Charlotte metro leaders hope to map regional growth plan


That was the buzzword on most everyone's lips Tuesday at the Cotton Factory in downtown Rock Hill. Scores of government, economic development and business leaders gathered during a four-hour forum titled Connect, designed to help put the Charlotte metro area on a path toward a regional growth plan.

"Only weeds grow naturally," said Dora Martin, chairwoman of the Catawba Regional Council of Governments. "We must take action to be successful."

Organized by the Centralina Council of Governments and the Charlotte Regional Partnership, the event aimed to gather actionable suggestions on how the Charlotte metro area could unite as one region. Needless to say, ways to manage growth, transportation and environmental concerns were the hot topics.

"It's imperative we find ways to work together by taking action for the good of the region," said Polly Jackson, chairwoman of the Regional Visioning Task Force. "We have the dots ... now it's time to connect them."

But amid the cheerleading, some real challenges became evident.

Unlike neighboring Atlanta, Columbia or Raleigh, N.C., the Charlotte region is divided by a state line, making some regional progress a challenge. For example, folks at Tuesday's meeting named transportation as a major issue facing the region.

But as Charlotte builds its shiny, new light rail line, there are no plans for that system to cross the South Carolina line -- despite the thousands of commuters who travel north on Interstate 77 in cars and gas-guzzling SUVs every day.

Another quandary is the near-constant competition for industry within the region. Because South Carolina's economic incentive packages often differ from those in North Carolina, neighboring counties often are pitted against each other.

But instead of acknowledging such challenges Tuesday, organizers urged participants to ignore the possible roadblocks and to just think freely.

Certainly, the collaboration of parties from across the region to develop a regional vision can be beneficial to growth planning and management. There's also much to be gained when people are allowed to think of ideas without stopping at boundaries.

So, it will be interesting to see what kind of consensus the forum, and others like it during the past week, reached when a report is released at the end of March.

When Marshville, N.C., Mayor Franklin Deese said, "It's time to make the state line disappear. We are one people in one region," you have to wonder what the elephant in the room must have been thinking.

Who's calling? Ask your PC

Being bothered to check your caller ID screen while trying to surf the Internet no longer has to be a concern. Rock Hill-based Comporium Communications recently unveiled its newest service, Caller ID on PC.

The new technology allows Comporium high-speed Internet users to see who's calling their home phone line without leaving the computer. A box with the name and number of the incoming caller pops up on the screen to notify the user.

"Convergence of technologies -- in this case, local telephone service and high-speed Internet -- is what people can now experience," said Glenn McFadden, Comporium vice president of operations.

I remember when "convergence of technologies" meant unplugging the phone line and dragging the modem cord from our family computer across the kitchen to the phone jack so I could dial-up my Juno e-mail account or use Instant Messenger.

McFadden said Caller ID on PC is similar to the Caller ID on TV service launched a few years ago. The new service is free to anyone already purchasing caller ID, the company said. The software can be downloaded at calleridonpc.

Fill up on pizza

Popular Charlotte pizza parlor Fuel Pizza tossed its first pies in Rock Hill on Tuesday. By Friday, the restaurant, with its filling station motif, already was generating buzz from its Manchester Village location.

Cravings for Fuel Pizza have been drifting around Rock Hill since last year, when the Charlotte chain announced its plans to open in the former Roly Poly sandwich shop, next to Moe's Southwest Grill.

Etc ...

• Bennish Brown executive director of the Rock Hill/York County Convention and Visitors Bureau has been elected to serve on the Southeast Tourism Society Board of Trustees.

• Linda Gainey of Homes in the Piedmont and Coldwell Banker United has been awarded the Accredited Buyer Representation designation by the Real Estate Buyer's Agent Council of the National Association of Realtors.

• The SE Brown Company recently was honored with the Pinnacle award for 2007 by the Home Builders Association of South Carolina for outstanding craftsmanship in the construction of quality homes. The company won for its entry of the "Yorkgate" living concept plan at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Mark Caskey of Lake Wylie. The French country cottage is a four-bedroom, 3 1/2-bath, brick home with stone accents.