are leaving town in the manner that they are.

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Davidson in the NCAA tourney discussion

As an at-large team. Sound absurd? It most certainly is not. With their win last night over nationally ranked Dayton, Davidson’s RPI ranking is currently 39th. Davidson is 12-4 with the four losses all to top 100 teams per RPI — Virginia (2nd), VCU (4), North Carolina (11), and Richmond (69). That’s good stuff.

The weakness in Davidson’s resume is a lack of quality wins. The school’s fourth best win is against UNC-Charlotte, whose RPI rates 142nd. So to get in at large,  Davidson essentially needs to keep on doing what its been doing, defeating average to bad teams — the Wildcats’ next five games are against teams with RPIs of 155+ — and then beat some of the better opposition it has remaining. A key game will likely come on Feb. 28th at home against George Washington (RPI: 42).

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Why Family Dollar is for sale

Ely Portillo of the Charlotte Observer cuts to chase in a short but very informative article that describes Family Dollar’s problems based upon four statistics. Definitely worth a read.

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More “CH” city confusion

Thought we’d outgrown this. Apparently not. As Katie Peralta of the Charlotte Observer writes “Charlotte is neither Charlottesville nor the No. 3 spot for job seekers.”

 

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Vice President Anthony Foxx?

John Wynne lays out the case for and against Hillary Clinton naming former Charlotte mayor and current Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx as her running mate. I see the argument for Foxx but I don’t think that he brings enough to the table — if the objective is to have a VP to help carry one state, I don’t think that Foxx does that. And in any case, North Carolina won’t be the true tipping point state…

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Frontier Airlines CLT update

Details are now available on the previously-announced flight to Philadelphia (PHL). Looks like this may be more than just a summer-seasonal attempt at a money grab. Daily service starts March 13 on an Airbus A319. Flight times:

Philly 6:00am departure, arriving Charlotte at 7:45am

CLT departure at 8:25am, arriving PHL at 10:00am

Frontier’s other flight from Charlotte is to Trenton, NJ (Washington Dulles service ended last week). The Trenton flight now operates five days a week (all but Wednesdays and Saturdays), going to six days a week in April (not Saturdays), and daily in May.

And yes, it is good to more low-fare competition in Charlotte…

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Will N.C. Democrats change course?

The Associated Press has an article out on how “N.C. Democrats accentuate the positive” after their disappointing performance at the polls last year. An interesting quote:

Ken Lewis, a 2010 Democratic U.S. Senate candidate, said a positive, persuasive message is needed to attract voters beyond the Democratic base.

“Progressives have to do a better job at articulating to the broad public why our policies help the things that they care about, which are creating more jobs, creating more opportunities and creating more security,” Lewis said. “We have grown too accustomed of talking to people who already agree with us.”

Well yes. But whether Democrats choose to follow such a tack is a different matter. There are two related issues:

1. Losing tends to make people angry. The lesson a percentage of Democratic activists will take from their poor performance last year isn’t that the message was somehow imperfect but rather that they simply weren’t expressing it forcefully enough, that somehow the electorate missed the point that “We lefties really hate Pat McCrory and Thom Tillis” because it wasn’t being screamed loudly enough.  So, yes, the same thing as before please, but just with even more vitriol.

2. The party is badly divided in the state, and has no real leader. This creates a message vacuum on the left that many liberals, individually and collectively, are seeking to fill. Critically, some progressive groups may be more interested in generating attention for themselves than helping Democrats win statewide. And that begins with the Moral Monday movement.

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An end to end-of-grade testing?

It’s possible, maybe even likely. As the Winston-Salem Journal reports:

A.L. “Buddy” Collins, vice chair of the North Carolina State Board of Education, said the recommendations are still in the early stages but that the group’s first draft proposal calls for massive changes in how the state tests and calls for cutting out nearly all end-of-grade and end-of-course exams.
“I don’t think anyone thinks we’re testing too little in North Carolina,” Collins said. “Everybody thinks we’re testing too much. It’s about how to accomplish the many different goals (that tests) are trying to achieve.”

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The future of shopping malls

The New York Times offers up a fascinating look at the state of the industry. The basic idea: There is too much retail space in the United States and a lot more shopping malls will go the way of Eastland in the near future. But have no fear, SouthPark will continue to do just fine. A sample quote:

“You see the A-rated malls, the flagship malls, performing very well,” said Steven Lowy, co-chief executive of Westfield Corporation, which has its roots in Australia but is now a major global player among mall owners. In the United States, Westfield has shed properties in the Midwest while focusing on the more affluent coasts. In Europe, Mr. Lowy prefers wealthy urban centers like London and Milan.

“Our business is more regional and high-end focused,” he said. “There are gradients of dead or dying or flat, but anything that’s caught in the middle of the market is problematic.”

Tom Simmons, who oversees the mid-Atlantic shopping center division of Kimco, another real estate giant, is more blunt. “There are B and C malls in tertiary markets that are dinosaurs and will likely die,” he said, but “A malls are doing well.”

 Bonus thought: Old line retailers like J.C. Penney and Sears continue to struggle. In fact, J.C. Penney just announced it’s closing another 40 stores, including one in Statesville.

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