The first decade of the 21st century was not one of the most productive or stellar 10 years in the short history of the United States. While we witnessed the rapid technological transformation of our economy, we also experienced the bursting of the irrational exuberance of the stock market, the dot-com bubble, and the housing bubble.
We were shocked by the events of 9/11 and the corporate scandals, as well as the collapse of our banking system and the Great Recession. And, on top of all that, we declared war on terrorism and find our country still engaged in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It was not a good start for the next century.
While we cannot take a mulligan as we might on the golf course, we can and must learn from our experiences and do better. The next 10 years will offer us many new opportunities, and we are quite capable of creating our own opportunities at the same time. In fact, the greater Charlotte region is well positioned to take maximum advantage of economic growth in the next decade.
Most immediately in 2010, the United States undertakes a census of its population. The results of that census will dramatically affect the greater Charlotte region, as well as the states of North and South Carolina, as political boundaries are shifted or added to recognize population growth.
For the first time in the history of North Carolina, a majority of legislators will reside in just 14 counties while less than half of our legislators will reside in the other 86 counties. As a result, urban priorities will become more important and rural priorities will become less important.
Over the next decade, the University of North Carolina at Charlotte student population will grow from 24,000 students this year to over 35,000 students in 2020. As North Carolinaís major urban research university, UNC Charlotte will play a significant role in support of area economic development and business advancement. It will deliver more degrees at the bachelor, graduate and doctoral level than ever before.
Chancellor Dubois and the UNCC staff and faculty are doing all they can to develop talent for our economic recovery and growth. We are also blessed with many other universities supporting our future development. The Research Park in Kannapolis and the Research Institute on the UNCC campus are poised to lead business advancements well into the future.
Our community colleges have also grown exponentially with the ever-increasing number of displaced workers especially in this great economic recession. President Zeiss and the faculty at CPCC and neighboring community colleges are stretched in many different directions to prepare workers for their next jobs or careers.
Bank of America and Wells Fargo/Wachovia as well as BB&T, SunTrust, Fifth Third and our independent banks are increasingly competing for business opportunities in this region. That is good for business.
Duke Energy and the growing energy cluster establish the Charlotte region as a leader and a catalyst for energy and technology advancements. Highly efficient, low-cost energy is an essential and important factor in attracting and growing business opportunities in this region and the Carolinas.
Our airport with its third runway, the completion of the I-485 beltway and the expansion of our light rail system will make Charlotte even more attractive to companies seeking to relocate or expand into this region.
And if you want to relax and enjoy life, Charlotte offers easy access to the mountains and to the oceanfront in addition to four seasons and blue skies, great whitewater and nature activities, and an unusually robust array of cultural and arts experiences.
Charlotte is more attractive than ever for business growth and development. Letís take full, purposeful and responsible advantage of the next decade and make our future rewarding and bright.