1. The Great Recession: A Tale of Two Charlotte-Area Companies

    Former Bank of America CEO Hugh McColl told me once that banks are really nothing but a mirror of the world around them. “If your bank is doing poorly,” he said, “your country is doing poorly.”

    If you believe that, then it’s easy to look at his bank’s share price and see what happened to America, financially, starting in late 2007. When the recession hit, BofA’s share price went down and, while it’s steadily been climbing, is nowhere near what it was in the salad days of the early 2000s.

    Likewise, Family Dollar has seen its share price steadily grow since taking an initial hit at the beginning of the Great Recession. The company, which has thousands of stores across the country, has actually done well during the economic downturn — the logic being that if people have less money to spend, they start shopping at places where prices are lower. Places like Family Dollar.

    As the economy comes back, the company’s share price is heading down. It’s not all about the economy. In a release, CEO Howard Levine said Family Dollar’s 2nd Quarter results “did not meet our expectations,” and blames increased competition as well as the bad winter weather. Now, the company says it’ll close 370 stores and cut jobs. Its already slashed the workforce at its corporate headquarters in Matthews.

    Stock prices are, at best, an imperfect measure of a company’s health. But the tales of these two Charlotte-area companies gives at least a passing glimpse as to what people did with their money as the economy went from good to bad.

    -Jeremy Markovich


  2. The Charlotte Knights: As The Population Went Up, Attendance Went Down

    The Charlotte Knights moved from Dilworth to Fort Mill in 1990 for a variety of reasons, namely then-owner George Shinn’s dispute over the building of a new ballpark in Charlotte, as well a big wet kiss from Fort Mill that came in the form of property tax breaks. So for 23 years, there was no professional baseball being played in the Queen City. So what happened?

    As the above chart shows, attendance dropped over the last 20 years, even as the population of the Charlotte metro area steadily grew. The Knights drew a record average attendance of 5,879 fans per game in 1993, their first season in the AAA International League. But by last year, average attendance dropped to 3,803 fans per game, the lowest in the IL, even lower than last year’s average attendance for the Single-A Greensboro Grasshoppers (5,489/game), which have a downtown stadium that opened in 2005.

    The Knights will play their first game at the new BB&T Ballpark in uptown Charlotte on Friday. If nothing else, the location will help. The average minor league team draws from 20 to 25 miles away, so by placing the ballpark closer to the center of the Charlotte metro area, the Knights should be able to draw fans from northern suburbs like Huntersville, Concord and Mooresville that might’ve considered Fort Mill too far away in the past. National baseball consultants “conservatively estimate” that the team will draw 8,333 fans per game this season. We also conservatively estimate that the view from new stadium will be much nicer than it was in Fort Mill, assuming you consider skyscrapers more impressive than trees.

    -Jeremy Markovich


  3. She’s taking the Miley Cyrus cancellation pretty hard.

    [h/t @kjridley]



  5. The Charlotte Bobcats Almost-Hornets are heading to the playoffs for the second time in their history, thanks to an overtime win over the Cleveland Cavaliers Saturday night. With five games to go, Charlotte sits one game above .500. If the playoffs began today, they’d be a seven-seed, and would take on the Indiana Pacers in the first round. So how good are these Bobcats, when judged by Bobcats’ standards?

    They’re AMAZING. The above chart shows the Bobcats’ win percentage, by year (specifically, the year the season ended). The only year the Bobcats finished above .500 was 2010, when Charlotte piled up 44 wins, made their first playoff appearance, and were promptly swept by the Orlando Magic. To hit 44 wins this season, the Bobcats would need to win all five remaining regular season games.

    Just for historical perspective, the Charlotte Hornets first made the playoffs in 1993 and went on to make seven playoff appearances during their 14 seasons in Charlotte (The Hornets moved to New Orleans in 2002, and are now known as the Pelicans, thus allowing the Hornets nickname to return to Charlotte after this season). The Hornets first won more than 50% of their games in 1993, and remained above .500 for their remaining ten seasons in Charlotte.

    Bottom line though, this Charlotte Bobcats squad is special. But judged by half-priced-pizza standards, they’re practically hall-of-famers.

    -Jeremy Markovich

    UPDATE (4/7/14, 3:05 p.m.): This bonus chart compares the Hornets and Bobcats head to head. As you can see, the Bobcats were slightly better in seasons 2-4:

    UPDATE (4/7/14, 5:10 p.m.): One of the Bring Back The Buzz guys wanted to know whether more people show up when the Bobcats are winning. In theory, this should be easy to figure out — just plot attendance numbers next to win percentage and have a look:

    But here’s the problem. The NBA calculates attendance as tickets distributed, not tickets sold, nor, you know, the actual attendance. So if the Bobcats give away a ticket to somebody who never shows up the game, they count. Hence, Time Warner Cable Arena is always at least 3/4 full on paper, regardless of whether people actually show up for the game.


  6. What Does $20,000 In Cash Look Like?

    Susan Stabley of the Charlotte Business Journal brings up an interesting point about the FBI complaint that accuses former mayor Patrick Cannon of public corruption: If an undercover FBI agent posing as a developer showed up at the Government Center in uptown with a leather Fossil briefcase with a $20,000 bribe for the mayor inside, wouldn’t security guards have, at least, searched the briefcase and found the cash? While it certainly isn’t illegal to walk around with a briefcase full of money, you’d think it would’ve set off some red flags.

    And while it sounds impressive, 20 Large isn’t really all that… large. The above video shows $20,000 broken down into the largest possible denomination: 200 $100 bills. The weight is around 0.4 pounds, although as you can see, there is still enough cash there to fan about, possibly next to your ear.


  7. vizual-statistix:

    Unlike like Emperor Kuzco, I was actually born with an innate sense of direction.  If you’re like me, and you use the Sun to navigate, you probably appreciate cities with gridded street plans that are oriented in the cardinal directions. If you know that your destination is due west, even if you hit a dead end or two, you’ll be able to get there. However, not all urban planners settled on such a simple layout for road networks. For some developers, topography or water may have gotten in the way. Others may not have appreciated the efficiency of the grid. This visualization assesses those road networks by comparing the relative degree to which they are gridded.

    To generate the graphic, I first calculated the azimuth of every road in ten counties (plus one parish and D.C.). I tried to choose consolidated city-counties to keep the focus on urban centers, but for larger counties, I opted not to clip the shapefile to the city boundary. All calculations were made in a sinusoidal map projection using the central longitude of the area of interest. I then graphed the angles on rose diagrams (wind roses) using bins of 5° to show relative distributions for each area. The plots were scaled such that the maximum bar height was the same on each rose. To ensure rotational symmetry in the plots, each azimuth was counted twice: once using the original value and once using the opposite direction (e.g., 35° and 215°). As such, all streets, regardless of one-way or two-way traffic, were considered to be pointing in both directions.

    The plots reveal some stark trends. Most of the counties considered do conform to a grid pattern. This is particularly pronounced with Chicago, even though much of Cook County is suburban. Denver, Jacksonville, Houston, and Washington, D.C., also have dominant grid patterns that are oriented in the cardinal directions. While Philadelphia and New York are primarily gridded, their orientations are slightly skewed from the traditional N-E-S-W bearings. Manhattan is particularly interesting because it has a notable imbalance between the number of streets running the width of the land (WNW to ESE) and the length of the land (NNE to SSW). New Orleans and San Francisco express some grid-like forms, but have a nontrivial proportion of roads that are rotated in other directions. Downtown Boston has some gridded streets, but the suburban grids are differently aligned, dampening the expression of a single grid on the rose diagram. Finally, the minimal geographic extents of the grids in Charlotte and Honolulu are completely overwhelmed by the winding roads of the suburbs, resulting in plots that show only slight favoritism for certain street orientations.

    Data source: http://www.census.gov/cgi-bin/geo/shapefiles2013/main

    Script for azimuth calculation: http://www.ian-ko.com/free/free_arcgis.htm

    This might explain why Charlotte’s so hard for outsiders to navigate.


  8. We don’t condone this. Not at the Epicentre. Not during the St. Patrick’s Day Bar Crawl. Not anywhere. Not anytime.

    [h/t Reddit/r/Charlotte]


  9. No Smitty, no peace.


  10. See the whole audited financial statement here.