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February 2005
Kudos to Those Who Have Made Charlotte 4th!
By John Paul Galles

     In the seventh annual “America’s 50 Hottest Cities” ranking published in the January 2005 edition of Expansion Management magazine, the Charlotte region was ranked the fourth “hottest city” for executives of companies actively looking to expand or relocate their facilities within the next one to three years. The ranking was based on a survey of site consultants whose business it is to help companies select the best locations for future expansions taking into consideration such factors as business climate, work force quality, operating costs, incentive programs, and the ease of working with local political and economic development officials.

     The survey points up the Hot Cities that have a built-in advantage when companies look to site a new manufacturing or distribution facility or headquarters operation, being well-prepared to attract and retain businesses because they have “logistical advantages, a high quality of life, available workforce, and a favorable tax and political climate.” It is a well-deserved testament to our economic development efforts on many levels!

Kudos to the Charlotte Regional Partnership which, since 1992, has had the main objective of attracting business expansions and relocations into the region, and kudos to their “Charlotte USA” branding campaign. Being ranked so highly by prominent relocation specialists is certainly one indicator that they are getting their point across!

Kudos to the economic development thinkers for identifying the importance of growth from within our market clusters – building on those resources that are already somewhat strong in our region, and that have been determined to be increasingly important to our economy, both nationally and internationally. Such clusters include financial services, textiles, automotive, machine manufacturing, medical equipment manufacturing, plastics and pharmaceutical manufacturing.

     And kudos to those that are concerned with sufficient resources to encourage entrepreneurialism within area enterprises, as well as to support start-ups and growing businesses within the region. Oftentimes, these “homegrown” entities have symbiotic relationships with the larger business attracted to the region, supplying parts or performing necessary manufacturing services, and are therefore impacted indirectly by the success or failure of higher level economic development activities. These entities need sufficient support to rework product lines and manufacturing and retrain employees to adjust to the changing needs of the economy.

We are fortunate in the Charlotte region to have a wealth of vehicles through which to perform economic development activity. In addition to the larger focus of the Charlotte Regional Partnership, we have the more targeted resources of UNC Charlotte, the UNCC Research Institute, CPCC, the new BizHub and area chambers and economic developers. The breadth of these entities reflects different focuses and mechanisms for directing resources toward economic development in a fairly sophisticated fashion, rather than relying on a cookie-cutter approach.

It has not been easy to stay focused on growth, especially during these past few periods of economic slowdown when concerns turn more to business survival and job security. The natural inclination is to become more fiscally conservative and less likely to risk. Initiatives that enhance future development and economic incentives fall from favor.

Success in economic development, though, requires a certain level of investment and a continued commitment to entrepreneurial initiatives and incentives, mostly through not-so-comfortable times. It requires a certain measure of risk-taking, at least to the extent that economic development efforts are not immediately gratifying or necessarily proportional to the resources expended. It is important for that reason to effectively track the value of our investments and measure their success.

If this national ranking is any indicator, we must be doing something right. It reaffirms the value of the different organizations we have in place to focus on our economic development needs. It reminds us that, in addition to being critical of our apportionment of economic development resources, we need to be just as celebratory of our achievements in that regard.

We have a great many vehicles and resources to focus on the attraction of new business, the development of market clusters and the support of entrepreneurial activities here in the Charlotte region. Let’s get busy on making Charlotte really hot!


John Paul Galles is the publisher of Greater Charlotte Biz.
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