Margot C. Lester
Back in January, I surveyed a handful of local business owners to find out what they thought 2010 had in store for their enterprises. (You can read their original prognostications here: bit.ly/92Zts8). Now that weâ€™ve hit the mid-point of 2010, I wondered how things were going.
Dianne Reid, president of the Chatham County Economic Development Corporation, says things looked good in the first half of the year.
â€œThe EDC is seeing more interest in business expansion, more new entrepreneurs exploring start-up business ideas and more interest from outside companies looking to locate in Chatham County. We project continued interest, particularly as we launch additional marketing efforts on behalf of the county.â€
But she remains guarded.
â€œThe economy is in a very precarious state and a major problem in one of a variety of fronts â€“ a major drop in the stock market, an increased number of people walking away from underwater mortgages â€“ could send us into a tailspin.â€
Orange County folks are keeping an eye on budget cuts at UNC. Brad Broadwell, director of the Orange County Economic Development Commission, said thereâ€™s good news and bad news in that department. â€œUNC-Chapel Hill might lose up to 200 employees. But it looks as though UNC Health Care would more than take up the slack, as it is reported to be looking at hiring up to 350 employees.â€
Thereâ€™s also been an uptick in entrepreneurial activity.
â€œThrough the first five months of the year, we have seen a growth of over 450 micro businesses in Orange County,â€ Broadwell boasts. â€œProof once again that our citizens are resilient, donâ€™t stay on the government dole and add to the relative stability of the Orange County economy.â€
And what do business owners think about the first half of 2010? Hereâ€™s what they said:
Brad Bonneville, owner
Bonneville Renovation & Repair LLC, Carrboro
â€œWeâ€™ve been short-handed and over-worked since February with a lot of restaurant repair, renovation and new stuff; a lot of home upgrades and additions; and even some new construction. So I donâ€™t see the economy in Carrboro and Chapel Hill as being too bad right now. Last summer was so slow â€“ this summer weâ€™re slammed.â€
Matt Neal, co-owner
Nealâ€™s Deli, Carrboro
â€œI think the economy needs to get a lot better; it seems to have a hard time getting any traction. We are doing more business than last year due to some good press that weâ€™ve gotten. Hopefully, those new customers were happy and will come back this fall! Going forward, weâ€™ll focus our marketing on our lunch delivery to downtown Chapel Hill and campus and on catering.â€
Ashley Atkins, account manager
â€œOur sales numbers last year at this time were not high because of the economy. This will be â€“ hands down â€“ the best summer in the 27-year history of the company. Early indicators point to us reaching our sales goals for the year. I expectÂ we willÂ look back on 2010 as a great year.â€
Lyle Estill, vice president
Piedmont Biofuels, Pittsboro
â€œWe did not anticipate BPâ€™s Deep Horizon well filling the Gulf of Mexico with oil.Â Our phones are ringing off the hook, and we are adding new members at an unprecedented rate. Nowadays, we have a new class of member running on our fuel.Â They are cutting up their BP credit cards and signing up with us.Â We are guessing this will be our best year ever.â€
Charles House, owner
University Florist, Chapel Hill
â€œI still am somewhat optimistic, but perhaps not as much as at the beginning of the year.Â The economy may have shown some first signs of improving, but until the public thinks it has and starts to spend again, I am afraid we will not see a great improvement in sales. Our business is a little off from last year, but we have tried to adjust by more careful buying and adjusting staffing.Â So far, so good.Â As usual, our sales will rise with the reopening of the university in the fall â€“ always has â€“ so that should help with the final six months of the year.â€
Sustainable car care
Last month, Chapel Hill Tire became the first car care center in the Triangle to offer the Environmentally Friendly Oil Change. But thatâ€™s just the latest in the companyâ€™s efforts to operate more sustainably.
â€œIn 1996, Chapel Hill Tire Car Care Center was the first car care center in the Triangle to offer Nitrofill, a nitrogen tire inflation system,â€ explains owner Marc Pons. Tires inflated with pure nitrogen can improve fuel efficiency by up to 10 percent, and they last up to 30 percent longer.
Among its other efforts, the company uses recycled anti-freeze, has two company cars that are hybrids and encourages store managers to reduce energy and water costs by 10 percent. The recently renovated Carrboro store was sustainably built, with a 16.4-kw solar system consisting of 81 solar panels and dual-flush toilets, rain barrels to capture rain water and irrigate the garden, reused building materials and insulated low e-glazing window panels.
â€œItâ€™s the right thing to do,â€ Pons says of doing business sustainably. â€œIt demonstrates that you are running a good business.â€
Real estate news
Local home appraiser Jim Mansfield was diagnosed with cancer earlier this summer. Friends and colleagues have established an assistance fund for him and his family and tax-deductible donations are now being accepted. Checks should be made payable to Amity United Methodist Church, with â€œJim Mansfieldâ€ in the memo, and mailed to 825 N. Estes Drive, Chapel Hill, N.C., 27514.
Deborah Rigsbee Miller of Coldwell Banker Howard Perry and Walston in Durham is now an EcoBroker CertifiedÂ® agent. Miller completed an informative training program on the energy and environmental issues that affect real estate transactions. Green issues arenâ€™t new to Miller, who worked with the EPA for 26 years prior to going into real estate.
The Winmore neighborhood is expanding its footprint with multifamily rental and for-sale properties. The Landings, developed by Crosland Builders, will consist of 58 affordable apartments designed for families. The 1,000- to 1,350-square-foot townhomes in Winmore, developed by David Weekley Homes, are now on the market. Additionally, construction of Phillips Square, Winmoreâ€™s village center, is nearing completion.