BizWorthy: Mecklenburg County's New Health Directive Raises Questions For Businesses
Mecklenburg County's health director issued a directive this week: "Utilize full-virtual options for school and work over the next three weeks." That threw a wrench in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools' plan to resume in-person classes next week. But what does that mean for businesses? In this week's BizWorthy, the Charlotte Ledger's Tony Mecia joins us to shed some light on that.
Lisa Worf: Good morning, Tony.
Tony Mecia: Good morning, Lisa.
Worf: So, first of all, what is a directive and how binding is this?
Mecia: It really sent a lot of businesses struggling to kind of figure out what that meant. Does that have the force of law? What should they do? And in the news conference Wednesday, (county Public Health Director) Gibbie Harris said, look, we want to get people's attention with this. We want to put it out there and get people to take it seriously. It's not binding. Businesses and people have to make their own decisions. We're in a very critical stage with COVID, so businesses and people, just do the right thing, basically.
But there's no enforcement mechanism to it. But I think it's a way to get people's attention and shake them and try to make them take it seriously. But it leaves businesses kind of wondering, well, what does that mean for me?
Worf: Well, many businesses that can go remote have remained so. So how big of an impact will this be?
Mecia: Well, that's true that there are a lot of people working from home. There are also a lot of businesses where people are going into the office maybe once or twice a week. And then there are, of course, the whole classification of jobs where people sort of have to go into work, where the nature of the job is not being at home.
There are questions, I think, about gyms, barbershops. I mean, these were all places that were closed under stay-at-home orders, previously. Now you have the health director saying, "We don't think people should gather to have recreational activities together." I mean, if I'm a gym, I kind of look at that and I would look at that kind of seriously and say, well, should I keep my business open, just blow off the advice of the health director? Or do I close and forgo all this revenue?
So I think while you're right that there are a lot of people that work from home that it doesn't necessarily affect, there are some businesses, I think, that it does create some questions for.
Worf: In-person dining, too?
Mecia: Gibbie Harris did say that restaurants, right now they're at 50% capacity. If they want to take it lower, she thinks that would be a good idea. Now, she doesn't have the political backing to be able to actually force that to happen. But that's her advice, is that to the extent possible that you avoid restaurants, that you avoid gyms, that you avoid shopping malls, airports -- all these places that are still open and legally allowed to be open. She would just prefer that people not go there.
Worf: Now, it's been a long time since fans have set foot in the Spectrum Center, but it sounds like the Hornets are gearing up for a renovation there and they're curious about fans' responses to something they're calling "loge boxes."
Mecia: Yeah, it's l-o-g-e. We've discussed how do you pronounce that? You know, you see it written, but how do you pronounce that? These are premium seats that other NBA arenas have put in. And basically what they are is they're sort of like mini suites. You get access to a club, you get maybe preferred parking. It's maybe, say, four to six seats instead of a suite that's 15 to 20 people.
The Hornets sent out a survey to season ticket holders last week, Lisa, in which they were breaking down in very specific numbers, with renderings, what these things look like, where they're located in the arena. The backdrop here is that the Hornets and the city have been negotiating about upgrades to the Spectrum Center. It's a city-owned property, but obviously the Hornets are the main tenant and operate the building.
Worf: And now to the University City area. Health insurer Centene is building its East Coast headquarters here and it could employ up to 6,000 people. They're trying to make it easy to access the light rail from their headquarters. The only thing is the site is three miles away. So, what's been bandied about?
Mecia: It's sort of an issue that comes up in University City and in other places in Charlotte, where in University City, you have a bunch of big office parks, but the light rail line doesn't go to all the office parks. So how do you connect them, is the question. So the city, at its retreat this week, assistant city manager Tracy Dodson told the city council that the city is working with Centene to develop a driverless shuttle that would connect Centene's campus -- which is under construction -- to the J.W. Clay light rail station.
So it sounds sort of futuristic. I don't think there's anything like that in Charlotte. But there are not a lot of details, no discussion of cost or how it would break down.
Worf: And lastly, I hear last week was Holly's birthday.
Mecia: If you've talked to anybody at Wells Fargo and ask them about Holly, they will start laughing. This is something, sort of a cubicle culture, sort of a thing, Lisa, where everybody's been on these huge email lists where someone hits "reply all." That's cute when you work in an office of dozens of people. But Wells Fargo has more than 250,000 employees. One of its employees, Kim, was wishing Holly, a happy birthday. Somehow wound up cc'ing thousands and thousands of Wells Fargo employees.
And then came all the reply alls, more than 200 reply alls. This is last Friday, clogged up people's email boxes all afternoon. One person said, "First it was funny, then it was annoying. Then it became funny again." So everybody, I think, at Wells Fargo had a good laugh about it. The company tweeted about it. There was people selling merchandise, it was trending on Twitter, all kinds of stuff. So, you know, it was, I think, a fun time for Wells Fargo -- which in the last few years hasn't had a lot to smile about.
Worf: That's the Charlotte Ledger's Tony Mecia. Thank you, Tony.
Mecia: Thanks, Lisa.