As Vaccines Roll Out, Charlotte Businesses Prepare For Return To Normal
COVID-19 vaccines are being rolled out. Even though health officials say it will still be several months before they’re made available to everyone, some Charlotte-area businesses are already planning for when life returns to normal.
For more, we turn to Christina Bolling of the Charlotte Ledger Business Newsletter.
Marshall Terry: Cristina, the Ledger recently reached out to several organizations in Charlotte as businesses plan for life returning to what it looked like before the pandemic. What did they have to say?
Cristina Bolling: Everyone's hesitant to say when we return to normal — nobody knows what that exactly is going to look like. But local businesses that we're talking to say they are planning for and they're really hoping people are going to feel more comfortable going back into their offices, going out to restaurants, more gathering and larger events in the next six months — so really, in the fall.
You know, the bigger employers are a little bit slower to kind of make those statements. They keep pushing back their return dates. Wells Fargo has said its workers won't return until at least April 1. Bank of America said it will give its workers a 30-day heads up, and that hasn't happened yet. Some smaller employers are already starting to kind of bring some folks back. It's a little bit easier to do.
We talked to Brett Gray with a real estate services firm called Cushman & Wakefield, and he was saying that really the status of what schools are doing is huge in terms of their return to more normal times, just because, really for employers, if their staff doesn't have their personal lives in balance, it's pretty hard for them to lean into their professional lives and get back into offices.
Terry: You also report that the hospitality industry is showing new signs of life. How so?
Bolling: Sure. So we talked to a guy named Charles Thrift who is with Thrift (Commercial) Real Estate, and he was saying he's seeing more new leases for restaurants and retail coming up. Also, event planners that we've talked to have said that companies and charities are starting to kind of dip their toes back into traditional events. We talked to one event planner named Jennifer Bishop. She is with J. Leigh Events. And she said she's got some organizations that are planning larger-scale events for this fall.
Terry: Central Piedmont Community College made news this week after a cyberattack on its computer system forced the cancellation of classes. You talked to a cybersecurity expert about what happens when businesses suffer one of these attacks. What did you find out?
Bolling: First of all, these attacks traditionally stem from other parts of the world, and so it's hard for folks here to kind of get a handle on who's doing these attacks and to be able to figure out how to stop them. In most cases, they take down parts or complete systems and they ask for ransom. Could be in the tens of thousands, it could be in the millions. And it really depends on what kind of defenses and preparation these organizations — universities, the folks who get attacked — have had that determines how long it takes these systems to get back up.
Terry: Now, one thing that you asked him that I thought was kind of interesting is, Have these sorts of attacks increased during the pandemic? Have they?
Bolling: The guy that I talked to is with a cybersecurity firm that's based in upstate New York. He said over the past 10 months the work that his company has done has tripled. And he said, really, that's due to the vulnerabilities that have been introduced because of the shift to the remote workplace. When companies have shifted their I.T. departments to create capability for employees to log in remotely, that puts vulnerability into their systems in many cases.
Terry: Let's move on to some development news now. The Ledger reports a developer has proposed a 300-foot-high tower along Kings Drive near Central Piedmont Community College. That's pretty high for that part of town, isn't it?
Bolling: It really is. That is the second tall tower that's been proposed for that area. It is going to be on Kings Drive, where Third and Fourth streets kind of split heading into uptown from Providence Road. If you're familiar with that area, it'll be kind of just outside (Interstate) 277 across from that St. Mary's Chapel that's there.
The rezoning petition says that the developer, Tribek Properties, is envisioning a building for nonresidential, residential and hotel uses. That is going to be a big building for that area. This is the second recent rezoning request for a tower along Kings in the last few months. You might remember that back in November, Northwood Ravin proposed a 285-foot residential tower with 330 apartments. That's going to be at the Metropolitan near the Trader Joe's.
Terry: All right, Cristina. Thank you.
Bolling: Thanks, Marshall.