Cary Chamber Intercity Visit to Tampa
Tuesday I joined over 40 business leaders, 3 council members, and staff members in a Cary Intercity trip to Tampa, Florida. Since this was a day of travel, I spent my time connecting with various business leaders and hearing about their challenges. One important theme was that business leaders were all experiencing strong growth and are moving forward with expansion even though some thought there might be a recession.
Wednesday’s first session was with Craig Richard, the CEO of Tampa Bay Economic Development. One of the first things I learned was that Tampa Bay is not just Tampa but includes other municipalities such as St. Petersburg. Mr. Richard pointed out several things which were like Cary. Tampa has experienced a “Brain Gain” rather than a “Brain Drain”. As a result, companies were following talent instead of what we saw years ago when talent followed companies. That is what we see in Cary as well.
The second session was with Water Street Tampa development. After a brief talk we did a walking tour of phase one of their project which included tall buildings in park-like settings. In addition, they were occupied by high end retail or local restaurants. The tenants reminded me a lot of Fenton in Cary. The spaces between the buildings with trees and water features projected a relaxed feeling rather than a feeling of being in an urban setting. This will be very important to implement in our future vertical projects.
For our next session we traveled to the Tampa Bay Rays stadium in St. Petersburg to visit the Gas Plant District. We saw a presentation on the redevelopment project there, which is being done by Hines, one of the partners at Fenton. Their redevelopment project will include a huge mixed-use area as well as a new stadium for the Tampa Bay Rays. A lot of the discussion centered on public-private partnerships and almost all questions were from our business leaders.
Next we traveled to the St. Petersburg Pier to see the waterfront and development along the waterfront. Having iconic spaces for the public to gather is essential. It is my hope that we continue to add those in the future.
At dinner we were fortunate to hear from the Tampa Bay Chamber President, Dr. Rob Rohlack, and from the Tampa Mayor, Jane Castor. The dinner was held at the Columbia which was founded in 1905 and is the oldest restaurant in Florida. The mayor and Chamber President were a delight to talk to and had a clear passion and love for their community as I do for Cary.
The mayor spoke about the importance of listening to the people, working with businesses, and creating great relationships, which is a big part of what I believe. After the mayor spoke to the attendees, I said a few words and presented her with a gift that had the new Cary logo.
Thursday’s first session was with “rithm”, a group that is creating a mixed-use development at an old mall sight in Tampa. Their plan is to keep about half of the mall space and add mixed use development in the space where the other part of the mall use to be. While they had several good tenants, I am doubtful they will eventually be able to fulfill their dream.
One of their tenants was Vu, a state-of-the-art virtual production studio that gives unlimited creative control. The studio’s main area had a wall that could be changed to be virtually anything. They did several examples for us including some with participants in a hospital setting. Looking at the monitor, you could not tell that it was virtual. They also showed a movie clip that had several scenes which they shot at very little expense in a very short time. It looked very real, and I see this transforming the movie industry because it will allow movies to be made quicker and cheaper. One cool note is that they used Epic Games’ Unreal Engine to build this. Two infamous people that have worked in their studio were Tom Cruise for the Top Gun sequel Maverick, and Tom Brady for an advertisement.
Our next session on Thursday was the CEO of Tampa Bay regional partnership, Bemetra Simmons. She presented a detailed breakdown of data collected for the Tampa Bay area which showed their strengths and weaknesses and how they compare with other metro areas. Cary gets that kind of data from Michael Walden, from NC State, and Ted Abernathy, an Economic Development, Workforce & Strategy consultant. The main difference was that Ms. Simmons and her team were very active with the state legislature working for change.
Our last session on Thursday was in Ybor with developers, brokers, city planners and the chamber president. They talked about the Gas Worx Mixed Use redevelopment project that they were planning. It is a huge project that will take a great deal of public-private partnerships. With Tampa’s growth and the location of this project, I see this as being very successful. It was a great example of redevelopment which Cary will see a lot of in the not-too-distant future.
This was a great trip. Not only did I create new relationships but strengthened others. I carried home a lot of ideas which I am sure we will explore in the future. A HUGE thank you to the Cary Chamber for creating this visit for the business leaders, staff, and a few of the Cary Council.
North Carolina Metro Mayors
Friday the North Carolina Metro Mayors held a meeting to hear a summary of the week’s activities in the legislature. Here is a summary from KTS Strategies:
Thursday, May 4th was the crossover deadline for the North Carolina General Assembly 2023-2024 long session. Crossover is the date by which a bill must pass its chamber of origin to remain eligible for consideration for the remainder of the biennium. Exemptions to the crossover deadline include Constitutional amendments, redistricting, election laws, nominations and appointments, adjournment resolutions, and bills with a finance or appropriations provision. A high volume of bills passed through each chamber this week to meet the deadline. To date, 745 bills have been filed in the Senate and 895 in the House. Only 12 bills have become law so far this session.
This week, House and Senate leadership announced an agreement on abortion legislation for North Carolina. S20, Care for Women, Children and Families Act, was released in a conference report Tuesday evening. The bill was heard in a Joint Rules Committee meeting Wednesday morning before being passed on the House floor Wednesday evening with a vote of 71-46. After a lengthy floor debate in which every Democrat rose to speak in opposition, the Senate approved the bill Thursday afternoon with a vote of 29-20. S20 will now be sent to Governor Cooper for consideration, but he has pledged to veto the legislation. Both legislative chambers now hold veto-proof GOP supermajorities after Mecklenburg County Representative Tricia Cotham switched her party affiliation from Democrat to Republican last month. Current NC law bans abortion after 20 weeks gestation unless there is a medical emergency after the Roe vs. Wade decision was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court last year. This bill proposes the following changes:
- Abortion permitted for any reason through the first 12 weeks of pregnancy;
- Allow abortion through 20 weeks in the case of rape or incest;
- Allow abortion through 24 weeks for life-limiting fetal anomalies; and
- No limit when life of the mother is at risk as determined by a licensed physician.
The bill also includes nearly $160 million in funding for maternal health services, adoption care, contraceptive services and paid leave for teachers and state employees after the birth of a child.
NC Supreme Court Rulings
Last Friday, the North Carolina Supreme Court reversed previous rulings related to voting maps, voter ID, and felon voting rights. The Court ruled 5-2 that based on the North Carolina Constitution, the courts play no role in determining partisan gerrymandering for voting maps drawn by the NC Legislature. Justice Paul Newby wrote in the opinion, “Our constitution expressly assigns the redistricting authority to the General Assembly subject to explicit limitations in the text.” The Court also reversed a decision on the 2018 voter ID law. A trial court previously struck down the law and ruled it unconstitutional. Additionally, the Court released a ruling reversing a lower court ruling that would allow felons to regain the right to vote once they had finished their prison sentences, even if they had not finished their probation or paid off the fines and fees associated with their punishment.
Read the statements on the rulings from Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger (R-Rockingham), House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland), and Governor Roy Cooper.
Fest in the West
Saturday I joined council member Carissa Johnson at the 7th Fest in the West festival in Brooks Park. My role was to judge the Hillbilly Horseshoe contest. I decided to participate and do commentary. In the end a past champion along with Carissa Johnson defeated me and a police officer. The festival included two stages of entertainment, an arts and crafts village, and a Kids Corral for family activities that included a petting zoo. And there were numerous options for food and beverages that were available. I hope all those in attendance had a great time.
Town Manager’s Report
I hope those of you that traveled to Tampa for the Cary Chamber Inter-City trip this week are making your way back safely. On the home front this week things were relatively business as usual except for heightened attention on our water system. As part of routine utility system sampling, Cary received positive confirmation of E. coli bacteria at a water sampling station located on Airgate Drive in Wake County on the afternoon of May 3. Although isolated, because of the detection of E. coli in the water system, utility systems are required to make notification to its customers, which was sent today at 7:30 a.m. As part of meeting regulatory requirements, 311 collaborated with Utilities to create clear messaging for the website, social media, and knowledge articles to assist citizens. 311 increased staffing levels to support a potential influx of calls, while Marketing quickly distributed information through these channels. At this time, 311 has assisted one citizen with additional information and brought the case to closure. Citizens with questions should contact Cary 311 online at carync.gov/311 or by dialing 311 within Cary limits or (919) 469-4000 from outside Town limits.
I look forward to seeing you all next Thursday at the Quarterly Meeting. There will not be a Council Weekly Report on May 12, because you will be updated on anything timely at the meeting.
Have a nice weekend.
2023 Spring Daze Arts and Crafts Festival
Cary welcomed more than 15,000 visitors to Bond Park for its 30th annual Spring Daze Arts & Crafts Festival. The event featured a broad mix of high-quality North Carolina arts and crafts, local entertainment, delectable food and beverage options, plus a wide range of specialized activities – from sports games to boat rentals on Bond Lake to high-flying zip lines at the Challenge Course. Hundreds of festival goers, including At-Large Councilmember Lori Bush, cycled to the event and took advantage of the complimentary bike valet program. Major thanks to Cary staff and almost 175 community volunteers for producing another safe, successful, and memorable Spring Daze.
Earth Day Lane Activities
At Spring Daze, children had fun raking in leaves and searching in soil for critters and fungi at the Environment booth along Earth Day Lane. Their explorations and discoveries were guided by staff who helped them understand that the foundation of vibrant plants and ecosystems is healthy soils, and healthy soils are built with compost which can be any decaying organic matter, especially leaves.
Additionally, Earth Day Lane celebrated the official launch of Count me in, Cary! Stewardship Strategies for a Sustainable Future. This campaign, available until September 1, was created to educate and generate interest, engagement, and citizen input about their concerns and willingness to act on topics such as supporting the environment and reducing CO2 emissions. So far Cary has received more than 1,000 responses to surveys that will inform actions to create the community’s sustainability and climate action strategy.
Boards, Commission, and Committee Recruitment Opens
Recruitment is now open for our Council-appointed advisory boards, commission, and committee. Cary citizens interested in volunteering their time and expertise to help shape Cary are invited to apply now through June 30 at bit.ly/CaryBoards.
2023 Peace Officers Memorial Ceremony
On Tuesday, the Police Department hosted the 38th Annual North Carolina Peace Officers’ Memorial Day Ceremony at The Shepherd’s Church in Cary. This ceremony is held annually to honor North Carolina’s fallen law enforcement officers who die in the line of duty. This year, officers gathered to honor 11 fallen officers who lost their lives in 2022.
Bike to School Day
On Wednesday, hundreds of students across Cary participated in National Bike & Roll to School Day. This event helps to raise awareness about Cary’s greenways, bike facilities, and sidewalks. It’s also a great start to Bike Month, which has events and opportunities to get involved all month long. Thanks to our partnership with Wake County’s Safe Routes to School, staff distributed water bottles, bike bells, reflectors, maps, bookbags, stickers, and more to six Cary elementary schools who registered for the event.
Choose to Lose Concludes
Human Resources announced the successful conclusion of its Choose to Lose Wellness Challenge, Cary’s 12-week program that netted a nearly 400-pound weight loss among the 75 employee participants who completed the challenge. Together, they focused not only on attaining weight goals, but also on prioritizing their health and well-being by harnessing the program’s tips and tools for healthy behavior change.
Vehicle and Pedestrian Detection Pilot
Traffic Signal System staff partnered with CUBIC to learn about the GRIDSMART System that tracks all road users, including pedestrians, as they enter, travel through, and exit the intersection, extending clearance times to accommodate each traveler or giving back valuable time to vehicles. The Fisheye 3 camera is equipped with high dynamic range technology paired with the horizon-to-horizon view, improving the visibility and accuracy of captured footage. The GRIDSMART camera tracks vehicles into and out of the intersection, providing accurate turning movement counts. The system also provides a virtual pan-tilt-zoom, giving you a traffic management center-like view of the intersection. This technology allows staff access to enhanced real-time information to improve signal efficiency and safety. This pilot will run throughout the summer.
FY23 Traffic Calming – Construction Contract Executed
Traffic calming construction has begun in several areas of Cary. The project contractor, Raleigh Paving, has entered into an agreement with Cary to construct speed humps along Park York Lane, Kettlebridge Drive, Glenbuckley Road, and Henderson Road. Residents of each community were notified and updated on the projects using the Traffic Calming Engagement Hub.
Environmental Advisory Board
Tuesday, May 9
Historic Preservation Commission
Wednesday, May 10
Quarterly Council Meeting
Thursday, May 11
- Several requests asking for a delay the 401 Bypass (this is a CAMPO decision)
- A concern over the new NC House Bill 198 which would allow billboards again in Cary
- Complaints about the Kanoy Property Proposal 22-REZ-13
- A request to pass an inclusion ordinance (already did this last summer)
- An invitation to play in the Senior Tennis Appreciation Day
Next week’s activities include staff meetings, an Atlantic Tire Tennis Championships board meeting, a Cary Senior Housing Symposium, candidate meetings, an Honor a Teacher event, Senior Tennis Appreciation Day exhibition, a MPO joint subcommittee meeting on commuter rail, a council quarterly meeting, and a North Carolina Metro Mayors meeting.
Well, that is all for this week. My next post will be on Sunday, May 14th, 2023. Although I have Facebook and Twitter accounts those are not the best means of communication with me. Please send all Town of Cary questions or comments to Harold.Weinbrecht@townofcary.org and email personal comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.