North Carolina Economic Development Guide

2012

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Case studies The Wells Fargo Atrium and other venues have added to the nightlife in downtown Charlotte. Convention CEO Stephen Kerrigan says party leaders consider Charlotte a model city for its ability to thrive during hard times. model for the rest of the country, particularly in the way it has thrived through the current tough economic stretch. Forbes recently ranked both Charlotte and Raleigh among the top 10 American cities for economic growth. "Charlotte and this state in particular teach us that you can create opportunities and help rebuild the middle class and celebrate the hard work of middle-class Americans by strengthening education, technology, research-and-development and entrepreneurship." In their bid to the Democratic National Committee, Foxx and Rogers stressed the region's ever-shifting dynam- ics, what the mayor describes as "the unique way in which Charlotte and the entire state of North Carolina have been successful in reinvention from a heavily agrarian state to a state that is now growing in finance, energy, health care, higher education and so many other areas." But is Charlotte ready for all the visitors and media attention? "The DNC site-selection team doesn't pick cities that are not ready for conventions," Foxx says. He met with the president at least five times before the city was chosen. "They do a thorough exam of the patient before making these decisions." 46 North Carolina Economic Development Guide Center City Partners' Smith points to the billions that have been poured into the city's infrastructure since the boom years of the 1980s, including the phased construction of the Outer Belt, the massive expansion of the airport and the recent introduction of the light rail. "This is a city that likes a challenge. In the last three decades, Charlotte has made very focused investments in its infrastructure and spent well over a billion dollars on destination assets, from the EpiCentre uptown to the N.C. Music Factory to our way-finding and trailblazer systems — signs that identify entertainment and sports attractions and parking locations — to the NASCAR Hall of Fame, the convention center expansion, the arena" — he paused to take a breath — "and that's just the beginning. We now have over 50 arts- and entertainment-related venues in uptown Charlotte alone." Smith says he believes it is time Charlotte sheds its underdog status and graduates to being a city that has arrived. The convention should help solidify its stature. But not everyone is sure that Char- lotte can overcome long-standing precon- ceptions. Shortly after the city won the convention, columnist Peter St. Onge of The Charlotte Observer pointed out that visitors will be the ones who decide whether the city has outgrown its reputa- tion as a quaint Southern town. "Bloggers and critics will dissect our restaurants and public transportation and night life and traffic, and much of it will be done in the context of geography and stereotype," St. Onge wrote. "We'll either be a Southern city that's grown up or a Southern town not ready for the big time, y'all." Despite economic turmoil in its finance sector, Charlotte has remained confident, Smith says. "This city still stands up to say, 'We'd like to be a candidate to host the Democratic National Convention.' Any city or company can

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