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Each week, WFAE's "Morning Edition" hosts get a rundown of the biggest business and development stories from The Charlotte Ledger Business Newsletter.

Teens In Demand As Businesses Try To Fill Jobs — Plus Ex-Charlotte Financial Adviser Makes John Oliver's HBO Show

Marcel Heil

Businesses around Carolinas are returning to their pre-pandemic operations. But many are having trouble finding adult workers, and they’re now looking to teenagers to fill job openings. For more, we to Tony Mecia of the Charlotte Ledger Business Newsletter.

Marshall Terry: Tony, just how in demand are teenagers right now for some of these jobs?

Tony Mecia: Well, Marshall, they're very in demand. What has happened is a lot of adults are still a little bit reluctant to get back into the workforce. There are a variety of reasons for that — might have to do with lingering fears of COVID or something related to vaccinations or increased unemployment insurance payments, that sort of thing. So, teenagers are able to kind of backfill some of those jobs, and we talked to a number of employers who said they're doing all they can to hire adults, not having a lot of success, so they're turning to teenagers.

We talked to an economist with Gusto, which is a payroll services company, who gave us some statistics that showed that at the beginning of the year, in 2021, in the sport and recreation sector, the average wage in Charlotte was about $10 an hour. That's now up to $13 an hour as some of these employers are doing everything they can to try to get more workers.

Terry: So, because workers are in such high demand right now, that means teenagers who fill these openings can command higher wages than they normally would?

Mecia: Yeah, I think so. I mean, it's just supply and demand. A lot of employers are having trouble hiring workers, and so when that happens, they pull out the stops to try to get more workers by increasing pay, signing bonuses, referral-type programs — you bring in your high school buddy and they'll pay you an extra 50 bucks.

So, they're really doing a whole bunch of different things. You know, you've seen some employers locally have some trouble with that. Carowinds postponed the opening of its water park. It couldn't get enough workers there. You've seen some county facilities have trouble with lifeguards, so they're cutting back on the hours. And, you know, there are a number of fast food places around town that have either cut back on the hours or temporarily closed. They just can't get enough workers, and so a lot of them are trying to turn to this younger set, you know, 16- to 19-year-olds to try to fill some of that.

Terry: Let's turn now to Myers Park Country Club. You've been following a lawsuit filed by a member there, and you have an update on that. What is the update? And remind us, if you will, what the lawsuit is about.

 The Myers Park Country Club is seen in an undated photo.
Google Street View
The Myers Park Country Club is seen in an undated photo.

Mecia: So, this is a lawsuit filed in March by a club member, Mark Erwin, who's a former U.S. ambassador who served under President Clinton. And what he's looking for is financial information from the club about why the club is choosing to do a renovation. The renovation at the country club is a little bit controversial because they wanted to expand the men's only area, the men's grill, into an area that is now a coed dining area, so it's a little complicated.

He's looking for financial records. In a court filing in the last couple of weeks, the club says that it has turned over more than a thousand pages of accounting records as part of that lawsuit. But I talked to Erwin this week, and he said he's not satisfied. He doesn't believe the club has turned over everything that it should turn over to sort of explain itself. And the club told me they've turned over, they think, more than they have to, (that) they've been extremely forthcoming and that they're going to move forward with the renovation.

Terry: Well, what happens with the lawsuit now? What's the next step?

Mecia: Well, a judge will sort that out. The plaintiff, Erwin, the country club member, he says keep asking them to turn over additional financial information and projections related to the renovation, so it'll be sorted out in court.

Terry: We've spoken in the past about the controversial former Charlotte financial adviser Jim Heafner. The HBO show "Last Week Tonight with John Oliver" recently highlighted Heafner in one of its reports.

John Oliver (recording): Take Jim Heafner. Until recently, he was a financial adviser in Charlotte, North Carolina, who was on the local show "Morning Break" all the time and always introduced in very positive terms.

"Morning Break" host (recording): We have Jim Heafner. He is a certified financial planner. He's the president and CEO of Heafner Financial. He's a bestselling author and just an all-around great guy.

Mecia: So, "Last Week Tonight with John Oliver" — it's sort of investigative news, but it's sort of comedy, too. He was looking at the phenomenon of pay-to-play sponsored content in TV and how a number of companies pay TV stations and then have their experts interviewed.

John Oliver (recording): And it's worth noting that Heafner and the film he worked for not only were ordered to pay $1 million in an arbitration case over claims he lost retirees' money, but 22 plaintiffs recently sued him, seeking damages related to the loss of $2.7 million of their investments, with one of them even saying that he trusted Heafner because he believed the longest-running Charlotte station would invite on trusted experts.

Mecia: It was just sort of an example of this business practice by media that gets paid and then turns around and has its anchors interview people to look like news.

Terry: Finally, the Ledger reports one of south Charlotte's oldest shopping centers is finding new life as an emerging sports complex but not with the typical sports that come to mind. What's going on?

 Pickleball's taking off. And it could be coming to a new south Charlotte venue.
John Azeka
Pickleball's taking off. And it could be coming to a new south Charlotte venue.

Mecia: That's a little bit different, the Providence Square Shopping Center, which is off of Providence Road in south Charlotte, has been there about 40 years — used to have a grocery store, that sort of thing. They've now been moving in a different direction, going into some sort of unusual sports — squash, and then they've just opened up a pickleball center where they're going to have people training, playing pickleball and squash. It's a little bit different. You don't see that a lot. Usually you see pickleball at retirement communities where it's pretty popular. But now it seems to be that pickleball is entering the mainstream, Marshall.

Terry: What are squash and pickleball?

Mecia: These are racket sports. Squash is sort of like racquetball a little bit, and then pickleball is more like tennis but on a much smaller court. I've never played it, but from what I understand, it's very popular with a lot of people.

Terry: All right. Well, maybe you and I can catch around one of these days.

Mecia: You're on.

Terry: We'll leave it there this week. Thanks, Tony.

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Marshall came to WFAE after graduating from Appalachian State University, where he worked at the campus radio station and earned a degree in communication. Outside of radio, he loves listening to music and going to see bands - preferably in small, dingy clubs.