Charlotte Chambers new focus is inclusion

The 136th annual meeting included Rick Hendrick receiving the Citizen of the Carolinas Award and new chair Andrea Smith discussing the dramatic changes to come in 2017

NASCAR owner Rick Hendrick was awarded theCitizen of the Carolinas Award at the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce 136th annual meeting at the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

CHARLOTTE — About 2,000 members of the Charlotte business community met Tuesday evening at the NASCAR Hall of Fame for the 136th annual Charlotte Chamber of Commerce Meeting. The event included roundtable discussions, presentation of the Citizen of the Carolinas Award and chair gavel exchange.Bob Morgan, Charlotte Chamber president, regarded 2016 as a successful year for economic development with the creation of 4,600 new jobs and $381 million in capital investment. Despite success, the opening Year in Review discussion noted setbacks.”The chamber has worked very diligently to curb the economic loss that has resulted [from House Bill 2). … Additionally, we’ve had overwhelming success with the passage of three bond referendums that provide nearly $214 million dollars to transportation, affordable housing and neighborhood improvements,” said Angie Vincent-Hamacher of Robinson Bradshaw law firm.Morgan noted, “We don’t shy away from controversy; that would be the easy path and we don’t limit what we care about to just business and climate. We know that business will prosper when the entire community is healthy.”NASCAR owner Rick Hendrick was presented the Citizen of the Carolinas Award. Aside from owning Hendrick Motorsports and Automotive, Hendrick is a key contributor and philanthropist in the Charlotte community. After Hendrick was diagnosed with leukemia in 1996, he formed the Hendrick Marrow Program which has donated millions to charities including Together We Feed Charlotte, and the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Hendrick and his wife, Linda, helped start Levine Children’s Hospital by donating $3 million to the pediatric intensive care unit with ongoing donations totaling $4.5 million. The Hendrick Automotive Group is the largest privately owned dealership in the country, employing 10,000 people in 14 states.”It’s all about the people,” Hendrick told the audience while thanking the business community for putting in their time, effort and hard-earned money to transform Charlotte into a first class city. “God has blessed us, God has blessed this city,” he said.For 2017, the Chamber plans to undergo a sort of makeover spearheaded by new chair Andrea Smith with the theme Together for Tomorrow. Smith described it as responding to events in the community, including ongoing issues like homelessness, poverty, education and lack of affordable housing. Smith said no new programs will be created, instead leveraging current ones.”The biggest theme that came out was inclusion, making sure all voices are heard not just those in the room,” Smith said. A membership task force was also brought in to evaluate the Charlotte chamber.Morgan said 2017 changes include: inclusion, measurable value for investors, relevant programming that’s “not your father’s chamber of commerce,” economic development as a holistic approach, and opportunity for all.The chamber has also adopted a new motto: “Connect, innovate and grow opportunity for all who do business in Charlotte.”