MATTHEWS – Local business leaders learned more about the steps Matthews is taking to support the local economy and entrepreneurs at a recent meeting of the Matthews Chamber of Commerce.
Mayor Jim Taylor spoke to a crowd at Carmel Baptist Church, discussing the town’s efforts to make Matthews the premier place for people of all ages to live, work and grow businesses through “responsive government and excellent employees,” he said.
“From a business perspective, we want to provide leadership assistance in providing an environment that is conducive to business,” Taylor added, though noted, “I’m a firm believer that it’s not the government’s role to guarantee any business will be successful.”
One project Matthews leaders have had a hand in, which Taylor believes is helping area businesses, is the Mecklenburg County Sportsplex – something Taylor is “stoked” about. As many as 225 teams have used the joint Mecklenburg County/Matthews project so far, Taylor said, with nine major tournaments already and six more planned in the near future.
A total of 66,000 spectators have visited the facility, Taylor said.
“I’m not a marketing genius, but that seems like an opportunity to grab the attention of the 66,000 spectators,” he said.
The town continues to receive interest from developers wanting to move or expand in Matthews, Taylor said, though not every request makes the cut. The town is very specific in what developments are approved, as noted by the Matthews Board of Commissioners’ recent multi-month negotiation with Charlotte Metro Credit Union. The organization has worked with town staff and the board on its proposal to build at 435 N. Trade St., finally gaining approval on June 9 after agreeing to town wishes regarding the aesthetics and usage of the building. Now, the credit union will be two stories, fit into the historic look of the area, allow shared parking during certain hours and include a wine bar while no longer including a drive-thru lane – all things Matthews leaders pushed for to ensure the project fit their vision for that portion of town.
The ability to control aesthetics of projects in town is something Matthews leaders have pushed to maintain as the North Carolina General Assembly considers limiting some local powers. Amy Carr, the executive director of the Matthews Free Medical Clinic who attended Taylor’s discussion, said she appreciates the town’s efforts to “preserve the aesthetics of Matthews.”
Tine Whitley, executive director of the chamber, echoed Carr’s thoughts and concerns, wanting the state to not take control over the community.
“Every town is different,” she said.
That issue remains at the forefront of concerns for Matthews leaders, as does needed road repairs, Taylor said.
“We do have some challenges,” Taylor said. “We have challenges with traffic.”
Many of those challenges are with state-owned roads, which Matthews has little control over. Taylor hopes planned work on some of those roads moves forward quickly, while the town is working on addressing its own road needs, as well (see cover for more).
Upcoming road projects Taylor addressed included:
• South Trade Street, which will be widened and made more user friendly, Taylor said. “We’ve developed most of that road, we’re purchasing the last bits of right of way, and I hope to see construction hopefully by the end of the year,” he said.
• Idlewild Road and N.C. 51, where the town is constructing a roundabout. Although the roundabout was originally supposed to be finished this summer, construction had to be delayed until next summer, and the developers will “need to work the timing of that construction with the schools,” Taylor said. “The first day of summer break, next year, I suspect we’ll have construction on the way.”
• Buckley Way is another road that will likely help move traffic around downtown Matthews, and road crews will hopefully begin construction by the end of 2014, Taylor said.
• Widening of N.C. 51 near Phillips Road will start this summer and eventually modify the area into a superstreet configuration to help move traffic.
• The McKee Road extension should start very soon, Taylor said.