Charlotte is now less than a year away from hosting the Republican National Convention – and the planning has begun. Not just by city officials and convention organizers, but people hoping to rent out their homes for big money during that time.
Tony Mecia of the Charlotte Ledger Business Newsletter joins WFAE "Morning Edition" host Lisa Worf with more on that and other news in this week’s Bizworthy segment
Tony Mecia: Well, as you mentioned it's still pretty early, but you have a lot of homeowners in town who are starting to look very seriously at renting out their houses for that week with sort of dreams of making a whole bunch of money — particularly homeowners close in the town.
I think, you know, you're seeing them take a hard look at it. We're seeing a lot of listings go up on Airbnb. Airbnb came out this week and said that so far even though it's early they still have had about 100 houses rented out during the convention and they expect that number to go much higher.
Lisa Worf: So how high are the listings looking at this point?
Mecia: Well, it's really interesting because some people are getting very aggressive on the prices and some of them you sort of look at and you say, "Gosh, $2,600 for a split level house in Beverly Woods near SouthPark. There's no way they're going to get that."
But then there's some houses that are really, really nice big properties kind of close in that you say, "Well, maybe those would be appropriate for some of these bigger groups that don't want to, you know, they don't want to spring for a bunch of hotel rooms."
The other interesting part here, Lisa, is that traditionally in Charlotte we've thought we can't do that well at big events here because we don't have the hotel rooms. That's actually changed a lot in the last few years. Charlotte has added a number of hotel rooms. We have about 30,000 hotel rooms now in Mecklenburg County.
There are also a lot more Airbnb listings than there were the last time Charlotte had a convention in 2012 when the Democrats came. So, there's going to be a lot more options, really, for people who are looking to come here. So, all that suggests that some of these aggressive prices, you know, several thousand dollars a night, that those might not hold up.
Worf: So, North Carolina lawmakers last month approved what are called association health plans that allow small businesses to band together as associations and offer health insurance. When can we expect businesses to start offering these?
Mecia: There was a lot of hope among small business owners that it would be very soon, because small business owners are really getting hit pretty hard on health care costs and they have for a while. In North Carolina, the thinking was, "Well, the General Assembly passed these last month, when can we see these plans?" Unfortunately for people who were hoping for those plans, it's going to be awhile because it is all tied up in a federal lawsuit having to do with the Trump administration's regulations on association health plans.
You have about 12 Democratic states that have sued over the regulations, saying that they don't think that association health plans follow the law, that they're too unregulated by the federal government, so it's going to be at least a year, I think, before some of that is resolved.
You know, I spoke with a number of small businesses for the Charlotte Ledger. They just described health care costs that were just completely staggering. I talked to a small business owner in Matthews — wanted to cover his two employees and their families, said it would cost $54,000 dollars just for the employer portion of the coverage for two employees and their families. And that's to say nothing of the employees' side of it.
These are really costs that are pretty staggering for small businesses and it kind of cuts into the types of salaries and the types of compensation they can provide to employees.
Worf: Now, the Carolina Panthers practice field sprouted a big white covering in June and it soon picked up a nickname.
Recording: Sound from video plays repeating the phrase "Panthers practice bubble."
Worf: As announced in this video, it's now gotten an official name. What is that, Tony?
Mecia: Atrium Health and the Panthers last week have announced a deal in which they would like it to be called the Atrium Health Dome. This is a very architecturally distinctive, shall we say, structure, you know, that's been described as looking like a marshmallow, as looking like a fluffy pillow amid a whole bunch of bank towers.
So, unfortunately for those that maybe like this kind of architecture, it's only going to be a temporary structure as the Panthers are moving their practice facilities to Rock Hill.