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Not getting paid for upfits could sink subs

EpiCentre, with its 15-story hotel, movie theaters, bowling alley, bars, stores and offices, covers a block of downtown Charlotte. Developer Afshin Ghazi estimates it has cost about $180 million. Some subcontractors who have worked on it and didn’t get paid fear it might cost them their businesses.

“It’s been devastating,” says Mike Treadaway, owner of Treadaway & Sons Painting & Wallcovering Inc. in Charlotte. “I have exercised every option that I have as far as borrowing money. I borrowed $50,000 from my line of credit from the bank. I’ve used $5,000 of my overdraft protection on my checking account. Now, to make my payroll this week, I’m going to have to go into my personal savings.”

Treadaway has filed liens against Ghazi’s company, Pacific Avenue LLC, and the general contractor, Lancaster, S.C.-based Advanced Construction & Consulting LLC, hoping to get nearly $60,000 he says he’s owed for work done last winter. “There are so many people that are involved in this. I’ve got a list right in front of me of at least 15 subcontractors that have done work and not gotten paid. And there’s probably another 10 or 15 I don’t even know about.”

Treadaway says he had to cut staff from 25 to six earlier this year, partly because of the sluggish economy, partly because he hasn’t been paid for the work at EpiCentre. This summer, he got some new projects and added a dozen employees but struggled to find money to pay them. Karen Codespoti says her $500,000-a-year business, Concord-based Luna Stone Inc., is out about $50,000 for an installation of quartz in the bowling alley last winter and has laid off four workers. In early August, it was just her and her husband, trying to keep money coming in to pay off creditors. “We’re on the verge of being out.”

Advanced Construction referred questions about EpiCentre to its attorney, Bill Navarro of Charlotte, but he didn’t return phone calls. Ghazi says Advanced Construction was hired by EpiCentre tenants, not by his company, to upfit their space. He says he talked about the problems with Rob Lenderman, Advanced Construction’s vice president of business development. “He told me he had been commingling his funds, and it had gotten him in trouble because he was using money from first jobs to pay for second jobs and so on,” Ghazi says.

Tenants told Ghazi they had paid Lenderman in full. “He failed to pay his subcontractors. So this is an Advanced Construction issue as far as I’m concerned.”

CHARLOTTEDiagnostic Devices will shift production here from China and add about 100 jobs, bringing employment to 150 within a year. The company, which moved its headquarters to the Queen City in 2006, makes blood-glucose meters for blind diabetes patients.

WADESBOROYale Industrial Products plans to spend $3 million to expand its plant and add 65 jobs within three years, giving it about 200 here. The Charlotte-based company, part of New York-based Columbus McKinnon, designs, makes and markets material-handling equipment.

WOODLEAFHooker Furniture plans to close its local Bradington-Young plant by the end of the year. The Martinsville, Va.-based company will transfer production to its Cherryville factory. About 23 employees will lose jobs.

GASTONIA — Greenville, S.C., health-system executive Valinda Rutledge will become president and CEO this fall of CaroMont Health, parent of Gaston Memorial Hospital. Rutledge, 53, will replace Wayne Shovelin, who in February said he planned to retire after more than 20 years as chief executive.

CHARLOTTE — McKay Belk, 52, stepped down as co-president and chief merchandising officer of Belk to take a yearlong sabbatical. When he returns to the department-store chain, he’ll become vice chairman of the board. His brother Tim is CEO and chairman, while brother Johnny is co-president and chief operating officer.

SALISBURYRowan Regional Medical Center hired Melissa L. Robson as chief operating officer, replacing John Pruitt, who resigned in May. Robson was president of Presbyterian Hospital Huntersville.

CHARLOTTEDuke Energy plans to build a wind farm near Burlington, Colo. It will have 34 turbines on the 6,000-acre site and sell the electricity to Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, based in Westminster, Colo.