Challenges for 2016, A Year After Being Named #1


Demand for homes in Apex has become very strong — annual population growth for 2016 may exceed 8% by year’s end and stay strong for 2-4 more years. So what are we doing in response?

We just hired a new plans examiner just to keep from getting further behind processing the sudden wave of construction permit applications. Apex will need to manage growth more closely than ever. Quality of life is a critical element of Apex livability and we are working hard as a team to ensure we don’t lose it.

To that end, we are focused on 1) minimizing traffic impacts, 2) ensuring business balance and 3) preserving nature. The Peakway extension, Olive Chapel / Kelly Rd intersection and TIAs for new development address traffic impacts. The 2030 Land Use Amendments and Economic Development pursuits address business. Tree City USA planning, funding parks and extending greenways address our commitment to nature.

And finally, our downtown is our crown jewel, so we will continue to invest to keep and preserve it, hosting events and festivals there, while supporting our unique small-town character businesses.

As more people decide they, too, want to live in Apex, your local government is working hard to manage the demands that come with being the #1 Best Place to Live in America for the past twelve months. Thank you for allowing us to serve you. We continue to welcome and value your inputs.

It’s best at The Peak!

Lance Olive, Mayor

March 13, 2016 – Downtown Apex Parking


When I ask people “What’s so great about Apex?”,”The Downtown” is given more than any other answer. Indeed, the rejuvenation of our central business district over the last 15 years has been a wonderful thing to witness, and has become the envy of many other North Carolina towns. The tenant occupancy rate stays above 95% and people from miles around make specific trips just to experience the home town feel.

But when I ask, “What’s wrong with our downtown?”, I hear “Not enough parking.” Indeed, employees alone account for an estimated 75 vehicles, while customers added another 50 to 200, depending on the time of day and day of the week. Every time the town figures out how to add a few parking spaces, they are filled immediately.

The most obvious solution is a parking garage. But those are hideous to look at.

Do parking decks have to be ugly?

My suggestion, which I put before the council at our March 4 retreat, is to plan and fund a Stealth Parking Deck on the site of the Saunders Street parking lot. I define this as a structure, perhaps 3 levels, that functions like a parking garage on the inside, but looks like a renovated warehouse, row of shops or even apartments on the perimeter.

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Town of Apex Public Parking Lot on Saunders Street

And if the façade is constructed using reclaimed brick and a “sloppy mortar” technique, the building can instantly look like a restored 100-year-old building that visually fits in perfectly with our existing downtown.


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Imagine this look on the outside of a working parking deck

On March 4, during the priorities exercise at the retreat, the council expressed strong support of an idea such as this, where it received a vote from 5 of the 6 elected officials, and was the favorite idea for 2 (strong support considering there were 50 ideas competing for only 15 votes and 1 gold star per council member).

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A fake “row of shops” could be constructed on the front of a parking garage

Our population grows by 150 people every month. The citizen demand to be downtown will only grow. What better way to support our downtown businesses and provide for our citizens than to put a downtown parking solution on our 3-year plan, fund and build it? Do you like the idea of a Stealth Parking Deck?


Money from the Dead

Government Taking Money

US Government: Taking money from the dead

The San Jose Mercury News has reported that a very wealthy client has taken out life insurance policies worth a world record 201 million US dollars, spending at least 5% of that in annual premiums. Financial experts attribute just one likely motive — to mitigate and/or avoid estate taxes upon death.

The United States has had a federal estate tax in place since Congress passed the War Revenue Act of 1898, the purpose of which was to raise funding for the war with Spain following the sinking of the USS Maine in Havana Harbor, Cuba. The Republican who proposed the original House of Representatives bill #10100 to fund the war favored fair public participation via sales taxes. The Senate Democrats, however, along with a few Republicans, made several amendments that added an estate tax to the bill. For the past 115 years, countless Americans have paid those taxes on their demise.

Despite the Supreme Court’s finding that these estate taxes are constitutional, we should ask if they are a good and fair way of raising revenue, and if the law should be finally be repealed.

Much of this debate centers around the definition of fair taxation. The conservative approach focuses on everyone’s participation through consumption, or sales taxes. The more one purchases, the more one pays, using a percentage of the price to determine the taxes owed. By contrast, the liberal approach is to tax the rich Americans at a higher rate, taking a disproportionate amount (due to an increasing rate) based on their possessions. And the least objectionable way to do that is to tax them when they die.

At this point, you might be saying, “Yeah, but this estate tax only applies to the super wealthy.” But first consider how you would respond to this approach if the law did apply to you, a middle class citizen.

Imagine this scenario: Your parents are driving down to Florida for a nice beach weekend together and have an unfortunate and fatal accident. The probate comes through and your tax attorney informs you that you have inherited all their possessions, with a net worth of $100,000. By today’s standards, that’s not a lot, but it’s something. Then he says, “But you need to pay the federal government $23,800 immediately.”

If you would object to the government taxing your parents at their death, and putting you in the position of having to sell some possessions in order to get the IRS off your back, then you should object, out of principle, to this same approach being applied to the wealthy. This country is founded on equality and this should apply to taxation as well as rights.

Today, the estate tax applies to all US citizens, with a 5 million dollar exemption and a 35% tax rate. When structured correctly, the proceeds of the life insurance policy go directly to the beneficiary, rather than the estate, and therefore can be excluded from estate taxes. This is most certainly what the mystery record-setting policy holder has done to avoid, or significantly reduce, the amount of federal “death taxes” to be paid.

Attempts to use regulation to take from the rich are often thwarted by clever financial advisors and legal experts, even when the objective is to wait until someone’s demise. Once again, the middle class gets hurt by this attempt and the attorneys cash in.

So is it time to eliminate the federal estate tax? Consider the following countries who have recently abolished it:

  • 1972 Canada
  • 1979 Australia
  • 1981 Israel
  • 1985 India
  • 1992 New Zealand
  • 2005 Sweden
  • 2006 Russia
  • 2006 Hong Kong
  • 2008 Singapore
  • 2008 Austria
  • 2014 Norway

In America, the government already taxes our property and our income while while we’re alive. And it’s difficult enough to deal with the passing of our parents when it happens. Let’s work to eliminate the estate tax and stop taking money from the dead.

Raleigh Council Mulls Restricting Business

Raleigh Council Member Wishes to Clamp Down on Signs

Raleigh Council Member Wishes to Clamp Down on Signs

If a business owner wants to put a sign in his window, should he be allowed to put that sign there and exercise his right to advertise his business in a manner that’s not a public nuisance?

The city of Raleigh found out about one business’ use, or intended use, of an electric-powered sign placed in the window in order to attract attention to their real estate business.  And the planning board of citizen advisors and planning department staff are now looking into the possibility of tightening up the sign laws.

The placement of signs in the windows of a business is a practice long supported by free American business people for 250 years.  And despite this history of free enterprise and exercising private property rights, council member Thomas Crowder has gone on record citing his desire to “make Raleigh more attractive”, mitigate the “safety risk if police cannot see within a business” and address lit signs that “are like the sun”.  In other words, he’s making a case for regulating the type and amount of signage in a shop’s own windows.

Mr. Crowder goes too far in citing these as valid reasons for writing the new regulations. Mr. Crowder, do you wish to regulate signs out next to the road right of way?  Fine.  Keep them, low, static and safe for drivers.  It’s understandable to try and prevent the NC 17 and 24 effect that Jacksonville and the surrounding areas suffer, with so many billboards and lit signs.  But you want to stop a shopowner from putting signs in the window of his store?  Hands off our business. Government should stay out so long as it’s not a public nuisance or patently offensive.  When you say people complain about signs that are “bright like the sun”, your hyperbole belies the fact that you know down deep you’re overreaching and need to resort to exaggeration and emotion to gain support for your regulation.

The matter is expected to be presented to the Raleigh city council in one to two months.

Should electronic window signs be considered OK in the city limits?  Or are they the first step on the slippery slope of becoming “too Vegas”?

3 Reasons Facebook’s Whatsapp Acquisition Makes Sense

Facebook Acquires Whatsapp for $19B Cash and Stock

Facebook Acquires Whatsapp for $19B Cash and Stock

Does $19 billion sound like a lot of money to spend on a simple chat app? The highly touted acquisition has made the rounds of news journals, chat shows, business sites and social media. Many pundits cry dot com gloom-n-doom once again, and most of them are ignoring the upside. Here are 3 three reasons why Facebook’s acquisition of Whatsapp makes good business sense.

1) The deal only cost the company $4 billion in cash. Plus stock, yes. While it’s technically accurate to call this a $19 billion deal, we’ve got to remember that Facebook only had to fork over 21% in cash. The rest is given as a stake in the FB ownership. And even though doing so dilutes the value for shareholders, the company puts itself at less risk by holding onto as much cash as possible.

2) It builds the subscriber base.  The failure of MySpace (not dead yet, but one foot in the grave) showed us that taking the existing subscriber base for granted, while failing to innovate and acquire, leads to extinction. Facebook’s worldwide subscriber base has, for the last four quarters (Q1 to Q4 2013), been 1.11, 1.15, 1.19 and 1.23 billion respectively. Having Whatsapp on board at Facebook is both offensive and defensive — it ensures that the users who are there primarily to keep in touch don’t abandon Facebook for a competitor like Whatsapp, which has a better chat system than Facebook’s Messenger.

3) It helps Facebook penetrate the mobile space. Facebook started life as a web site, then it become more portal-like, with apps and games. But their revenue model was just maturing as more users began spending time on their mobile devices. Meanwhile, Facebook has struggled to create a mobile user interface that works well and is easy to navigate. Add to that their mobile ad revenue is now more than 50% of total revenue, so embracing the mobile market makes sense.  Whatsapp is only mobile and, whether it becomes integrated with Facebook Messenger or remains separate but compatible, the acquisition ensures subscribers stick around to generate traffic and attract advertisers for Facebook, Inc.

By spending as little cash as possible, boosting their total subscriber base and getting their mobile game on solid footing, Facebook gives themselves a good chance at success.  Monetization will come if they keep their subscribers happy and execute their ad-selling strategy smartly.  Sure there are risks, but perhaps the leadership has learned a thing or two from the dot com bubble.

They’ll keep selling ads as long as we keep coming back.  I don’t see myself closing my Facebook account anytime soon, do you?

4 Valentine Arrows in Your Brain

Advertisers Fire Valentine's Day Arrows Into Your Brain

Advertisers Fire Valentine’s Day Arrows Into Your Brain

Fellow Men:  For the last several days on television, have advertisers been firing arrows at your brain, hoping you’ll buy their products?  After all, you don’t want to be “that guy” that buys something lame, or worse, nothing at all.

One says skip the candy, because she’ll ask if she looks fat.  Another says skip the flowers, because they die in a few days.  What’s a guy to do when these companies are marketing directly at you mind, hoping to convince you to spend your money on their product, and telling you that doing so is the surefire way to get through Valentine’s Day unscathed.

These 4 advertisers seem to be spending lots of marketing budget doing just that.

1) Vermont Giant Teddy Bear – For only $99 you can give her a 4-foot tall teddy bear that “she will love because it will remind her of you when you’re not there.”  The funniest part of this TV commercial is when the man is getting his hug and mouths (to the camera) in slow motion, “Oh yeah…”  But ask yourself if this kind of gift really makes sense.  Don’t believe the marketing hype.  It’s not the size of the gift.  It’s what thought you put into it.  Chances are this will go over with more of a quizzical look that the same elated face as the actress on the commercial.

2) ProFlowers – It’s hard to go too wrong with flowers, but wouldn’t it be better to go pick them out yourself, than to order off the internet?  Besides, if you don’t know what flower your lady likes, shouldn’t you find out first?  So make a note to ask her randomly this June and make a note of it.  Then you’ll be prepared for next year.

3) 800-Flowers – Originally set up for phone orders, these folks contract with local flower delivery shops.  Word to the wise… they local shops don’t always deliver what’s ordered, sometimes different, sometimes smaller.  Buyer beware.

4) Pajamagram – Adult HoodieFootie purveyor.  Really?  You should really watch this commercial multiple times and break it down.  Analyze it.  They are appealing to your… let’s be honest here… hope that there will be some intimate times soon to follow.  If that doesn’t set off your alarm bells that you’re being targeted as a sucker consumer, I don’t know what will.  If you’re going this route, go with a gift card to a store that sells similar items and let her pick out what she wants, not what you want.

These advertisers’ arrows are aimed directly at your brain because they know that men are notoriously bad at Valentine’s Day, or at least are highly self-conscious about it, and we tend to either be oblivious to that fact, or aware and anxious that we’ll get it wrong.  But you don’t need those ads… the secret is not that complicated.

Pay attention to her all year so you know what she likes, change it up a little bit every year, and never ever forget to include a card that expresses how you feel about her.  And it never hurts to start the day off with breakfast, or at least, all of last night’s dishes clean.

“…be intoxicated always in her love.”  — Proverbs 5:19

Do you think you have better plans than falling for a TV ad?

President Obama Forgot To Check With GM

General Motors Pays Record High for CEO Mary Barra

General Motors Pays Record High for CEO Mary Barra

Is it possible that the President of the United States of America can’t keep track of which companies he’s bailed out and how they are doing?

It’s good to see that President Obama was wrong about gender-bias in corporate leadership.  In January, he cited statistics that women earn less than men in the same jobs.  But General Motors has announced that its CEO, the first woman top executive of a car manufacturer, does not, in fact, make less than her male predecessor, but makes considerably more.  And good for her!

Mary Barra, with certain goals met and incentives, could take home a cool $14.4 million in 2014, as compared to Daniel Akerson’s $9 million last year.

What glass ceiling?  What gender gap?  None here.  The president misstated the facts.  Or, at the least, he forget to check the status at the Detroit auto maker he helped to bail out.

Should she get paid less money?

4 Reasons To Get Your MBA While In Your 40s


“Why in the world are you going back to school at this point in your life?  I couldn’t do it!”

I heard this many times during the nearly 4 years I spent taking online classes nights and weekends to get my MBA Plus at Gardner-Webb University.  All this while working a full time job during the day, and I started when I was 45.  Believe me, it’s not easy, and it takes serious commitment, but it can be done.  But why did I do it?

Here are the 4 reasons I got my MBA while in my 40s.

1) I gave myself career options.

I needed a change.  It’s that simple.  The walls were closing in on me, working for a large corporation that, while great for the first 8 years, began a disturbing trend of outsourcing and pigeon-holing that convinced me to be intentional about my future.  I was motivated to begin studying for the GMAT at night and investigate MBA options.

Unlike previous generations, very few mature workers perform the same job for 30 years and retire from the first company that hired them.  Most workers who are nearing retirement can divide their career history into segments where they went through significant turns in their career path.  Dissatisfaction, boredom, stress, layoffs and personal events lead to 1 out of 5 workers planning to make significant job change each year.  Boosting your education, whether you get the support of your employer or not, will give you career options.

2) I built on my work experience.

I spent 16 years as a software engineer, 1 year as a product manager, 5 years as a manager, 3 years as a project manager and 4 years as an elected official.  During that time, I was exposed to a wide variety of aspects to what I was doing, why it mattered to my managers, how it impacted customers and how I could make a difference.  I learned the machinations of the world of business by experience, and greatly desired to understand why so many things were done the way they were.

From the moment I cracked the spine of my first text book until I turned in my final term paper, I found every chapter somehow relatable to my quiver of experience arrows.  Reading textbooks had never been so interesting as when I had “Ah ha!” moments every couple of pages.  Doing assignments was never so easy as it was drawing from work situations spanning my entire then-20-year career — never mind that the teachers will love you because you’re their ideal, mature student.

3) I boosted my morale.

Let’s face it… the proverbial mid-life crisis is not a mythical adventure.  It’s a scary series of moments where you walk in a slump, feeling out of shape, and you wake up in the middle of the night because you dreamed you had become instantly old and irrelevant.  I watched a lot of late night TV with insomnia due to these experiences.  I even cried a couple of times from the stress.

But instead of buying an expensive convertible that would leave me feeling empty and unfulfilled, I put my money towards higher education.  Each time I got an “A” on an assignment, test, term paper or final exam, I slept a bit better that night and walked a bit taller the next day.  I realized that anyone who would disparage me, simply didn’t know me well enough.  Because now I had evidence at the end of every semester that I’m quite capable of more than I thought.  And man, was that a shot in the emotional arm.

4) I set a studious example for my college-age kids.

With a bit of anguish, I watched both my kids end high school and start college with a bit of “I got an ’80’ and I’m content” attitude.  As always, I’d ask, “Wouldn’t you like the next test (or paper) to be a ’95’?”  For some reason, “I don’t know… I guess so” wasn’t the response I was exactly looking for.

Realizing that the “do as I say” approach doesn’t carry the weight that the “do as I do” method does, I made sure my kids saw me turn off the TV at 7:30 to go study for 4 hours every night.  And even though I’d spend a couple of hours with them on Saturday and Sunday, I spend most of those days also studying.  But when I showed them the results, I was able to ask, “How do you think I got this ’98’?”  The obvious answer came back, “You studied every day.”

“Correct,” I encouraged.  “You can do likewise.  You just have to want it.”  Lesson taught; lesson learned.

When you’ve lived 20 years as a professional, you’ve built up all this work experience, you think you might want to do something different, you’re dragging around contemplating your relevance and your kids no longer need you like they did before, this is the perfect time to pursue your MBA — in your 40s.

Your Reputation Lingers


Last summer I introduced myself to a stranger as we were sitting and waiting in the public area.  “Hi.  I’m Lance.  How are you today?”  He replied, “I know who you are.  My brother lives here and we’ve talked about you.”   “Uh-oh,” I thought.  “This could be bad…”

Thankfully, the next words out of his mouth were, “He says you are a good guy to know.”  That was quite nice to hear, and I was a bit embarrassed, but I think I moved deftly past that and asked him to tell me about himself.  Afterwards, I reflected on how that conversation could have gone.

Your reputation is one of the most valuable intangible assets you possess.  Like a shadow, it goes with you everywhere.  Like water spilled from a bucket, it spreads and covers a lot more ground than you might expect.

Your reputation not only precedes you, it lingers long after you’re gone.  Leave something for your children that they will cherish more than your money — your good name.

Choose a good reputation over great riches, for being held in high esteem is better than having silver or gold.

– Proverbs 22:1

Excellent Service is the Key to a Thriving Business


Last year, our company took on a new customer and agreed to deliver a set of services during a specific timeframe, at a given price. The project had some problems, mostly due to the customer initially understating their need and changing the requirements mid-stream. Even though it was difficult for us, and we let them know this, we honored the agreement and helped them, even when no one else was in a position to do so. We didn’t let them down and we didn’t take advantage of them, even when they had no other good options.  They came back to us a month later for their next project.

Your business needs customers to survive. But no business can survive without repeat customers. Customers will come to you the first time for many possible reasons: low prices, good reputation, selling what they need or being in a convenient location. Customers will come back if they get good service. That might mean they received their product quickly, or that the service was delivered promptly, with high quality.

When you are proactive in letting customers know the status of their order or service project, when you honor agreements and pricing, when you help them get out of a difficult situation, and when you don’t “nickel and dime” them, they appreciate that level of service. At the end of a successful business transaction, they will remember that you gave them what they wanted, when they wanted it, and at the price they can be happy with.

This is what brings customers back, over and over.  Repeat customers bring repeat revenue for your company and create a baseline of income for your company.  Then when you add new customers on top of that, you get growth and a build a company that not only survives, but thrives.

Commit yourself to excellent customer service and watch your company thrive.