Automated Bears Back and CDs to the Banks |  WFAE 90.7

Automated Bears Back and CDs to the Banks | WFAE 90.7

The group of robotic bears known as the Leonard Berstein Symphony Orchestra that delighted Charlotteans with holiday music is now back on the bandstand, but not in Charlotte. The Bears were recently banished from their home and Founders Hall at the Bank of America headquarters after more than two decades. For more, we now turn to Tony Mecia from Charlotte Ledger Business Newsletter.

Marshall Terry: Well, Tony. Where is the orchestra now?

Tony Messia: Yeah, Marshall, the Leonard Bernstein Symphony Orchestra has a new gig in Kannapolis. Kannapolis has a Festival of Lights, a holiday celebration that lasts until the end of the month, and the bears have just moved in there after 20 years at Founders Hall. Like I mentioned, it’s a 45-minute set, and you know, kids seem to love it. It’s kind of festive. They tell vulgar jokes and play music.

Terry: Remind us of what happened. Why were the Bears awarded the boot in Founders Hall?

Messia: Well, it’s still a bit unclear. You know, Charlotte Ledger and Nick de la Canal from WFAE, we’ve been asking questions to Bank of America. What’s the deal with bears? They have been here for 20 years. Why are they not here? Bank of America said it’s very committed to other holiday celebrations in and around Uptown Charlotte. He didn’t really say a reason. But, you know, it might not be too much of a stretch to ask, Did someone find them too tacky? Are they, are they a little bit with the times? I think these are perhaps some of the familiar criticisms of robotic singing bears. But, you know, the company that runs the bears has multiple batches of these bears, and they’re able to spread them out to different malls, things like that. So they managed to get a group of Bear Orchestras to Kannapolis. And this is where they will be.

Terry: Good. Well, now switching gears, the ledger reports that the CD is starting to come back. No, I’m not talking about a way to listen to music, but rather about a way to handle money. What exactly is CD and why is it coming back?

Messia: the correct. We’re not talking about your Barry Manilow collection here, Marshall. We are talking about certificates of deposit, commonly known as CDs. These have been kind of out of favor with customers the past few years because with the low interest rates, they get almost nothing back. But now that interest rates are going up, CD rates are going up, too. In some cases, it’s about 4% per year in that range.

Ledger spoke with a number of people in the financial services industry, local leaders, a US bank, and the Sharonview Federal Credit Union. They said they see more customers asking about these. Customers seem to view them as a better alternative than just having money in a checking or savings account. This is certainly true. One of the downsides to CDs is that you lock up your money. You get a promised rate of return, but you don’t have access to that money for a set period of time, usually several months. So if money is what you need, you might look into other options, you know, high interest savings accounts. And of course, there is always the stock market. Mutual funds usually yield better than 4% annually. But, you know, it can be very volatile. As you know, most of the stock indices are down this year. So that’s a little risk some people don’t want to take.

Terry: yes. Looking at Johnson and Wells now, the school has had a veritable game of musical chairs with the leaders in the last seven years with five heads. There is a new leader now. Who is Rick Mateo and what is his goal?

Messia: Yes, Rick Mathew will be the new president of the Johnson & Wales campus in Charlotte. He is currently the Dean of the Business School at Queen’s University Charlotte McCall. You mentioned that there’s been a lot of change in leadership at Johnson and Wells. Domestically, I think a lot of the smaller colleges are having some challenges. I think Matthew is well known in the local higher education community. He will come and help them carry out their mission and vision, Johnson and Wills say, and focus on the school’s commitment to diversity. You know, he’s going to be just another new captain over there at Johnson Wells.

Terry: Well, on to some Matthews news now. New report that the town is getting a pottery garden. Try saying that five times quickly. Tony, what is a pottery garden?

Messia: Yes, I was previously unfamiliar with Matthews’ pottery history. It turns out that the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission has documented that there is a place of historical interest as it relates to pottery in Matthews.

A potter named Rufus Otten settled there in the early 20th century. He built a furnace and studio there. The Historic Landmarks Commission says that at the time, Matthews was a ceramics no-man’s-land, that he was making pottery there and selling it throughout North and South Carolina, and that it is a Place of Historical Significance. Now the town of Matthews is turning it into a park. They call it Otten Pottery Garden, about an acre and a half. It’s near downtown Matthews. And they say it will be kind of like a museum.

Terry: Well, speaking of museums, Charlotte is getting a new museum this week and it’s a little different, right, Tony?

Messia: Yes, it’s a little different from the Pottery Museum. On Friday, there will be a so-called Museum of Illusions opening in Uptown. It’s a private chain of museums opening at the Charlotte location. As the name suggests, it contains a set of optical illusions. And it’s really aimed at people who take pictures and put them on Instagram.

You know, our reporter Lindsey Banks was out there this week, and she had a picture of her head being served on a platter, an illusion. It didn’t really happen. She’s smiling, so we know it’s okay, but there are a lot of things like that. We’re seeing a trend in general towards these selfie museums, museums geared toward people taking pictures of themselves, and posting on social media. So it will be a little different. The Museum of Illusions is open Friday at the Ally Charlotte Center.

Terry: Well, Tony, thank you.

Messia: Thanks Marshall.

BizWorthy’s support comes from the Sharonview Federal Credit Union, UNC Belk Business School, and our members.


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