When First Lady Michelle Obama announced that North Carolina’s largest city would host the 2012 Democratic National Convention, she praised Charlotte’s southern charm, warm hospitality, and “up-by-the-bootstraps” mentality that have propelled the city forward as one of the fastest-growing in the South.
“Vibrant, diverse, and full of opportunity,” she continued, “the Queen City is home to innovative, hardworking folks with big hearts and open minds.”
Few in Charlotte would disagree. Home to the nation’s second-largest banking center by assets and headquarters of Bank of America—the nation’s largest bank—Charlotte is prospering, says Jim Schumacher, Charlotte assistant city manager, noting a number of company moves to the city. “Corporate relocations and expansions to the city in the last year have included Husqvarna, Electrolux, Siemens, Shaw Engineering, SPX, and Capgemini,” he says.
Fueled by the longstanding attractiveness of the city’s job market and a high quality of life, Charlotte’s population is projected to increase to 1 million by 2020, Schumacher continues. “Charlotte has been a growing ‘New South’ city for decades, with a history in textiles that led to a strong manufacturing sector and later, a nationally leading banking and financial services sector,” says Schumacher. “Our airport was designated the best in the world in 2010 and, along with our strong highway and rail transportation corridors and North and South Carolina ports, makes us a key transportation and business link between the eastern United States and world trade.”
Schumacher notes a recent municipal project to modify a freeway interchange reclaimed for development that involves about 11 acres (4.45 ha) of prime center-city land adjacent to the NASCAR Hall of Fame and a short walk to other cultural facilities and the office core.
The city has a great location, which is attracting new business, agrees Tracy Finch Dodson, director of economic development for Charlotte Center City Partners, a municipal service district encompassing Charlotte’s central business district (CBD) and South End. “Of new companies coming to our CBD, finance remains strong as well as a growing energy sector,” says Dodson. “We had a company come to the CBD last year that told me it could save approximately $60,000 an employee by opening an office here rather than expanding in the Northeast. New companies are very bullish on Charlotte. Most cite the existing workforce and quality of life as the top factors for locating their business here.”
Several analysts predict that the 2011 residential market in Charlotte will closely mirror that in 2010 with a recovery in prices and sales activity in 2012, says Mike Burnett, principal of Burnett Real Estate Advisory Services, LLC, a firm that analyzes the profitability and viability of residential communities. “Moody’s Analytics is bullish on Charlotte’s future, projecting 8,413 single-family starts in 2011—a 27 percent increase from 2010,” says Burnett, who services on ULI’s Recreational Development Council. “Clearly, Moody’s is aware of the pent-up demand awaiting the recovery. Some of the anticipated job growth for the Charlotte area will be from large corporate moves like Siemens, with 500 to 600 employees relocating to Charlotte by July of this year.”
Those relocations—which have taken advantage of state and local tax benefits for a high-quality workforce, a lower cost to do business, and for a reasonable lifestyle—have been an impetus for Charlotte, says Michael Tomlinson, a real estate attorney at the Charlotte law firm of K&L Gates LLP and program chair for Charlotte ULI. “The energy sector—led by Duke Energy, which recently agreed to buy Progress Energy, making it the largest electric utility provider in the nation—continues to expand,” he says. “The selection of Charlotte for the 2012 Democratic convention will be a boost to the reputation and standing of Charlotte.”