At the Core of Community Involvement
Bringing New Prospects to an Old Mining Town
Just days after Bank of America, the nation’s largest bank, named Brian
Moynihan as its new chief executive in January 2010, bank officials invited
Art Gallagher, president of Johnson & Wales University’s Charlotte Campus
to meet Moynihan at an economic development conference it was sponsoring. It
was a courtesy call with a message. Bank of America, headquartered in Charlotte,
considers JWU an important part of its home community.
“They feel very invested in the success of Johnson & Wales University in
Charlotte,” says Gallagher.
With good reason. Eight years ago Bank of America was leading a revitalization
of the Charlotte business district. But the area needed an infusion of residents
— people who could bring life to the city after dark. Major corporations
such as financial services giant Wachovia and international food service corporation
Compass Group, joined Bank of America to convince JWU to consolidate
two smaller campuses in Charleston, S.C. and Norfolk, Va., into a larger campus
The assumptions made about the university’s economic impact proved
correct. Businesses in Charlotte and elsewhere in Mecklenburg County have
enjoyed an infusion of spending on goods and services that topped $14 million
in fiscal 2009. Today more than 2,400 students are enrolled in the downtown
campus, bringing life to an area that once rolled up the sidewalks after 5 p.m.
“It’s clearly safe to say that Johnson & Wales was one of the most significant
economic development projects for the city of Charlotte that we’ve ever landed,”
says Tony Crumbley, vice president of research at the Charlotte Chamber of
Commerce. “You can come here on a Tuesday night at 9 p.m. and the streets are
full of people. Five years ago at 7 p.m. it was dead.”
JWU employs about 215 full- and part-time workers on its Charlotte
Campus, along with 364 part-time student employees. Nearly 40 percent of
those regular employees — not including student employees — live in Charlotte
or elsewhere in Mecklenburg County.
But while there was an assumption about economics in Charlotte,
there was also an expectation that Johnson & Wales would become an active
participant in the community. Bank of America donated land for the
JWU campus and Compass committed to hiring graduates. That caught
the attention of people in North Carolina.
“Charlotte is a place that’s all about active participation and good
citizenry,” says Gallagher. “You can’t just move here, show up and do your
job. Our leadership team and faculty serve on many boards. Our students
are engaged in community service.”
During the 2008–2009 school year, students, faculty and staff at the
Charlotte Campus provided nearly 19,400 hours of community service
with 35 partner organizations in the community. At local elementary
schools, university students work as classroom aides, tutors and mentors
in after-school programs.
Since opening in fall 2004, the school has collaborated with the
Mecklenburg County Health Department to develop a culinary training
program that helped 30 cooks at local child care facilities learn how to
prepare healthier meals. It has played host to 250 residents of five
Charlotte shelters in the Holiday Meal for Our Neighbors in Need. And
JWU has a longstanding relationship with the Second Harvest Food
Bank. Together they run an annual Kid’s Café Junior Chefs Cook-Off, in
which 20 youths can experience cooking in culinary labs and presenting
competition dishes to a judging panel, in front of family and friends.
“They’re a wonderful resource,” says Kay Carter, executive director of
the Second Harvest Food Bank of Metroliner. “They help us with lots and
lots of projects, almost all related to children. One of our goals is to end
childhood hunger, and they really embrace that as a goal as well."
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