News & Notices

News from the club and its members and notices.

Welcome to New Members Inducted November 11, 2013

newmembers3web 005From left to right: Nancy Marks, Honorary Rotarian transferring from Wilmington to the Durham Rotary sponsored by Steed Rollins; Del Mattioli, sponsored by Howard Clement III; and Geoffrey Scott Durham, sponsored by Bill Kalkhof.

Program Report: Veterans Day Tribute – Ted Trieble

presenter16webAs our speaker’s story opens, it sounds like the stuff of Netflix, hyped-up war books or even high-rez video games on the I-Pad Air:

Blasted from the sky by enemy “SAM” anti-aircraft rockets on armed escort for a photo-surveillance plane near Hanoi.

Ejected from a doomed F-4 Phantom fighter jet at 550 miles per hour.

Dangling by parachute heading straight into the bomb-ravaged, war-torn landscape of a bitter and determined enemy, Communist North Vietnam.   This was autumn, 1972.

“I remember looking up through the parachute and having a one-way conversation with God,” said Ted Triebel, downed with his co-pilot on mission number 327, hit on the very day that he was originally not even scheduled to fly.  “I knew this was not going to be a pleasant reception.”

For those old enough to remember, our speaker’s presentation at Veteran’s Day lunch recalled hazardous times for armed service personnel that are now only distant memories on CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite.  For Ted Triebel, it happened.  The memory remains, he told a near full house of Rotarians, but better lessons endure.

There was nearly a year of captivity at the infamous “Hanoi Hilton,” months in solitary, interrogations, beatings, and a mock execution within hours of his capture.  He survived.  He got home.  He went on to a sterling career in the Navy with decorations for valor and bravery (he thinks the word “hero” is overused).  He capped his career with stints heading up ROTC at Duke, UNC and NC State, and as head of the U.S. Naval Academy.

Triebel’s message carried an important reminder to be mindful of the sacrifices by veterans on Veterans Day – and he said that he and other vets are enormously grateful for the appreciation.  Yet, the rest of the Triebel story holds for him and others “enduring lessons.” The lessons include still more proof of the human capacity to trump old hatred with new friendship, to forgive, to see that all people love, and aspire to a decent life.  They share common values.  They do move on.

Triebel projected a photograph of him and the former enemy solder who captured him – now warmly embracing him as a friend, smiling a big toothy smile.  The photo was taken during a recent return trip to Vietnam with his co-pilot, Dave Everett.

Early in his captivity, Triebel recalled that he looked back toward Heaven.  He said that he told God he had reconsidered his earlier position in the parachute.  Despite his hardship, he realized that he had, in fact, ejected from the F-4 while it was still hurtling through the air at non-ejectable velocity.  Yet, the ejector seat worked, as did the parachute.  He knew he would survive.  “The good news is sometimes so close to our face that we don’t see it,” Triebel said. “Don’t forget, the good things are close.”

Our thanks to Steed Rollins for introducing a speaker of extraordinary life experience and courage and our thanks to Ted Triebel for a thoughtful reminder on Veterans Day.

(Submitted by Mark Lazenby)

Honoring our own Durham Rotary Club Veterans

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From left to right: Ralph Rogers, Bill Stokes, Bill Lefevre, Bob Yowell, Seth Warner, Wayne Hayes, Ken Lundstrom, Mike Wixted a visiting Honorary Rotarian from Kitty Hawk Rotary Club, Todd Taylor and Craig Reed.

Program Report: North Carolina Agriculture – Dawn Williamson

DawnWilliamsonwebI had the privilege of introducing Dawn Williamson and her program about animal agriculture in North Carolina. Ms. Williamson and her husband run two contract hog farms in Sampson County with a total of about 3000 sows. She also works for Murphy-Brown LLC which is a subsidiary of Smithfield Foods that grows the hogs. She oversees environmental projects and compliance. The primary pieces of Murphy-Brown were large private “integrators” until they were acquired by Smithfield. Murphy-Brown owns about 450 farm facilities and contracts with another 1500 independent farmers like Ms. Williamson to provide the live hogs for Smithfield Foods.

As it happens, during my brief public relations career I did a lot of work for Smithfield Foods and Murphy Family Farms around the permitting and construction of the Smithfield plant in Tar Heel North Carolina. This plant is the largest of its kind in the world. It was a coincidence that it was my turn in the rotation of the Communications Committee to provide this report.

That’s both good and bad. Good because I already know something about the industry and bad because it’s a temptation to just reflect my own experience. Almost 20 years ago when I found out I was going to be working on these projects “down east” I thought I was going to have to hold my nose both literally and figuratively. In fact, that wasn’t the case in either sense.

Ms. Williamson prefaced her remarks by showing a picture of a classic 57 Chevrolet and reminding those like me who are nostalgic about old Chevy’s that it doesn’t even compare with the most basic modern car in comfort, reliability and drivability. The point, of course, is that farming has come a long way too with the average farmer providing food for many times the number of people that farmers fed back in the good old days. This is possible because of technology and specialization. Most farms don’t produce a little of this and a little of that anymore but get real efficient at one or two specialties. Has this destroyed the family farm?

No. Each one of those contract farms in the statistics given above are family farms and it usually means that neither the husband nor the wife has to seek outside employment and hog production is a good substitute for farmers moving away from tobacco. The average farm size in North Carolina is relatively small and not big enough to profitably grow commodity crops like corn. In fact, most of the corn used to feed the state’s 16+ million hogs is shipped in by rail.

By far the biggest issue that the industry has dealt with in the last couple of decades has been the issue of pollution from the waste treatment lagoons. Ms. Williamson pointed out that the pork industry is one of the most highly regulated in the state in this regard and you almost have to see one of these in operation to understand why a properly constructed and maintained system posed little risk to either ground water or “non-point” pollution of rivers and streams. Odor is often a more attention grabbing assault on the senses. I heard a social scientist speaking on the topic once who blamed the completion of I-40 to the coast as the source the industry’s environmental troubles. With reasonable commutes possible from both Raleigh and Wilmington a lot of city folks were buying parcels deep in hog country with no awareness of agricultural smells or the lack of zoning.

Animal treatment has also been an issue. Ms. Williamson pointed out that raising the animals inside protects them from predators and weather. Their diets are also carefully managed. Many don’t realize that market hogs go through several stages into spaces that accommodate their size. Animal cruelty is not tolerated because that’s the right thing to do but also because the animals are more healthy in a less stressful environment. As an executive once pointed out to me, a hog’s life in the “good ole days” was short, miserable and brutal but now it’s just short. The average market hog goes to the plant weighing about 235 lbs at about 6 months of age.

Ms. Williamson shared some information about the economic impact of the industry in North Carolina. It now represents about 23% of income at the “farm gate” as well as much more from the businesses that support agriculture. Learn more about North Carolina pork at the Pork Council’s website http://www.ncpork.org/.  The Murphy-Brown website (http://www.murphybrownllc.com) contains much more information about how this important North Carolina crop is produced. If you have about 45 minutes, this site contains a series of 9 excellent videos about how the animals are raised.

Submitted by Jay Zenner

Program Report: The Carolina Theatre – Bob Nocek

ProgramCarolinaTheatewebClub member Treat Harvey introduced the program, Bob Nocek, who happens to be her boss at the Carolina Theatre.  Bob is the President and CEO of the non-profit organization that manages the city-owned Carolina Theatre complex.  Under his leadership since arriving in Durham in 2010 the theater has thrived. The annual budget has increased from $2.4 to over $3.5 million in the latest fiscal year.  Bob is especially proud to report that the Carolina Theatre turned a profit this past year for the first time since the economic downturn of 2008.  The number of live performances in the Star Series has increased from 25 to 60.  Gross receipts from film showings have doubled over the last three years.

Bob described the twists and turns in his life and career that brought him to Durham.  He grew up in Pennsylvania.  In college he majored in criminal justice and Spanish, neither of which has he ever used in his career.  While in college he worked at the school radio station covering sports.  He became a real newspaper junkie when he was hired by a Wilkes-Barre newspaper as a sports reporter.  Growing bored after covering the Eagles and NASCAR for eight years, Bob switched to the Arts and Leisure pages.

The big break into theater management came when he was recruited to become program manager of the historic, art deco Kirby Center in Wilkes-Barre despite having never booked an entertainment program in his life.  In this new job he was expected to fill the 1800 seats of that venue.  Success at attracting popular star performers led to moving up the management chain, taking him away from the booking that had become his career passion.

At some point Bob was smitten with the idea of moving south.  Maybe Charleston or Savannah.  At the time Durham was “not even on the radar.”  Two convergent forces drew him to Durham.  He saw the exciting things happening in Durham and believed the city had a bright future.  Additionally, the Carolina Theatre presented the intriguing and exciting opportunity to pair film with theater.  The innovation of the new RetroTreasures film series has been a big hit.

Two and a half million dollars in renovations have transformed the 1926 Carolina Theatre into a modern venue including a new state of the art sound system.  One person seated at my lunch table chimed in that he could now understand a film’s dialogue.  Down the road is the full digital conversion in the cinema although Bob says the theater is still committed to film as a medium and will certainly keep the old projectors around.

Carolina Theatre is engaged in serving thousands of area children each year.    With support from several foundations the theater offers an “Arts Discovery Educational Series” for educators and their students at greatly reduced ticket prices.   Productions in this series will appeal to a broad cross-section of K-12 students, including “Charlotte’s Web,” the “African American Dance Ensemble,” and “A Christmas Carol.”

You can learn more about what is happening at the Carolina Theatre by picking up a copy of SHOWtime or visiting the website www.carolinatheatre.org.

Submitted by Allen Cronenberg

New Members October 14, 2013

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From left to right:

Andrew Lakis, sponsored by Arthur Rogers

Forrest Perry, sponsored by Arthur Rogers

Phyllis Coley, sponsored by Don Stanger

Program Report: Paul Newton – State President North Carolina, Duke Energy

dukeenergyFlip a switch and the lights come on.  Rain or shine.  Easy, right?

Yes indeed – if you’re the customer of a power company that knows its game.  But life behind the switch is an entirely more complex undertaking.

As we were reminded at Monday’s lunch, keeping the lights on is an enormous, challenging and at times even dramatic business, especially when two major industry players based in the same state merge to create the nation’s biggest utility.  Recall that Charlotte-based Duke and Raleigh-based Progress Energy married up (to big national headlines and much business buzz) not so long ago.  The marriage produced big-time scale.  That reduces costs passed along to customers, better controls future costs and better positions the new company to master looming industry challenges.

These were among key points delivered by Paul Newton, Duke’s state president of North Carolina, who told Rotarians that size alone “means nothing” to the company.  “We want to be the best,” Newton said.  “We want customers to be proud to be served by Duke Energy.”

Part of his job in helping Duke win that respect is by helping its customers (and many other stakeholders) to see that there are advantages to being hooked up to the Duke wires.  It’s running in excess of 99 percent reliability.  Rates have remained drastically lower than inflation over two decades for virtually all other things we use – milk, for example.  Duke is operating efficiently.

In the capital-intensive, engineering-heavy utility space, it’s often difficult to put things in plain English. But Newton served up a helpful, easy-to-use soundbite on customer prices.  He said that running a typical average residential household in North Carolina on Duke Energy electricity for 24 hours costs people about the same as a latte at an upscale coffee shop.

Duke executives may not consider the sheer size of their company to be a critical metric.  But a lot of us are glad that Duke bulked up.  The company is making an annual state payroll of $1.2 billion.  It’s kicking in annual property taxes to local governments across the state in excess of $113 million.  It’s operating its new “two-utility-but-one-company” generation, transmission and distribution system efficiently, thanks to 13,200 employees who still make the Tar Heel state home.

Unlike some industries, unlike certain other sectors, running a top-tier utility takes uncompromising commitment to community engagement.  Not surprisingly for a large investor-owned utility, the company is investing more than $16 million annually (shareholder money) in charitable and philanthropic giving.  Corporate Responsibility Magazine, a major and respected voice among big American businesses, is placing Duke at #26 on this year’s list of the nation’s top 100 corporate citizens.

“We know for a community to survive, we’ve got to build jobs,” Newton added.  By keeping rates stable, by returning what he said were hundreds of millions of dollars in merger-related savings in fuel costs and operations, Duke promotes development here.  Site Selection Magazine, another premiere voice in the industry that it serves, rates Duke’s North Carolina service area as one of the best to bring in shovel-ready industrial and commercial business, Newton said.  Energy prices for big users are key.

Newton identified challenges facing the company (and the industry) that he admits that he places under the “wakes-me-up-at-night” file.  The environmental rules are changing often and in major ways that add challenge to long-term planning.  Coal-fired stations, the anchor of reliable American electric generation, are being retired and creating need to replace the capacity.  Renewable “green” energy sources are popular with the public and politicians and strongly embraced by Duke.  But “renewables” are still costly to customers, Newton said, and not ready for round-the-clock “baseload” generation vital to running a reliable system through all weather and temperature conditions.

“We’re trying to thread the needle with the company,” said Newton, who also walked us through the company’s programs to teach customers how to conserve energy and be more energy efficient, and to take advantage of its energy-efficient lightbulb giveaways.

Thanks to new club member Indira Everett of Duke Energy, who arranged the briefing and made the introduction.  We’ll look forward to a future update.

 

Submitted by Mark Lazenby