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REGIONALREPORT Charlotte

Going to the movies at the mall

In July, the Charlotte City Council agreed to buy 80.5 acres of buildings and parking lots at Eastland Mall (cover story, October 2009) for $13.2 million. The city plans to flip the shuttered shopping center to private developers who would turn part of it into studios and soundstages for the region’s growing film industry. Boosters believe that will spur surrounding development and create construction and restaurant jobs — every set needs catering, right? — in a section of the city that has fallen on hard times. Patrick Mumford, a former council member who runs the city’s Neighborhood and Business Services, says there’s been a lot of interest but no definite deal since the agreement was reached. The biggest benefit of buying the property is that it would bring most of the mall under a single owner. The property belongs to seven companies, each of which has veto power. The sales contract called for the city to close the purchase by the end of August.


 

Briefs

MOORESVILLENGK Ceramics USA, maker of components for automobile engines, will expand its local plant, investing more than $93 million and adding 86 workers to 540 within three years. The company is a subsidiary of Japan-based NGK Insulators. Salaries will average $38,416 a year, lower than Iredell County’s $37,492.

CHARLOTTE Bank of America will pay $738 million as its part of a $6 billion settlement with merchants, who alleged that MasterCard, Visa and card-issuing banks conspired to fix the swipe fees they charge for each transaction.

GASTONIA Halifax Media named Rick Martin publisher of The Gaston Gazette and the company’s new north division, which includes newspapers in Wilmington, Burlington and Hendersonville. Martin was regional vice president for Irvine, Calif.-based Freedom Communications’ Florida region before Freedom sold many of its newspapers to Daytona Beach, Fla.-based Halifax this year.

CHARLOTTE Charlotte Symphony Executive Director Jonathan Martin left to become CEO of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. Retired Bank of America executive Bob Stickler, a symphony board member, is interim director.

CHARLOTTE — Standard & Poor’s downgraded Duke Energy’s corporate credit rating to BBB+ from A-, citing the utility’s abrupt dismissal of Bill Johnson as CEO after its merger with Progress Energy closed in July (Regional Report, August). The rating agency cited “increased regulatory risk” in North Carolina and Florida and possible integration difficulties in its decision.

CHARLOTTE Chiquita Brands International CEO Fernando Aguirre will step down after the banana giant finds a turnaround specialist to succeed him. The company, which will officially move its headquarters to Charlotte from Cincinnati by the end of the year, is cutting $60 million in annual costs as it copes with declining revenue and profit.