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Charlotte

Business lacks team spirit 

Panthers. Bobcats. Checkers. Knights. Few weekends pass without Charlotte sports fans having something to buy tickets for, and that’s not counting NASCAR, golf and other events. Queen City businesses face similar choices about where to spend sponsorship money. Given all that, a football team for UNC Charlotte might be akin to having too many players on the field.

Still, a feasibility committee has recommended that the school field a team in the NCAA’s Football Championship Subdivision — formerly Division I-AA — in 2012, moving up to the Football Bowl Subdivision, I-A, in 2016. Increasing student fees by $300 would cover most of the $7.7 million needed each year for staff, scholarships and additional money for women’s teams required under Title IX. But the university also would need $60 million to $75 million to build a 30,000-seat stadium. Support from the business community is essential, yet so far companies have shown less enthusiasm than students and alumni.

In a survey of 70 Charlotte executives who support sports, nearly half described their level of interest as “low to minor.” About half wanted more details before they would commit. Others noted they already have commitments to other college teams. Despite the concerns, Max Muhleman, the sports-marketing executive who conducted the survey, says proponents should be encouraged because the idea wasn’t rejected flat out. “It’s difficult because there is still so much that is unknown. Without details to offer them, it’s really about asking whether the idea was something they liked. On balance, I’d say the responses were positive.”

UNCC Chancellor Phil Dubois will recommend to the Board of Trustees by June whether student fees should be increased to accommodate the program. Though a student-government poll found 78% of students favored football, former UNC system presidents C.D. Spangler Jr. and Bill Friday blasted it, telling faculty it would hurt the school’s academics. At this point, Dubois would be hard-pressed to use the business community as a tiebreaker. As one exec responded when asked if his company would make a financial commitment, “My initial reaction was to say probably not, but if it would help, I’d buy a few tickets.”

Beer will be par for the course

Tradition holds Benjamin Franklin once quipped that beer was proof God loved us and wanted us to be happy. Now Gastonia officials are hoping suds will bring in a few extra Benja¬mins. In March, the City Council voted to sell beer at Gastonia Municipal Golf Course. Along with an increase in fees, the move is meant to reduce — at least slightly — the $250,000 to $400,000 a year needed from taxpayers to keep the course open. Course manager Richard Duffie says when he surveyed other public courses, he found beer sales brought in an average of $15,000 a year. High-traffic courses, such as The Tradition in Charlotte, made as much as $56,000.

GASTONIA - Swift Galey planned to close its plant here by the end of March, idling about 250. The Atlanta-based textile maker blamed Asian competition, as it did earlier this year when it cut 150 of 525 employees at its fabric plant in Marion.

CHARLOTTE - Duke Energy spent $2.8 million last year to lobby federal lawmakers on energy issues. That broke its record of nearly $2.2 million in 2005. Duke lobbied on 31 bills last year, most concerning global warming.

CHARLOTTE - Bank of America and Wachovia cut stock grants for their CEOs after disappointing results in 2007. Ken Lewis of Bank of America received a restricted stock grant of $4.3 million, a 60% decrease from the year before. It also cut his stock options. Ken Thompson of Wachovia didn’t receive a stock grant for 2007, but he received more stock options than in 2006.

CHARLOTTE - Continental Tire North America plans to move its headquarters next year to Indian Land, S.C. About 300 employees will move with the company, part of German auto parts maker Continental AG. A 160-employee factory and warehouse will remain here.

CHARLOTTE - Charlotte-based Wachovia, which outsourced some human-resources functions in 2005 to Hewitt Associates, is bringing them back in-house or sending them to other vendors. The transition could take 18 months, and Wachovia hasn’t said why it was done or how it will affect employment.

CHARLOTTE - First Charter will lay off 28 employees at its headquarters to prepare for its acquisition by Cincinnati-based Fifth Third Bank. It has no plans to lay off any more of its approximately 1,100 employees. The deal is expected to close in the second quarter.

CHARLOTTE - Ruddick plans to open 15 Harris Teeter grocery stores this year. That will give it 182 stores in seven Southeastern states. It opened 19 stores in 2007 and 16 the year before.

LINCOLNTON - Robert Bosch Tool plans to close its local plant by the end of the year, letting go about 230 workers. The plant makes bits and other tool accessories. The company, based in Mount Prospect, Ill., says the closing will not affect its distribution center, which employs about 180 in Lincoln County.

CHARLOTTE - State regulators gave Carolinas HealthCare System permission to expand Carolinas Medical Center-Pineville by nearly 100 beds to 206. The $174 million project is slated for completion in 2013. Regulators also approved Carolinas’ plan for a $17 million free-standing emergency clinic, which is scheduled to open in Kannapolis during 2009.

CHARLOTTE - The U.S. National Whitewater Center planned to begin charging admission of $5 per car this month. It has struggled to raise enough revenue to repay $38 million in loans used for construction. It had a $1.3 million operating shortfall last year.

CHARLOTTE - Sonic Automotive, which operates more than 170 car dealerships nationwide, plans to buy Mercedes-Benz dealer Beck Imports of Charlotte. Terms of the deal, ex¬pected to close by the end of March, were not disclosed. Sonic says it will keep Beck’s 140 employees.