Shared moments have appeal

The Hurricanes' winning streak will help make the community more appealing to newcomers and businesses, says Harvey Schmitt, president and CEO of the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce. Excerpts from an interview with Q editor Jane Ruffin:

Q: Will the Canes' success have any lasting meaning for the community?

A: I think it's a marked time event, in that people will often refer to the Stanley Cup year. I know people refer to 2002 [when the Canes also played for the Stanley Cup] in that way. Folks can -- like hearing a piece of music from their past -- reflect and recall feelings and thoughts that they had the time it was going on.

I recall that in 2002, we were as a nation sort of fighting through the 9/11 situation, and for a period of time the community transcended the sort of feelings that were going on in the nation. We had an opportunity to really have some excitement in the community that was special and different and unique to us and Detroit. I think it has a long-term effect.

Clearly when you're in an environment where first there are 16 teams and then there are eight and then four and then two spread out over a two-month period that the amount of attention the market receives continues to build gradually, and very often it can be an introduction to the market. While we're very fortunate with our collegiate sports in the area and get lots of recognition, it's a little more staccato in its application than it is during a playoff run where you have this constant reminder that it's going on. Having a Stanley Cup finals is like having the World Series or the Super Bowl in your backyard.

Q: How have businesses been able to capitalize on it?

A: From our standpoint, when you are recruiting people or you're recruiting companies, one of the things you want to do is let folks know that there is some pizazz in the market, that there's some excitement. And we've got arguably one of the best places to live in America and one of the best places in the world. But being able to say that you've had a U.S. Open and you've had the Stanley Cup finals twice in five years, that you've got NCAA championships, that you have a regular menu of ACC and NHL, basketball, football and hockey going on in the market is a pretty compelling case.

Q: Is there a concrete payoff, beyond getting recognition out there in the world for the Triangle?

A: There's a concrete payoff, I believe. We live in such a fast-paced society, it's often hard to determine how long anything sticks these days. But in a community like ours, or a region like ours, we have very few shared experiences. Maybe the weather, but beyond that, while we live in the same place or close to each other, we have our own individual experiences.

It isn't until there's some sort of dramatic shared interest, either in the positive or the negative, that you really wind up bringing a community together, and this is one of those unique opportunities for a good thing to happen and for a community to be drawn together. I was in a shop having my oil changed a couple of days ago, and I had a very engaging conversation about the season and the players with the guy who was changing my oil. Finding those common areas of interest across a variety of lines is sometimes difficult, and we're all sharing in that.