Thursday, April 29, 2010

New BofA chairman supports Queen City HQ

Chad Holliday Jr., was selected as Bank of America's new chairman on Wednesday. The 62-year-old is a past CEO of DuPont.

And while Holliday may live in Nashville, he has stated his support for Charlotte to remain the site for BofA's headquarters.

"I've spent a lot of time in your city and now since I'm the newest member of the Bank of America board of directors, I look forward to many trips here year after year," he once said, according to the Charlotte Observer.

Asked after that meeting whether Charlotte could be confident about retaining the bank's headquarters, Holliday said, "I don't know anybody who brought up the idea of moving the headquarters."

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

I-40 reopens after rockslide

You may now travel from eastern Tennessee into North Carolina via Interstate 40, which has been closed since October due to a massive rockslide. The road reopened on Sunday.

The work on I-40 in the Pigeon River Gorge will continue through the summer as crews complete stabilization efforts, but with both eastbound lanes and one westbound lane open, Western North Carolina’s main transportation artery is back in business [says the Smoky Mountain News].

The economic effects of the I-40 rockslide have been a source of attention ever since the road was closed. In March, the U.S. Small Business Administration announced that it would hand out $1.4 million in loans to businesses affected by the slide, but the money was spread over the region from Asheville to Sevierville, Tenn.

The total cost for the repair project, initially slated for completion in February, is estimated to be $12.9 million, and according to the North Carolina Department of Transportation, the federal government will cover nearly 100 percent of the cost. ...

Before the rockslide, about 19,000 vehicles a day traveled on the road, and almost half of them were trucks. Businesses that directly relied on the commercial traffic, like gas stations and hotels have been hardest hit by the closure.

The folks in Cherokee are particularly thrilled.

“We are delighted the section of I-40 that has been closed since October 2009 has now reopened,” said Mary Jane Ferguson, director of Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Marketing and Promotion. “It is especially welcomed at the beginning of seasonal visits to Western North Carolina and to Cherokee. Having I-40 West open will allow the leisure travel to choose the closest route to come visit all that Cherokee, NC has to offer. We look forward to those visits to Cherokee. We want our visitors to know they will be greeted with a warm welcome as it has been a long winter.”

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

It might get a wee bit windy around here ...

... at least according to hurricane researchers from N.C. State University, who, on Monday issued a prediction of "above-normal hurricane activity in the Atlantic basin in 2010."


The researchers, led by Lian Xie, professor of marine, earth and atmospheric sciences, and Montserrat Fuentes, professor of statistics, forecast 15 to 18 named storms in the Atlantic basin, which includes the Atlantic Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea [says].

The 50-year average is nine to 11 named storms in the Atlantic.

Eight to 11 of the named storms could reach hurricane strength, the researchers said.

There is an 80 percent chance that one of the named storms will make landfall along the southeastern U.S. coast and a 70 percent chance that the storm will arrive as a hurricane, they said. ...

Friday, April 16, 2010

KK poised for a profit

After weathering first the Atkins Diet Craze and then a vast economic recession, Winston-Salem-based Krispy Kreme is on the brink of a profit, according to its chairman.

The company just barely missed posting its first profitable year since 2004 despite having a fourth-quarter profit of $520,000, says MCT.

Jim Morgan, the company's chairman, president and chief executive, cautioned at the 2008 shareholders meeting that there likely will be some "unevenness" in quarterly performance for up to two years.

''During fiscal 2010, we made substantial progress in building a stronger foundation for our company and improving our business model," Morgan said in a statement. "We generated positive company same-store sales in all four quarters despite the difficult economy, while also delivering substantially higher operating income."

He said that the company expects to show a profit in fiscal 2011.

''We are working vigorously to continue implementation of our strategic plans and, in doing so, we believe we are setting the stage for additional and more robust growth in revenues and earnings in fiscal 2012 and beyond," Morgan said.

The company reported Thursday that its loss for fiscal 2010, which ended Jan. 31, was $157,000, compared with a loss of about $4 million in fiscal 2009. ...

Krispy's share price slipped 8 cents to close at $4.96 yesterday -- 19 cents below its 52-week high of $5.15 set on Tuesday. Because of the company's financial difficulties in recent years, coverage of its stock has been dropped by most analysts.

"KK" plans to add seven to 10 company stores, along with 35 to 45 domestic and international franchise shops.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Steve Martin to play MerleFest; met his band in North Carolina

Comedian, author, musician and "wild and crazy guy" Steve Martin will bring his band the Steep Canyon Rangers to Wilkesboro's MerleFest later this month, according to reports. The band is on its second nationwide tour.

Martin, in fact, told the crowd at a recent performance at the 250-seat Largo theater in Los Angeles that he met the band at a party in North Carolina, but joked, "when we're in California, I tell people we met in rehab."

Yet when it comes to the music from his Grammy-winning bluegrass album, "The Crow: New Songs for the Five-String Banjo," Martin is all serious.

A banjo player for 45 years, Martin says he wrote all 15 tracks on his album, which spent a year atop Billboard's bluegrass charts. The previous tour included stops in Charlotte, but the band's Web site listed none so far this time around.

Other Carolinas dates are planned for this tour, including MerleFest, the annual tribute to the music of North Carolina's own Doc and Merle Watson. The band plays solo performances there on April 30 and May 1 and with Martin on May 1.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The importance of agriculture

At different times over the years, we have highlighted some of North Carolina's agricultural successes. But it is easy to think that we are in a state of flux (literally); to look around, especially in the Triangle (where I live), one would think that North Carolina is primarily an urban state and that farms are disappearing.

Well, Congressman Larry Kissell* writes in the Richmond County Daily Journal that we must remember our agricultural roots. They do, after all, run very deep. And economically speaking, farming is still essential.

"What farmers provide to our nation is invaluable," writes Kissell. "They put food on our tables, clothes on our backs, provide world-class goods and raw materials for export, represent a significant part of the economy in every state in the Union, and soon may be a key component in lessening America’s dependence on foreign oil. No nation can truly be free and secure unless it can provide for its own food, clothing, fuel and economic stability. So it is no exaggeration when I say that farmers are vital to America’s maintaining its role as a world power.

"Yet, all too often, family farmers are taken for granted. As we enjoy the many benefits of a productive agricultural sector, we should never forget the hard work, and the risk, and the investment, and the skill required to bring these products to market. According to a 2007 study by the USDA, 98 percent of all farms are family farms. The agriculture and farming industry of our State is key to our economic recovery and viability. North Carolina remains in the top three states for the production of tobacco, sweet potatoes, Christmas trees, hogs, turkeys and cucumbers [emphasis mine].

Wow, I had no idea just invaluable agriculture is to the state -- particularly in cucumbers and (still) tobacco. As Kissell writes, farming "has been the backbone of America’s economy since Colonial times; and we must never lose sight of the fact that farms and farmers are an absolutely essential part of our nation’s economy, ecology, and security."

*The Dare Society does not endorse any political candidate.

(Image from

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Bobcats clinch playoff berth

It took six years, but the Charlotte Bobcats are finally in the playoffs. And they clinched their berth by defeating the former Charlotte Hornets, who now reside in New Orleans. (And, in an even stranger twist, Hornets owner George Shinn is thinking of selling his share of the New Orleans franchise.)

The 'Cats were up by 26 at one point in the third quarter. Somehow, they squandered it to trail by eight.

"Good teams don't let those things happen, but they also extracted themselves from what would have been a real mess when D.J. Augustin, who grew up in the Big Easy, made a huge 3-pointer with 15 seconds left," writes Rick Bonnell.

"This victory, combined with a loss by the Toronto Raptors, clinched the playoffs, since the eighth-place Raptors and ninth-place Chicago Bulls still have a game remaining. Since one has to lose, the Bobcats' 42-36 record gets them in."

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Filming heating up in the Port City

The Wilmington area is getting busy with several new TV shows and a (not-so) new movie being filmed there.

A new TV pilot called "Playing With Guns" is slated to start filming soon. "If the show is picked up it will air on Spike TV," says the Star-News.

Danny Masterson (“That ‘70s Show”) and Joey Kern (“Cabin Fever”) will likely star in “Playing With Guns,” according to TheWrap. Its story line revolves around two high school buddies who become cops. They do the police work, but they also like the idea of getting paid to hang out, carry loaded weapons and hit on women.

We have already mentioned the as-yet-untitled medical drama from John Wells that is filming around Wilmington. But since then some new names have joined the cast, notably UNCW alum Skeet Ulrich and Sissy Spacek. As the paper's Jeff Hidek writes, having Spacek on board means that the "project’s chances of pick-up are slightly better." I would agree.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, Spacek will play the cancer-stricken leader of a mobile medical team that travels around the country helping in times of emergency. Spacek will play the mother of “Twilight” actress Rachelle Lefevre’s character.

Spacek, who just wrapped a winning supporting role on “Big Love,” is the biggest name in a cast that also includes Janeane Garofalo, Skeet Ulrich, Amy Smart, Michael Beach and Jay Hernandez.

By the way, Spacek has worked here twice before, on “Marie: A True Story” in 1984 and “Crimes of the Heart” in 1986.

Ulrich will play a Harvard-educated cardiologist with a junkie ex-wife he still loves and a 6-year-old daughter.

And, finally, "Bolden" is back in the area and will begin filming in June.

"Bolden!” follows the life and times of musical legend Buddy Bolden, who turned the New Orleans music scene upside down with his loud, often improvisational cornet style that would later be known as jazz.

The movie filmed in the Wilmington area from March through September 2007 and gained notoriety in the local film community for its elaborate sets and costuming. The movie is rumored to have cost $10 million. Writer/Director Dan Pritzker was reported by Forbes magazine to be worth $1.7 billion in hotels and investments.

Notable cast and crew include Anthony Mackie, Jackie Earle Haley, Omar Gooding and executive producer Wynton Marsalis. No word yet on if any of the main cast members will be back in town.

While “Bolden!” was filming, the cast and crew also simultaneously made a silent film called “The Great Observer,” which focuses on Louis Armstrong's role in jazz history. It's still listed as being in production.

Duke triumphs; no C-Indy-rella this time

A month ago, you might have thought that the Duke Blue Devils would reach the Final Four of men's basketball. But very few saw Mike Krzyzewski's team having the weapons and depth to get past a Kansas, Syracuse, Kentucky or even West Virginia.

Well, not only did the Blue Devils survive and advance (and destroy the Mountaineers in the process), but they also edged out a scrappy yet talented Butler team in the Bulldogs' hometown of Indianapolis. With the 61-59 win, Duke earned its fourth national title.

"Duke didn't play perfectly on the final night of the season," writes Dan Wiederer. "But as they had all season long, the Blue Devils played hard and together and operated with a champion's composure. The only problem was that Butler played the exact same way."

Heck, even after the game Coach K was in shock.

"It's hard to imagine that we're the national champions," he said.

The win puts K -- already in elite territory -- in uber-elite territory.

"Near speechless in the wake of his fourth NCAA basketball championship, the Duke coach on Monday night joined the late legendary Kentucky patriarch [Adolph Rupp] as No. 2 on the title list," writes Caulton Tudor.

"Only former UCLA coach John Wooden has more - a lot more. Odds are no one will match Wooden's 10 titles, but Krzyzewski and Duke have pulled even with Adolph Rupp, whose Wildcats teams ruled in 1948, '49, '51 and '58"

Not bad company.

To paraphrase Wiederer, Duke is back on the mountain top of college basketball.

"Somehow, the fairy tale ending had become all theirs."

(Photo by Chuck Liddy, N&O)

Monday, April 05, 2010

The sad fate of the Carolina parakeet

Bill Bryson, in his book, A Short Guide to Nearly Everything, writes that the now extinct Carolina parakeet was "arguably the most striking and beautiful bird ever to live in North America."

I had heard about these wonderful birds (actually, parrots) before, but had never paid much attention to them until I came across that passage that describes their emerald green bodies with golden heads.

"[A]t its peak it existed in vast numbers, exceeded only by the passenger pigeon. But the Carolina parakeet was also considered a pest by farmers and easily hunted because it flocked tightly and had a peculiar habit of flying up at the sound of gunfire (as you would expect) , but then returning almost at once to check on fallen comrades."

Obviously, behavior like that can only hold for so long. The last wild Carolina parakeet died in Florida in 1904, while the last captive one died in the Cincinnati Zoo in 1918.

Unfortunately, that lowly last majestic bird, named Inca, was stuffed.

"And where would you go to see poor Inca now? Nobody knows," writes Bryson. "The zoo lost it."

The N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences in Downtown Raleigh has a copy of an Audobon depiction of the bird (pictured). And Wikipedia alludes to stuffed specimens at the Raleigh museum and of one in Germany.