Ever since Buck Duke built his first electric power generating station, Duke Power has been at the forefront of economic growth and development in the Carolinas. In the early 1800s, Duke Power took the initiative in encouraging the textile mills, then located predominantly in New England, to relocate to the Carolinas for the inexpensive and abundant supply of power. This, in turn, attracted other symbiotic businesses, which, in turn, increased general business activity and spawned even more growth as businesses and industries relocated to or expanded into this region for its business strength, accessibility and quality of life. The influx of activity and resources has made Charlotte an obvious commercial hub for the southeast region. Our airports, highways and railways transport goods, services and people rapidly and efficiently, connecting us within the CharlotteUSA area and with the rest of the world. Without Duke Power, we would not have grown like we have.
Duke Power’s growth in electrical power generation and transmission over the last century has generated corresponding industrial growth and investment in the Charlotte regional marketplace. However, Charlotte’s growth over the next 100 years is likely to be much different. We are unfortunately experiencing substantial decline in our textile industries and manufacturing base, however, we are also experiencing huge growth in the service sector. In financial services particularly, banking scions Hugh McColl and Ed Crutchfield have been adept at capturing large market shares, seizing opportunities to expand and consolidate profitably when banking laws were amended to allow U.S. banks to compete more aggressively in international markets.
With our economy on the rebound, we can think beyond the shorter term recovery to a longer term growth strategy. How will we grow? How do we want to grow? What is missing to attract further growth? What businesses are most attractive to our marketplace? What businesses do we want in this region? Who will lead our growth strategy? And, to what extent do we want to grow? The answers to these questions are integral if we want to grow the Charlotte region as our economy recovers. They are especially important if we want to grow our employment in an economy “recovering” without apparent growth in employment.
Charlotte has been very smart in attracting businesses from other regions and especially foresighted in taking advantage of changing regulations to do so. Business leadership has successfully analyzed their market positions, organized their resources and moved strategically to bring business growth to this region. It is time to make that push again.
In our interview with Ruth Shaw, she spoke about Duke Power sponsoring an economic development conference in the spring of 2004 that would call business leaders together from across the 16-county CharlotteUSA region to focus on economic development and develop strategic plans for economic growth in the new millennium. Once again, Duke Power is providing its leadership at a time when it is incredibly important to target our substantial resources to spur economic growth that will benefit the entire region for many years to come.
Our future will most certainly be interwoven with more international opportunities. Our position within the southeast and also on the east coast gives us a significant role within the United States, but we are also well positioned to conduct new and expanding business in Europe, the Middle East, Central and South America, Asia and Africa.
It is crucial that we choose our future and act to make it a reality. To succeed, we need to build a collective vision of the components of that strategic plan and realize our individual roles in delivering on that vision. Duke Power is providing that opportunity with its leadership in a regional economic development conference. We applaud them and look forward to the event and its potential. Collectively, we congratulate Duke Power for its first 100 years and look forward to its leadership and contribution in the next 100 years!