Smart moves: the Charlotte region drives economic development with workforce development, transportation investment and, possibly, a concentrated marketing effort.

Author:Blake, Kathy


The Charlotte region recently added some feathers to its cap. It hosted the Democratic National Convention in 2012. Its NFL team--Carolina Panthers--ended last season at Super Bowl 50. Chinese Ambassador to the U.S. Cui Tiankai visited in late January. It was the first time he spent Chinese New Year away from home or the Washington, D.C., embassy.

The visit highlighted the growing trade relationship between North Carolina and China, the states third-largest export market behind Canada and Mexico. Local leaders court Chinese companies that are reversing a recent trend, seeking to buy or start companies in the U.S. and staff them with American workers.

The ambassador toured businesses and attractions. He met with Gov. Pat McCrory and stopped at Waddell Language Academy, where students in kindergarten through eighth grade master a second language. Some learn Chinese. Later the ambassador praised North Carolina during a speech at a downtown gala. He called Charlotte "an ideal city for business in the U.S."

The ambassador s remarks may have been influenced by the construction cranes that stand throughout the city, which he and his entourage witnessed. They are symbols of the development boom that the Charlotte region has enjoyed since the end of the Great Recession. Economic developers and officials are working to sustain that momentum, and one possibility is bringing together the regions two biggest business recruiters --Charlotte Regional Partnership and Charlotte Chamber of Commerce. "We want to make sure we're firing on all cylinders," says Partnership President and CEO Ronnie Bryant.


The two organizations are reviewing findings from a recent jointly commissioned six-month study that examined a possible partnership. Austin, Texas-based Avalanche Consulting Inc. interviewed more than 100 people to gauge the feasibility of a combined effort for regional economic development. The study's authors affirmed the key selling points that the regions leaders have been touting for years: competitive business location; robust entrepreneurial and innovation environment; large talent pipeline; and a solid foundation that supports business growth.

The consultants also suggested the two groups focus on the five industry sectors that best match the region's strengths and potential. They are advanced manufacturing; financial services; logistics and distribution; health; and information technology. Some of the more tactical recommendations for the region include investing in more sophisticated marketing, focusing more on entrepreneurs, launching a talent attraction and retention campaign, and creating a regional nonpartisan executive council.

Although partnership and chamber boards need to weigh in before a joint strategic economic plan is...

To continue reading