Cabarrus Chamber CEO takes 25 percent pay cut

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 12, 2011

By Scott Jenkins
KANNAPOLIS — As the Cabarrus Regional Chamber of Commerce works on a deal sell its headquarters, the organization’s top executive has taken a 25 percent pay cut, and other employees are taking unpaid leave.
It’s all part of the organization’s effort to make up for revenue lost as members give less to the chamber and the departure of a tenant leaves a hole in its budget.
John Cox, the chamber’s president and CEO, said his pay cut is in effect for the months of September through December.
“It’s nothing that any business owner wouldn’t do during these difficult economic times to keep their business going,” Cox said Tuesday. The Post previously reported that Cox, who also heads the Cabarrus Economic Development Corp., makes $163,000 a year.
Meanwhile, four other chamber employees are taking 20 unpaid furlough days by the end of the year. And the chamber is negotiating the sale of the building at 3003 Dale Earnhardt Blvd. that has been its headquarters for more than a decade.
The chamber told members in August that it might have to put the building up for sale.
The Cabarrus Convention and Visitors Bureau, which had been a tenant since the building was constructed, moved out in September and formally opened Tuesday at its new location on Bruton Smith Boulevard in the bustling area between Charlotte Motor Speedway and Concord Mills.
That move puts the visitors center closer to the county’s tourism hot spots, but it cost the chamber $60,000 a year. Cox called the Visitors Bureau’s rent “an important part” of the chamber’s budget, “and when that went away, it changed our financial model.”
A commercial appraisal pegged the value of the chamber headquarters at $2.6 million, and the organization owes about $980,000 on the building. In August, the chamber told members it could sell equity to investors, identify a buyer, or list the property with a commercial real estate broker.
“We have a prospect, and we are working with this prospect until the end,” Cox said. “If we sell, good. If we don’t, we’ll turn it over to the commercial broker.”
Cox said he hopes the sale will close by the end of the year and that the chamber can remain in the building as a tenant.
Another blow to the chamber’s finances is that even as membership is growing, businesses are choosing less expensive levels of participation. Cox said a recent membership drive netted 157 new members, and a study found the 1,100-member Cabarrus chamber the largest non-metro chamber in the region.
Still, Cox said, “as the economy turned, they let loose of less cash, so they still belong but they may not be paying $5,000 a year; they may only be investing $1,000 a year.”
The chamber has been feeling the effects of the recession and sluggish recovery for a couple of years. Cox took a 20 percent reduction in pay for the entire year of 2009, and no chamber employee has had a raise since then.
Contact Scott Jenkins at 704-797-4248.