CLT Airport: A Burgeoning Aerotropolis 2019

CLT Airport, our No. 1 economic development asset, is seeing more growth and more changes than ever before—access lanes, gates, tower, electric buses, light rail extensions, bridges, highways, and more retail and hospitality alongside more logistics, intermodal, warehousing and distribution!

CLT Airport is a burgeoning aerotropolis—a metropolitan subregion whose infrastructure, land use and economy are centered on an airport. Airports have evolved as drivers of business location and urban development in the 21st century in the same way as highways did in the 20th century, railroads in the 19th century, and seaports in the 18th century.

As economies become increasingly globalized, time-sensitive and reliant on air commerce for trade in goods and services, the speed and agility aviation provides to long-distance movement of people and goods generate competitive advantages for firms and places.

In the aerotropolis model, time and cost of connectivity replace space and distance as the primary metrics shaping development, with “economies of speed” becoming as salient for the competitiveness of firms and places as economies of scale and economies of scope.

As the center of one of the fastest-growing regions in the United States, CLT Airport is taking a quantum leap forward. Its $2.5B in construction projects include a new lobby and ticketing, new gates, new terminals, new tower, new roadways, and new runways. And that’s on-site at CLT Airport.

Outside and around CLT Airport are new businesses, services, hotels, meeting facilities, logistics centers, warehouses and distribution facilities. CLT Airport’s investment is magnified and multiplied in the development of the surrounding area, which—with widened highways, new and improved bridges, and a light rail option—will seamlessly connect both Gaston and Mecklenburg counties on either side.

This, in turn, will provide easier access to more jobs and more business, expanding accessibility for the labor market and increasing economic opportunities.

There’s no doubt that CLT Airport is setting the stage for the 21st century, establishing Charlotte as a world-class city and hub of international trade.


Click below to view the presentation!

2017.05.17 BOOST NC Economic GROWTH Presentation


North Carolina once again ranks as the most competitive state in economic development activity, according to a closely watched annual business ranking by Site Selection magazine.

“Businesses big and small, domestic and foreign are investing in North Carolina for the same reasons they have been doing so all along — a healthy supply of workers despite very low unemployment, a favorable climate and location halfway along the East Coast, two international airports and industry sectors like IT, biotech and aerospace that are magnets for new investment,” Site Selection says in its May issue coverage of the Prosperity Cup.

The nationwide 2018 Prosperity Cup is based on measures of state economic development activity in 2017 that include the total number of new and expanded facilities in the state, capital investment and number of new jobs created. It also considers measures of business-climate attractiveness.

The award, which recognizes the most competitive state-level economic development groups, was presented to the North Carolina Department of Commerce and the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina, which lead business recruitment efforts on behalf of the state.

“The fundamentals that have been drawing companies for a long time really haven’t changed much,” Christopher Chung, EDPNC chief executive officer, told Site Selection. “These include a great quality of life, well-renowned educational institutions and population growth with a lot of people coming out of school or mid-career who are moving here with a job or in search of one, all of which deepens the talent pool. We get a lot of in-migration from the Midwest and the Northeast.”

North Carolina has been a consistent leader in Site Selection‘s  Prosperity Cup recognition, ranking No. 1  in 2018, 2017 and 2016. States rounding out the top five in this year’s Prosperity Cup are Tennessee (2), Georgia (3), Texas (4) and Michigan (5).

The 2018 Prosperity Cup announcement highlighted, among other things, the state’s robust population growth and its success in attracting foreign direct investment.

“We’re getting Israeli companies, Japanese companies — we’re part of the global marketplace,” North Carolina Commerce Secretary Anthony Copeland told Site Selection. “North Carolina is the ninth-most populous state in the country now, and we have an economy larger than Sweden.”

The magazine also stressed the state’s strengths in innovation and manufacturing, noting it ranked fourth in the nation in measures of appropriations for higher education as a portion of gross domestic product (GDP). High-tech business formation exceeds the national average by 23 percentage points, and the state’s manufacturing output (as a percentage of GDP) is the fourth-highest in the nation.

Another North Carolina plus is its vast 58-campus community college system, which responds nimbly to growing companies’ specific requirements for worker training, the magazine says. The state’s community college campus network is the third-largest in the U.S.

For full coverage of the 2018 Prosperity Cup, visit Site Selection’s website.

2017 Charlotte Regional Market Outlook

June 1, 2017

Prepared by John Paul Galles and  Maryl A. Lane

In what way has this region changed over the last 20 years?

Over the last few decades, Charlotte business leaders have given substantial thought to city and regional growth through various initiatives: Advantage Carolinas; Create It, Make It, Move It; Charlotte 2030; Center City 2020 Vision Plan; Long-range CLT Airport Plan; etc. In a very purposeful way, all of the fundamental assets for economic growth have been put in place:

  1. Ballantyne Corporate Park was created, developed and sold!
  2. CLT Airport has grown and continues to grow;
  3. Our highway system is in place—I-485 is now completed; I-77 expansion is now in process;
  4. Our transportation corridors are expanding as is our light rail system;
  5. CSX and NS Intermodal Centers have been established providing access to 5 major ports;
  6. Merger of US Airways into American Airlines has resulted in greater access to more cities in U.S. and in world;
  7. UNC Charlotte has become a research university;
  8. There is an abundance of highly rated private universities;
  9. CPCC has become a world-class workforce education and training center;
  10. We have successfully survived banking consolidations and remain the second largest banking center;
  11. We have an abundance of energy companies with an EPIC focus;
  12. City development has revived a stagnant uptown and SouthEnd, and continues with NoDa and revisiting SouthPark;
  13. Our healthcare systems have become top-ranked;
  14. We continue to expand recreation and cultural center—parks, galleries, hiking and boating;
  15. Our energy costs are among the lowest in the country and our providers among the best;
  16. Sports teams have expanded to include the NFL, the NBA, minor league baseball, and some forays into soccer;
  17. We’ve added nearly 1,000 foreign-owned entities to the business community;
  18. We’re becoming a headquarters city!

How would you describe where we might be 20 years from now?

  • City-state: What was once a mid-tier city, has expanded beyond its confines to a region extending across state lines, and is well on its way to becoming a city-state extending across a 100-mile radius. The population has increased more outside of the city limits and even outside of the county limits, to what will eventually be a center city of Charlotte ringed by towns and cities outside of Charlotte and in South Carolina. Charlotte will be the hub of a huge region and must plan for this with its roads and transportation. Charlotte will be a regional, cross border city-state and development will follow.
POPULATION 2000 2015 Growth 2035 Growth
Charlotte, NC 540,828 827,097 53%
Mecklenburg County 695,454 1,034,078 48% 1,471,235 42%
CLT Region 2,038,719 2,801,806 38% 3,689,436 52%
  • Key Logistical Access to U.S. and Global Markets: The central location of CLT in the Southeast region becomes an even more important asset in the global era as a strategic location for entering and doing business in the United States, and strategic location for manufacturing serving both the U.S. and global markets given its proximity to the ports.
  • Enhanced Air and Rail: CLT Airport will have grown from 93 gates and 3 runways to 175 Gates and 5 runways and a new tower. We will be a major logistics hub with daily train routes to the major ports—Wilmington, Charleston, Savannah, Norfolk and Jacksonville.
  • Comprehensive CATS: CATS Light Rail will have a Blue line continuing from the city to UNCC, a Red line to Lake Norman, a Silver line running to CPCC Levine Campus in Matthews, Gold line CPCC Center City to Johnson C. Smith University, and a new line running from the city to CLT Airport.
  • Get on the MLS Field: Major league soccer is important to Charlotte because of its draw on younger people and its international popularity. Facebook has announced that as of March 18th, it will begin live streaming soccer games. Charlotte’s participation is a NEW avenue for growth.
  • More Mixed Use Developments: We will see a greater emphasis in the real estate development for mixed use communities, like the River District, combining commercial with residential embracing diversity and inclusivity.
  • New Bridge from Gastonia to Charlotte: To accommodate the growth west of the airport, we will have completed a new bridge from Gastonia to Charlotte and new roads and intersections to accommodate both commercial and residential needs.
  • A Medical School: We will have a four-year med school which allows us to take advantage of research money, innovation and technology enhancements. The med school will serve as the catalyst for a medical research and development hub for the East Coast. Every other city we are competing with has this.
  • Accommodate and Engage Diversity, Promote Inclusivity: We will do a better job of accommodating and engaging our increasingly diverse population. For example, over 30% of our voters will be Hispanic in 20 years.
  • Emphasize Quality of Life: Quality of life should remain uppermost in our planning efforts.
  • Increasing Foreign Direct Investment: Currently, Charlotte is home to about 1,000 foreign firms. With an extra effort, we can double that number in 20 years.
  • Re-think Job Focus and Supporting Services: With technological innovation, we need to re-think and refine our focus on jobs and job training.
  • Broadband Access: There is an increasing amount of evidence that broadband providers are providing better Internet access to their most affluent customers. We need to make sure high-speed broadband access is available across the CLT region. This will be critical to ameliorating the urban/rural divide as well as augmenting upward mobility, two of the region’s most significant weak points.
  • Public School Teacher Pay: We need to reevaluate our teacher pay if we want to be a truly globally competitive city.

When you compare where and what we are now, is the ‘personality’ of Charlotte what you expected?

It is on its way. It is headed in the right direction. The foundation is laid.

A collaborative effort through the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute working with 14 counties has developed a core set of values that provide a center point for working together to improve our communities. They are:

  • A strong, diverse economy
  • Sustainable, well-managed growth
  • A safe and healthy environment
  • Increased collaboration among jurisdictions
  • Enhanced social equity
  • High quality educational opportunities

At the same time, we need a better vision for what we seek to become as we grow in our global economy facing continually aggressive technological change. The pace of technological advances will change the very nature of life and living on this planet. The nature of work will change as traditional jobs become more and more scarce.

There is no doubt about it. Charlotte is becoming a global city-state! We have prepared our region for a future of greatness. We need to make sure we perform to pursue, deliver, maintain and continue to than change process for the benefit of everyone in our community. We need to ensure that there are pathways for upward mobility delivering smart, capable, intelligent, talented, innovative contributors to our business growth. We must be inviting and welcoming to those who can participate and contribute even more to our success. It is essential that we appreciate and celebrate diversity and inclusivity.

We need to become more knowledgeable about what the CLT region’s role is in the U.S. and in the global community.

What are the most critical issues we face as a community now? And if not addressed, how will those challenges affect us?

Public school improvements/Teacher salaries Urban/Rural Divide
Regional infrastructure/Partnerships with NC and SC Political Disruption
Protect our rivers, streams and lakes Low-income housing
Loss of manufacturing jobs Crime/Drugs/Culture

Does the leadership in Charlotte have a larger responsibility beyond crafting high quality commercial real estate projects and community planning?

Yes, we need to get out in front of this growth and change and keep planning for it—CLT Airport plans, Regional Freight Mobility plans, etc. We need to expect and anticipate change. We need to become more attractive to international investors, need more comfort with diversity. We want a place where brain-power is welcome and invited and engaged.

If we want to live up to our potential to become one of the most significant city-states of this century, an enviable portal to markets domestic and abroad, this city needs to better define its goals and ambitions. Its citizens need to have a steadfast pride in what the city-state stands for and is trying to accomplish, so much so that every young person and business person in Charlotte becomes an ambassador for the city-state wherever they go or travel.

What about Charlotte’s Upward Mobility?  What role does future economic development play in that effort?

From the John M. Belk Endowment, Building an Infrastructure of Opportunity

Taking Action: Priorities and First Steps

A strong infrastructure of opportunity is beyond the reach of any single institution to create: discrete pockets of excellence are insufficient for changing the trajectory of broad opportunity and improving education and employment outcomes at scale. To move from discrete programming to an aligned infrastructure of opportunity requires adoption of a guiding framework for communities to assess and create an action plan that is grounded in a common vision of economic productivity and advancement for the community and its people; design and implementation of research-based policies and programs that can be scaled for an entire population, hold high expectations for educators, employers, and the workforce, and maintain momentum through continuous improvement; and commitment to providing adequate resources that support the common vision. The data and community anecdotes in this report support eight action steps for communities across the state:

  1. Use local data to understand history, analyze current educational and economic outcomes, and identify gaps in the education-to-career continuum. Good planning requires good data. Communities should begin by disaggregating data, identifying outcome disparities across race, gender, family status, and wealth, and uncover root causes.
  2. Commit to a common vision for creating pathways to family supporting work that allow more individuals to build wealth and thrive in the community. This integrating vision should focus on the intersection of economic competitiveness and equity to create wealth in a way that lifts people up, particularly those stuck—generation-to-generation—at the lower-end of the income distribution.
  3. Seek out opportunities to participate in and learn from national, regional, or state-level initiatives and learning communities. There are communities across the region and within the state—including some of those included in this report— that are models of success, suggesting helpful policies and practices communities can adopt and identifying pitfalls they may encounter.
  4. Embrace planning and implementation practices that engage each part of the system: from individuals to institutions. Good planning requires attention to and engagement of the whole system; that means every level of the education system, small and large employers, and all municipal governments. Whole system engagement requires deliberate inclusion of historically marginalized communities. The places and people in the most extreme distress reveal system failures most clearly.
  5. Encourage large institutions and employers to take the lead in innovation and cooperation. To support a strong education to-career continuum that aligns with workforce needs, both higher education institutions and employers must be nimble, responsive to local needs, and have the ability to shift focus as economic opportunity shifts.
  6. Cultivate investment and assume potential in the emergent workforce. Communities with strong institutions and systems are ones where leaders act on a belief that talent is everywhere in their community and invest in people to develop and unleash that talent.
  7. Free up resources to address gaps in the education-to-career continuum. In environments of scarcity, communities and institutions must have the courage to allocate resources to reflect the challenges identified on the education-to-career continuum. Too often, resources are siloed and spent based on historical habits, not aligned to a vision of the future.
  8. Seek out local capital to create capacity for collaboration. Risk-taking and innovation require foundational investment. Philanthropy can be catalytic, testing new ideas, building new institutions, and lowering the cost of social innovation by subsidizing risk. Local philanthropy can take the lead to leverage additional local, state, and federal investment. ■

*Focus recruitment of businesses and jobs on those entities which pay wages that will lift workers to the next socio-economic level. Turn resources to targeted business sectors that will pay wages and/or salaries above the current average annual incomes. Of course, workers must be prepared to perform and the skill standards and levels that meet the needs of those companies.

How can we advance our thinking and offer direction in these regards?

One possibility is to establish a 501(c)(3) organization—a CLT Global think tank—to bring together the powerful critical thinking of business and educational leaders within the Carolinas with an ambition to envision a pathway to our future, publishing and disseminating thought pieces of seminal importance on a regular basis to the community at large.

Another possibility is to produce a representative economic development brochure—handheld, comprehensive but succinct, attractive, super-informative—on behalf of all the economic development entities in the CLT global region that demonstrates our region’s superior potential for foreign investment and economic development—to bring all such entities fundamentally interested in advancing our region’s development to the attention of the nation and the international community and enable every person to become an ambassador of the region for world trade.

2017 Economic Development Situation Analysis of North Carolina

By John Paul Galles

Download PDF: 2017.14.04 NC Global Strategic SWOT Analysis 2017


North Carolina has an abundance of assets, resources, and advantages relative to neighboring Southeastern states.

TJohn with Arms Crossed at K&L Gatesop Business Climate

The State of North Carolina is consistently identified as among the best business climates in the U.S. having ranked as one of Forbes’ top 5 Best States for business for 10 consecutive years. The state’s success is fueled by a competitive tax climate, low business costs, a favorable legal and regulatory environment and the availability of skilled workers.

In 2016, Forbes ranked North Carolina as the #2 Best States for Business. Site Selection magazine ranked North Carolina as the #2 Business Climate in 2015 and Chief Executive Magazine ranked North Carolina #3 as the Best State for Doing Business in 2016.

Tax Climate Among Lowest in the Nation

Based on the tax climate in North Carolina, the Tax Foundation in 2016 ranked North Carolina with a 4 percent Corporate Income Tax Rate as the lowest in the Southeast. Ernst & Young in 2015 identified North Carolina as #3 in the nation for the lowest state and local business tax burden. In 2015, the Tax Foundation and KPMG ranked North Carolina #5 for the lowest effective tax rate for mature corporate HQs.

Among Lowest for Business Costs

In terms of low business costs, the North Carolina business climate was ranked by Forbes as the #2 state with the lowest business costs, 10.3 percent below the national average. Area Development magazine ranked North Carolina as #5 for competitive utility rates. The RSMeans Construction Cost Index identified that construction costs were 18 percent lower in North Carolina metros compared to the U.S. average.

Low Unionization and Top Labor Climate

North Carolina offers low-cost labor in one of the largest and fastest growing markets in the U.S. As a right-to-work state with a perennially low union membership rate (approximately 3 percent during the last 10+ years), North Carolina has the second smallest union workforce in the U.S. in terms of percent of total employment. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics rated NC as the #2 state for lowest unionization rate in the U.S. The resulting benefit is labor costs that are 11 percent below the national average—fourth lowest in the country.

Area Development ranks NC as the #4 state for labor climate. Site Selection rated NC as #1 for workforce development.

Best Regulatory Environment

Recent tort reform and the strengthening and streamlining of business courts in NC have earned NC rankings among the lowest in the nation. The U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform in 2015 ranked NC as the #7 state and the #5 state for the overall treatment of tort and contract litigation. Forbes ranked NC as #7 for the best regulatory environment.

 Attractive to Foreign Direct Investment (FDI)

NC ranks among the highest in the U.S. for job creation from foreign investment projects. More than one out of every five jobs—some 1.2 million—in the state are related to international trade.

About three out of 10 manufacturing jobs in North Carolina are supported directly or indirectly by foreign companies. Foreign direct investment has fueled much of North Carolina’s high-tech job growth, with $2.7 billion and 5,300 jobs generated from FDI in 2015, according to North Carolina Commerce Department, and will top those numbers in 2016. North Carolina ranks sixth in the nation for jobs dependent on direct foreign investment at more than 782,000.Charlotte - Carolinas

European firms have already had great success in the Carolinas—there is more European investment in NC than the total U.S. investment in China, Japan and India combined. Companies from the European Union account for 69 percent of global investment in North Carolina and 65 percent in South Carolina. And as a result of Brexit and the disruption of the European Union, European businesses are increasingly looking for safe locations to expand their businesses.

Outstanding Educational Resources

Economic transformation has evolved from an initial agricultural economy, to an industrial economy, to a post-industrial/mass production/service economy, and now to the knowledge economy.

North Carolina offers outstanding public and private universities and colleges, among them UNC-Chapel Hill (as well as the other satellite locations), Duke University, NC State University, Wake Forest University, East Carolina University, Appalachian State University, Elon University and Davidson College—adding to the talent supply for NC businesses.

The NC community college system ranks No. 11, while neighboring South Carolina comes in at No. 36. They offer specially designed programs in tandem with area businesses providing specialized workforce training, certification of skills, and classes for transitioning workers, and are especially valuable at developing a globally and multi-culturally competent workforce.Charlotte Accessibility Rings

Ease of Access/Superior Location

Located midway between Boston, New York City and Miami, North Carolina is well situated to accommodate successful businesses, reaching more 60 percent of the U.S. population within two hours by air and 24 hours by truck. North Carolina is the only major distribution center midway between the Northeast, Midwest and Florida markets, as well as midway between Canadian and Caribbean markets. Within 650 miles of North Carolina are 164 million U.S. and Canadian consumers and 55 of the country’s top 100 metropolitan areas.

International Airports

North Carolina provides access to the world through non-stop destinations and one-stop connections through Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT), Raleigh Durham International Airport (RDU), as well as the Piedmont Triad Airport (GSO), the Wilmington Airport (ILM), the Fayetteville Airport (FAY) and the Asheville Regional Airport (AVL).

 Extensive Highways and Railroads

The highway network in North Carolina is the second largest state-maintained system in the United States. Operating within its borders, North Carolina has access to two Class 1 railroads, Norfolk Southern and CSX, carrying freight across the entire Southeast region of the U.S.

Choice of Ports/Intermodals

North Carolina provides a real advantage to manufacturers in access to five major ports from any point within the state. Besides direct access to the Port of Wilmington and the Morehead Port, manufacturers can easily ship through the ports of Norfolk, Charleston, Savannah and Jacksonville as well. These connections provide shippers with choices of shipping lines and options for shopping when costs are escalating as ships grow bigger and shipping lines consolidate.Charlotte Access to Ports

Both CSX and Norfolk Southern maintain and operate intermodal centers in the state of North Carolina facilitating transport of raw materials and finished goods to and from Southeast ports. Norfolk Southern’s Charlotte intermodal center has a potential capacity of over 500,000 containers and CSX is in the process of constructing a new intermodal center outside of Rocky Mount that will be even larger.

 Competitive Power Supplies

Electricity and natural gas at competitive rates that are much less expensive than in many locations around the world.

Military Installations/Contracting Opportunities

The significant presence of various branches of the armed services offer numerous contracting opportunities for North Carolina businesses. Currently, there are eight military bases in North Carolina. There are two coast guard bases. The United States Army, Navy and Air Force all have at least one base in North Carolina, while the Marine Corps has three.

Superior Quality of Life

North Carolina also provides the highest quality of life for employees and families with easy access to Atlantic Ocean beaches and the blue ridge mountains.

Quality Mountain streamQuality Beach









North Carolina continues to suffer some unique economic and political weaknesses which have impeded its opportunity to compete with neighboring states exhibiting a high-degree of success recruiting businesses from within the United States and from foreign direct investment.

North Carolina has suffered continual and significant declines in manufacturing jobs, which at one point constituted 22 percent of its economy, from which it has
been slow to recover. Having been decimated by the Great Recession and its stress on financial services even before it had recovered from the 2001 recession, it also experiences periodic catastrophic losses from hurricanes and coastline erosion.


In was reported by the NC Justice Center in 2016, that after nearly four years since the formal end of the Great Recession, rural North Carolina is experiencing a very different recovery than the state’s urban areas. Instead of replacing the jobs lost during the recession, rural parts of the state are continuing to experience job loss, while at the same time the state’s metropolitan and micropolitan areas have experienced employment growth.

Metropolitan areas within the state saw a 5.6 percent increase in employment levels since the end of the Great Recession, with the small cities in the state’s micropolitan areas not too far behind at a 4.9 percent increase. At the same time, rural areas saw their total employment drop by 13.5 percent, suggesting that workers left rural communities in droves and moved to the state’s cities to find employment.Rural Lag Job Growth

A major factor behind this shift from rural to urban employment involves the long-term trend away from manufacturing employment and towards service employment. Historically, North Carolina’s rural counties have depended on the manufacturing sector to provide the bulk of its employment opportunities, so as rural manufacturing declined due to global economic restructuring, rural workers were faced with a transition to service industries—generally low-skilled and low-wage, especially Leisure & Hospitality and Retail—and overall shrinking job opportunities.

The conclusion of the Great Recession did not create a positive turnaround for residents in rural North Carolina; instead, it marked an even greater depression for the rural economy. Without the creation of more manufacturing jobs, comprehensive economic restructuring in these rural counties, and skills training for a 21st century economy, residents of rural counties in North Carolina, along with other southeastern states, will likely continue to face the hardships of job loss and economic depression.

In both urban and rural areas, there’s a sense that the jobs of the future will require more education and training than the jobs that traditionally helped provide a comfortable, middle-class lifestyle for North Carolinians.

Thus, North Carolina suffers from a significant urban/rural divide. The urban/rural divide is most evident across the rural areas, manifesting itself in abandoned factories and a depressed mood. With only very little success, these communities are not encouraged by growth elsewhere in the state. Left behind, rural counties are angry with the status quo.

It is not surprising, therefore, that even with state coffers slowly recovering and economic growth occurring in urban centers, state legislatures are reluctant to fund economic development incentives that serve urban interests over rural needs.


After 20 years, Republicans took control of North Carolina’s government in 2013, garnering both the governorship and a super-majority of the general assembly. As a result, significant changes were made to NC state government, including a substantial makeover to the NC Department of Commerce, which took until late 2014 to be approved and into 2015 to be fully operational.

With the upheaval in the state’s economic development arm and political leadership, there has been an increasing incidence of losing economic development opportunities to neighboring competitive states. In recent years, South Carolina, Georgia and Virginia have successfully landed competitive bids including Boeing, BM, Porsche, Mercedes Benz, Volvo, International Harvester, Giti Tire, Michelin, Costar and many others.


Even with repeal of HB2 on March 30, 2017, its impact has challenged recognition of North Carolina as a more modern, progressive southern state. Since March 2016, NC suffered the very public and substantial reaction to HB2 legislation and the primarily negative impression it has brought to NC both nationally and internationally. This was only magnified because of the contentious presidential race and North Carolina’s status as a swing state. North Carolina will continue in the national spotlight with all the dissension over HB2 and the legislative and judicial fallout.

The political responses between the democratic governor and the republican legislature have continued to distract from any coordinated business recruiting, attraction and retention efforts.  The fallout remains and will take several years to overcome

In many cases, directly as a result of HB2, NC was not and will not even being considered when companies are seeking new business locations or operations. It is currently estimated that NC has lost as much as $630 million (Forbes) in business development as a result of the debacle, including business expansions into the state, anticipated relocations to the state, sporting events, entertainment events—the list goes on.


  •  Considering recent NC budget surpluses (a record $552.5M this fiscal year ending June 2017, up from $425M last year), North Carolina is positioned to step forward and compete more aggressively. Business recovery is healthy in urban areas and future opportunities are abundant.
  • Population growth and inbound migration from other states continues. In fact, population growth in NC is expected to be over 71 percent over the next 25 years.
  • Lower NC tax rates offer lower costs for doing business and a greater opportunity to compete with neighboring states with lower state tax rates.
  • New intermodal centers by Norfolk Southern in Charlotte and CSX in Rocky Mount offer greater logistical support and distribution opportunities and other locations.
  • North Carolina Ports continue their post-Panamax preparation, ordering two New Panamax ship-to-shore cranes as part its plan to invest $120 million over the next few years to accommodate a majority of larger ships transiting the Panama Canal, and a 101,000-square-foot cold storage warehouse.
  • Telecommunications remains a state priority with Charlotte and the Triangle having been designated Google Fiber cities and NC continuing its high-speed broadband initiative into rural areas. An FCC Commission report shows that 93 percent of North Carolinians have broadband access compared to an average of 90 percent of people nationwide—but rural areas lag behind the state’s cities.
  • North Carolina continues to be a participant in international trade activity. International trade, including exports and imports, supports 1,232,100 NC jobs—more than 1 in 5. Trade-related jobs grew 3.4 times faster than total employment from 2004 to 2014 and are at large and small companies, on farms, in factories, and at the headquarters of NC globally engaged firms. NC exported $31.1 billion in goods and $18.8 billion in services in 2014, including pharmaceuticals & medicines, aerospace products & parts, semiconductors & components and travel services. Of NC’s 10,582 exporters, 87 percent are small- and medium-sized companies with less than 500 workers.

It is valuable to understand the potential of international commerce activities.

  • Over 80 percent of purchasing power is outside the borders of the United.
  • More than 92 percent of business growth occurs outside the borders of the United States.
  • Over 95 percent of consumers are outside the borders of the United States.
  • This data affects U.S. commerce as well as U.S. agriculture.
  • All of NC’s major universities offer increasing opportunities for research partnering with private industry.
  • The new administration has asserted a focus on improving business conditions, offering the promise of more growth and development, and the creation of jobs alongside that growth, including an expansion of funding for infrastructure across the country.


  •  Poverty in NC has either climbed or stayed steady from 2007 to 2014 with only modest improvements in 2015 and 2016 despite economic recovery, and in the highest quintile in the nation, with the highest poverty rates all in rural counties. To the extent NC leaders enact policies that compound these economic and labor market disparities, it will exacerbate the urban/rural divide.
  • NC’s political bottlenecks to economic development continue as the governor and state legislature continue their standoff, awaiting judicial decisions.
  • As a result of NC’s economic development impasse, competition from other states continues to be a significant threat as South Carolina, Georgia and Virginia provide more attractive economic incentives.
  • To the extent of the HB2 continuing fallout, the ability of NC to attract new businesses, expansions and foreign direct investment may continue to be hampered, as well as the state’s ability to attract business talent.
  • NC budgets will inevitably be periodically reduced by unexpected spending on natural disaster relief.
  • Expectation of impending recession, especially after such a long, sustained recovery since 2010, looms.
  • The new administration may disrupt international trade opportunities which may slow the growth of business development.


The entire Southeast region continues to show economic strength, as well as nation-leading population growth, and these two factors are making the region ripe for economic development and investment. North Carolina has one of the fastest growing populations (9th in the nation, now over 10M) as well as the fastest growing economy in the country.

It is clear from our strengths that North Carolina has huge potential for growth and economic development and is, in fact, the best place for business and investment in the Southeast. It is equally clear that the state’s economic development activities have become disrupted by politics and its economic incentives less competitive than those of other states.

It is imperative that North Carolina seek and take advantage of economic development opportunities to remain globally competitive and essential that community leaders become knowledgeable ambassadors of economic development, stepping into the void and reaching out to connect interested parties with valuable opportunities.

Community businesses and business leaders who choose to actively participate should experience increased opportunities for business development themselves and perhaps be able to bridge the urban/rural divide even more successfully than state authorities.

The time is ripe to create a network of knowledgeable leaders interested in attracting business and investment to North Carolina, armed with a heightened awareness and knowledge of the state’s economic development opportunities and the tools to communicate to clients and prospects the opportunities in North Carolina.

It is time to enlist key leaders, engage their participation and focus their efforts to attract business entities seeking the best state for location or investment in the nation.

If we intend to participate meaningfully in a knowledge-based economy, it will be important for NC to attract advanced manufacturing as well

as use science, technology, engineering and math to transform industrial production to Industry 4.0.Advanced Manufacturing

Types of Industry 4.0 include:

  • Additive manufacturing
  • Augmented reality
  • Big data and analytics
  • Autonomous robots
  • Simulation
  • Horizontal and vertical systems integration
  • Cybersecurity
  • The industrial Internet of Things

There are opportunities to enlist everyone interested in becoming ambassadors for business growth and development. The NC story is a strong one. There are amazing opportunities for growth and recovery into every region and every community.


6 Reasons Move to Charlotte

The Truth About Immigration

by Steve Rattner

Perhaps the most emotional issue of this year’s Presidential campaign has been the question of illegal immigration, particularly from Mexico. Like much of the rhetoric during the campaign, the question of illegal immigration has been largely devoid of facts.

Contrary to popular impression, the number of illegal immigrants in the United States peaked in 2007 and has been drifting down since then. The number of Mexicans who are in the United States illegally similarly peaked nearly a decade ago and has fallen more sharply than the number of non-Mexican illegal residents.The reasons for that are multiple: The recession that accompanied the financial crisis sharply reduced the number of construction jobs available, a particularly large source of jobs for immigrants. Notwithstanding Donald Trump’s rhetoric, stricter enforcement of immigration laws along the border between the United States and Mexico and increased deportation of illegal residents also played a role. Finally, a drop in the size of the young population in Mexico also contributed – the share of Mexicans between 15 to 29 dropped from 29.4% in 1990 to 24.9% in 2014.

Fewer Mexicans Crossing the BorderWhile there are no reliable statistics for how many illegal immigrants cross the border with Mexico, experts use the number of apprehensions as a proxy. By that measure, the number of Mexicans apprehended at the border has dropped from more than 1.5 million in 2000 to just about 229,000 in 2014. Meanwhile, the number of non-Mexicans (mostly from Central American countries including El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras) rose sharply and exceeded the number of Mexicans apprehended in 2014. A big part of this increase in non-Mexican immigration is accounted for by unaccompanied children.

Meanwhile, under President Obama, the number of deportations has risen sharply, to a record of more than 435,000 in 2013. Between 2009 and 2014, more than 2.4 million illegal residents were deported. More than 40% of those deported are convicted criminals, a group that Donald Trump says he wants to target.Deportations Near Record Highs

World Net Migraion 2010-2015Click here for Full screen version / Youtube video

Immigration: the new Godwin’s Law

This map shows the estimated net immigration (inflows minus outflows) by origin and destination country between 2010 and 2015.

Blue circles = positive net migration (more inflows). Red circles = negative net migration (more outflows). Each yellow dot represents 1,000 people.

Hover over a circle to see that country’s total net migration between 2010 and 2015. Click a circle (or tap the circle twice on mobile) to view only the migration flows in and out of that country.

Country-to-country net migration (2010-2015)

The data for this map comes from the U.N. Population Division, more information on how it was calculated at the bottom of the post.

Immigration: the new Godwin’s Law

If you’re not familiar with Godwin’s law, it is an old internet adage that states, “As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazism or Hitler approaches 1.

Lately, I’ve found a similar principle applies to immigration. No matter what topic is being discussed online, if the conversation goes on for long enough, someone will inevitably tie it back to immigration.

Immigration has always been an important and frequently debated issue. And for many current events, the connection with immigration is clear, for example: terrorism / ISIS, the Brexit, Donald Trump and this year’s presidential race, the refugee crisis. But at some point in the last year or two, I started noticing immigration being mentioned in connection with all sorts of topics I would never have expected.

To see what I mean, here are some of the topics I’ve posted about where immigration came up in a discussion, either in the comment section of the post or on social media:

Why is immigration suddenly the cause/result/solution of everything? (Not meant rhetorically. If you have a good answer, I’d love to know.)

Who is migrating from where to where?

For a topic that comes up as often as immigration, I’ve found the debate to be really lacking in factual information. Hopefully, this map is helpful is clearing up at least the simple, basic statistics: how many migrants are there? Where are they coming from? And where are they going?

Please keep in mind, these numbers are only estimates. You can find the full details of how they were calculated at the bottom of the post.

That said, here are a few of the pieces I found interesting.


Between 2010 and 2015, the net migration from Syria to Sweden was more than Syria’s net migration to the rest of Europe and the Americas combined.

Many Middle Eastern countries have been criticized for allegedly accepting few Syrian refugees. In Qatar and the UAE, the net migration appears to actually be negative. Though of the Middle Eastern countries that are accepting Syrian refugees, the numbers they are dealing with are orders of magnitude higher than in the West.

The United Kingdom / Brexit

 In the Brexit debate, the loudest arguments in favor of leaving the EU have been about immigration. What strikes me as interesting is how small a portion of the UK’s net immigration is actually coming from Europe.

Australia, another country where immigration has become a highly charged political issue, jumps out as an interesting case.

By these estimates, Australia’s net immigration is negative with every country in the world, except for a small positive immigration balance with Sudan. Australia is the only country in the world to have significant positive net immigration with the US.

United States

Last month, I posted a map visualizing 200 years of US immigration (inflows only). I would have liked to do the same with US emigration, which may be the more interesting direction since it is not nearly as well known. Unfortunately, the US does not keep good emigration records and the best data I’ve managed to find goes back only a few decades. So, I don’t foresee being able to make a historical US emigration map.

Still, I think it’s pretty interesting to see what US net immigration flows look like in the present.

As mentioned above, according to these estimates, the US has significant positive net immigration with only one other country, Australia. The country with which the US has the largest negative net immigration is, perhaps unsurprisingly, Mexico. Though the amount by which Mexico leads is down substantially compared to a decade ago. Illegal immigration, in particular, has fallen off sharply, as demonstrated by this time series of border apprehensions from Pew Research.

When US immigration is viewed by region, the area that really stands out is Asia, which now accounts for just as much US immigration as North + South America (Mexico included).

Immigration between the US and Mexico is particularly complex since it involves both legal and illegal immigration as well as temporary laborers, deportations, and a large number of people living in immigration detention facilities. For that reason, America’s true net migration with Mexico is uncertain, and may actually be much lower than what’s shown here. If you believe Pew’s estimates, net migration with Mexico is now actually negative: more people are migrating from the US to Mexico than vice versa.

Immigration perceptions

Wherever you stand politically on immigration, you have to admit, it’s pretty strange how rarely basic stats like these enter the debate. For all the discussion in the US about border fences and immigration limits, the simple question of “how many immigrants are there?” hardly ever even comes up.

Public opinion about immigration was likely a deciding factor in Britain’s decision to exit the EU. And it may very well determine who becomes the next US president. Yet the majority of Brits and the majority of Americans misestimate the size of their country’s immigrant population by a multiple.

Top 10 Global Risks 2017Eurasia_logo

The World Enters Geopolitical Recession

 The Eurasia Group first wrote about the coming of the “G-Zero” world—a world with no global leader—six years ago. Prescient. While it seemed unconventional at that time, it is becoming increasingly evident. The group’s President Ian Bremmer and Chairman Cliff Kupchan recently presented their Top Risks 2017 report, identifying the most challenging political and geopolitical trends and stress points for global investors and market participants in 2017.

“The underlying shifts in the geopolitical environment have been clear,” according to the report, “a U.S. with less interest in assuming leadership responsibilities; U.S. allies, particularly in Europe, that are weaker and looking to hedge bets on U.S. intentions; and two frenemies, Russia and China, seeking to assert themselves as (limited) alternatives to the U.S.—Russia primarily on the security front in its extended backyard, and China primarily on the economic front regionally, and, increasingly, globally.

“These trends have accelerated with the populist revolt against ‘globalism’—first in the Middle East, then in Europe, and now in the U.S. Through 2016, you could see the G-Zero picking up speed on multiple fronts: the further deterioration of the transatlantic alliance with Brexit and the ‘no’ vote on the Italy referendum; the end of America’s Asia pivot with the collapse of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Philippine president announcing a break with the U.S.; the Russian victory in Syria after backing President Bashar al Assad through nearly six years of war.

“But with the shock election of Donald Trump as president of the U.S, the G-Zero world is now fully upon us. The triumph of ‘America first’ as the primary driver of foreign policy in the world’s only superpower marks a break with decades of U.S. exceptionalism and belief in the indispensability of U.S. leadership, however flawed and uneven. With it ends a 70-year geopolitical era of Pax Americana, one in which globalization and Americanization were tightly linked, and American hegemony in security, trade, and promotion of values provided guardrails for the global economy.”

Ominously, the report indicates, “This year marks the most volatile political risk environment in the postwar period, at least as important to global markets as the economic recession of 2008. It needn’t develop into a geopolitical depression that triggers major interstate military conflict and/or the breakdown of major central government institutions. But such an outcome is now thinkable, a tail risk from the weakening of international security and economic architecture and deepening mistrust among the world’s most powerful governments.”

According to Bremmer and Kupchan, at the top of the list in 2017 is the risk presented by Independent America: “The triumph of ‘America first’ as the primary driver of foreign policy in the world’s only superpower marks a break with decades of U.S. exceptionalism and belief in the indispensability of U.S. leadership. Independent America renounces exceptionalism, the notion that the U.S. actively promotes democracy, civil rights, and rule of law.”

Below follows a summary of the top 10 global risks for 2017.

Click here for the full report.





Click here for the exclusive video.




1- Independent America

The world’s sole superpower was once the international trump card, imposing order to force compromise and head off conflict. Now it’s a wildcard. Instead of creating policies designed to bolster global stability, President-elect Donald Trump will use U.S. power overwhelmingly to advance U.S. interests, with little concern for the broader impact. Trump is no isolationist. He’s a unilateralist. Expect a more hawkish—and a much less predictable—U.S. foreign policy. Allies, especially in Europe and Asia, will hedge. Rivals like Russia and China will test. U.S.-led institutions will lose more of their international clout.

2- China Overreacts

China’s leadership transition will create risks that matter far beyond that country’s borders. The need to maintain control of the transition ahead of next fall’s party congress will increase the risk of economic policy mistakes that rattle foreign investors and international markets. In addition, President Xi Jinping knows this is a dangerous time to look weak and irresolute. Provocations from Trump, and the multitude of areas where U.S.-Chinese tensions might play out—North Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, the East and South China Seas, and in U.S.-Chinese political and economic relations—make 2017 a dangerous year for China and all who depend on it for growth and stability.

3- A Weaker Merkel

Strong leadership from Angela Merkel has proven indispensable for Europe’s ability to manage crisis in recent years. Europe will face more challenges in 2017—from France’s elections, Greece’s finances, Brexit negotiations, and delicate relations with both Russia and Turkey. Unfortunately, though Merkel is likely to win reelection as Germany’s chancellor in 2017, she’ll emerge as a weakened figure. This will leave Europe with no strong leadership at all—at a time when strong leaders are badly needed.

4- No Reform

Don’t expect a surge in needed economic reforms in 2017. Some leaders, like India’s Modi and Mexico’s Pena Nieto, have accomplished as much as they can for now. In Russia, France, and Germany, reform will wait until after coming elections, and China faces an all-consuming leadership transition next fall. Turkey’s Erdogan, Britain’s May, and South Africa’s Zuma are fully occupied at the moment with domestic political challenges. In Brazil, Nigeria, and Saudi Arabia, ambitious plans will advance but fall short of what’s needed.

5- Technology and the Middle East

Each year, governments in the Middle East lose more of their legitimacy. Technological change is critically weakening an already fragmenting region. The risks are both top-down and bottom-up. The revolution in energy production undermines the stability of states still deeply dependent on oil and gas exports for state revenue. Automation of the workplace will make it even harder to create jobs for growing numbers of young people. New communications technologies continue to enhance the ability of angry citizens to commiserate and organize. Cyber conflict is further shifting the region’s precarious balance of power. Finally, “forced transparency” (think Wikileaks, etc.) is especially dangerous for brittle authoritarian regimes.

6- Central Banks Get Political

Western central banks are increasingly vulnerable to the same sort of crude political pressures that distort economies in developing countries. Britain’s May has blamed the Bank of England for low rate policies that have increased income inequality. In Germany, Wolfgang Schaeuble has argued that low interest rates have reduced the incentives for peripheral European states to reform. Trump accused the Federal Reserve of helping Hillary Clinton. In 2017, there’s a risk that Trump will use the Fed as a political scapegoat, putting new pressure on future Fed decisions. He might also use Janet Yellen’s departure to replace her with a personal ally, undermining the Fed’s credibility for years.

7- The White House vs. Silicon Valley

Trump and the tech sector don’t have much in common. Trump wants security and control. The tech firms want freedom and privacy for their customers. Trump wants jobs. The tech firms want to push automation into overdrive. The two sides differ substantially on investment in science. In 2017, there will be plenty for the White House and Silicon Valley to fight over.

8- Turkey

President Erdogan continues to use an ongoing state of emergency to tighten his control of day-to-day affairs, as well as on the judiciary, bureaucracy, media, and even the business sector through waves of arrests and purges. In 2017, he’ll use a referendum to formalize his powers, and his strengthening grip will exacerbate the country’s economic problems and its tense relations with neighbors and with Europe. Turkey is a volatile player in an increasingly volatile region.

 9- North Korea

It’s hard to know exactly when North Korea will have a missile capability that poses a clear and immediate danger to the U.S., but the DPRK appears to be approaching the finish line at a time of dangerously deteriorating relations between China and the U.S. Serious tensions will likely arise between the two over additional sanctions. And if President Park is forced from office in South Korea and replaced with a center-left government that favors diplomacy, a tough Trump policy could roil geopolitics throughout the region.

10- South Africa

The deeply unpopular President Zuma is afraid to pass on power to someone he doesn’t trust. Resulting infighting over succession poses an obstacle to any effort on needed reforms and limits South Africa’s ability to offer leadership to help stabilize conflicts inside neighboring countries.

* Red herrings

Bremmer and Kupchan expect that U.S. domestic policy poses fewer risks than foreign policy, because Congress has greater power to impose predictability on an unpredictable new president. Don’t expect a flare-up in India vs. Pakistan at a time when both governments need stability. And Brazil will have an easier 2017 as legislators try to appease public anger for change by making progress on President Temer’s agenda.

Eurasia Group is a leading global political risk research and consulting firm, providing information and insight on how political developments move markets and helping clients anticipate and respond to instability and opportunities everywhere they invest or do business. Top Risks 2017: The Geopolitical Recession was prepared by Eurasia Group, 3 January 2017.


NEW Perspective on Alliances

Post-WWII New World Order Begins

Former Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel recently addressed the World Affairs Council of Charlotte, after the election results were certain but before the new administration is installed. Secretary Hagel’s global insights and perspective on changing alliances suggest that a post-WWII new world order is emerging.

Former SECDEF Chuck Hagel visiting with Publisher John Paul Galles
Former SECDEF Chuck Hagel visiting with Publisher John Paul Galles

Here are some interesting points he raised.

I believe what we’re seeing in our country, is a reflection of a new post-World War II order being built in the world today. The world order that was built after World War II has lasted about 70 years. In the scope of history, world orders that last 70 years are rather unique, especially in a world where the demographic has shifted in an unprecedented way. Seven billion people exist today, and that number is increasing every day. Demographers tell us we are hitting nine billion by 2050 by the data.

“A new world order is being built, is being defined, today. It is a different kind of dynamic today than what it was in 1946 for many reasons. Significantly, there was only one economy in the world of 1946 that was left standing; it was the U.S. economy. There was no other economy left with its own military force. That gave the United States a tremendous amount of leadership capacity, confidence and ability to—along with allies—build this new world order.

“These great men and women had such vision after World War II, they did something that had never been done before in the history of man. They built coalitions of common interests: the United Nations, World Trade Organization, international development banks and institutions, IMF, World Bank, NATO, and dozens of other alliance-painted coalitions. They built those coalitions around and predicated on the common interest of most nations.

“Those coalitions have served the world very well for 70 years. They’re imperfect—can’t solve everything—but think for a moment if the world had not had these institutions over the last 70 years. Does anyone really think the world would be safer and more stable and better? I don’t think so. I don’t think so.

“As we are seeing this new world order evolve, develop, we are seeing a natural questioning of the effectiveness of existing alliances. Challenged alliances because of trade, which now connects us into the political world—because you can’t disconnect the political world from the reality of economics, of security, of environment, the big issues. The political world is the vehicle, the highway in nations, in particular democracies, to arrive at some destination as the decision-makers.

“It would be natural that what we saw in this country this year, in the recent election, would follow a manifestation of this concern, this uncertainty, the volatile ‘Where are we going’ disconnect with our government, disconnect with institutions, lack of confidence, lack of trust in institutions in every poll in the country for over two years. When asking the question, ‘Is America going in the right direction/wrong direction?’, an overwhelming 65 to 75 percent of the American people consistently responded ‘America is going in the wrong direction.’

“Where all this goes, I don’t know, but it’s clear to me that in our recent election in America was a political realignment. They tell me that there’s nothing you can do to stop it. It’s like a bad storm. You do two things in a bad storm whether it’s a tornado or a hurricane, whatever the storm. You head for the potato cellar and get out of the way first. Second, you try to think through and plan for what happens a day after the storm blows through and how you rebuild. That’s kind of where we are I think in our country and in the world today.”

U.S. Defense Security Blocs

Secretary Hagel provided a first-hand perspective from his experience at the Defense Department as a Republican working for a Democratic President. He expressed concern about President Obama’s lack of commitment to his “drawing a red-line in Syria,” relating quite an interesting story about what happened, and expounded upon the global consequences from that lack of action.

He was genuinely concerned that Obama’s lack of action opened the door for Vladimir Putin and Russia to side with President Assad in Syria. That gave Putin the opportunity to lead the way in Syria and to extinguishing the opposition forces to Assad inside Syria. Secretary Hagel was demonstrably upset with the lack of action taken by the United States. It was following that action that he stepped down from the Pentagon.

“The answer to this is a, not just a continuation but a strengthening of alliances, of building new partnerships that aren’t necessarily based on a NATO-type alliance. Mutual security because there is no such thing as just straight military security as we think of security. The security of any nation rests upon the most fundamental of all securities and that’s economic security. A nation is only as powerful as its economy. It’s very simple. Your household. If you don’t have any income you probably don’t have any options. It’s the same thing about nations.”

Secretary Hagel finished his remarks by saying, “It’s going to be a balance. New partnerships, stronger enhanced relationships, alliances and trade. I mean, we couldn’t back away from trade if we wanted to. We are so connected to the world in every way and trade is not a guarantee. Never has been. Trade is an opportunity.

“Trade does so much more than just exchange goods and commerce. It opens doors that allow nations to respond to each other, understand each other, communicate with each other, connect with each other, coordinate with each other in ways that nothing else can. It opens everything up. It can’t do everything—you need all the other pieces of government as well—but those are fundamentals. Alliances and trade.

Former Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s remarks at the World Affairs Council in December 2016 are included below, edited for brevity.

I believe what we’re seeing in our country, is a reflection of a new post-World War II order being built in the world today. The world order that was built after World War II has lasted about 70 years. In the scope of history, world orders that last 70 years are rather unique, especially in a world where the demographic has shifted in an unprecedented way. Seven billion people exist today, and that number is increasing every day. Demographers tell us we are hitting nine billion by 2050 by the data.

A new world order is being built, is being defined, today. It is a different kind of dynamic today than what it was in 1946 for many reasons. Significantly, there was only one economy in the world of 1946 that was left standing; it was the U.S. economy. There was no other economy left with its own military force. That gave the United States a tremendous amount of leadership capacity, confidence and ability to—along with allies—build this new world order.

These great men and women had such vision after World War II, they did something that had never been done before in the history of man. They built coalitions of common interests: The United Nations, World Trade Organization, international development banks and institutions, IMF, World Bank, NATO, and dozens of other alliance-painted coalitions. They built those coalitions around and predicated on the common interest of most nations.

Europe had just been through two tremendously destructive world wars in the first half of the 20th century. We were going to avert that. We were going to have to do something radically different. Therefore, these coalitions of common interests were made.

Those coalitions have served the world very well for 70 years. They’re imperfect—can’t solve everything—but think for a moment if the world had not had these institutions over the last 70 years. Does anyone really think the world would be safer and more stable and better? I don’t think so. I don’t think so.

As we are seeing this new world order evolve, develop, we are seeing a natural questioning of the effectiveness of existing alliances. Challenged alliances because of trade, which now connects us into the political world—because you can’t disconnect the political world from the reality of economics, of security, of environment, the big issues. The political world is the vehicle, the highway in nations, in particular democracies, to arrive at some destination as the decision-makers.

It would be natural that what we saw in this country this year, in the recent election, would follow a manifestation of this concern, this uncertainty, the volatile “Where are we going” disconnect with our government, disconnect with institutions, lack of confidence, lack of trust in institutions in every poll in the country for over two years. When asking the question, “Is America going in the right direction/wrong direction?”, an overwhelming 65 to 75 percent of the American people consistently responded “America is going in the wrong direction.”

Now, when you see those kinds of numbers, consistently crossing all socioeconomic lines, something’s going to happen. As the historians will reflect on this time and there will be a lot of books written, a lot of analysis will go on for years. What happened in the United States? It was only a manifestation of the realities of this disconnect, this distrust, this confusion, this concern about not just the direction of our country, but the institutions that have a responsibility of keeping the society together.

Like any of us in our own lives, we are disrupted by what happens around us. Disruption affects our trust. If you lose trust in personal relationships, business relationships, there is no currency. It’s pretty hard to ever get it back. We have lost a lot of that currency, not just here in the United States, but around the world.

Look at what’s happening in every democracy in the country today starting with what happened in the UK a few months ago with Brexit. The presidential election in France is coming up. Elections in Germany, Italy. Half of the countries in Europe are having either presidential or parliamentary elections within the next six months. Some of them are already underway. Like the United States, it is the same feeling about their governments, about their leaders, about their politics.

I don’t think it’s all just a breakdown in leadership but the reality is in politics, and again in especially democracies, the politics always reflects the will of the people. Politics never leads. Those of us who have had the privilege of serving in office, being elected, know that quite well. You respond to the needs, the will of the people.

I suspect other elections that will take place will not be too dissimilar from what happened here in the recent election. Look what happened in the UK and it is in the process of continuing a political realignment.

Where all this goes, I don’t know, but it’s clear to me that in our recent election in America was a political realignment. They tell me that there’s nothing you can do to stop it. It’s like a bad storm. You do two things in a bad storm whether it’s a tornado or a hurricane, whatever the storm. You head for the potato cellar and get out of the way first. Second, you try to think through and plan for what happens a day after the storm blows through and how you rebuild. That’s kind of where we are I think in our country and in the world today.

As we move forward a new government is being formed now in Russia. A new government was formed the last few months in Great Britain. We know there will be new governments being formed in France, Italy, maybe Germany, and even in Austria, and Hungary. We will see how those governments will address the people and how well governments and political leaders in society will adapt and adjust to the realities of the world that we live in today.

We’re playing catch-up here. It’s like regulation in government. The markets are always ahead of regulation. You can only do so much in the way of regulation. You must depend not on government regulation for honesty, for decency, you’ve got to depend on the people. After all, it is about people. No institution is ever better than its people—every institution is only as good as its people, as its leaders. No better, no worse.

Now, this is all swirling around in our country, and all of this causes shift and change and fragmentation of our political philosophies. Really, when you look at the two major parties in this country, what is the legitimate question? What is the governing philosophy of the Republican Party today and the governing philosophy of the Democratic Party today? I would submit that there’s very little governing philosophy in either party today.

To add further evidence, the plurality of registered voters in the United States today are independents. Not Republicans, not Democrats. Every year that increases. We are seeing now is not necessarily an abandonment of political parties, but again a disconnect from political parties because of lack of confidence and trust and all the other things that I’ve talked about.

Now within this boiling cauldron of uncertainty, yes, there is much danger, but I think too a great opportunity because great realignments must occur in the world to respond to these realities and these challenges of our time. Change is not new. We all know that. Every generation in the history of man has had change. The defining moment of change or challenge is how each generation responds.

So far, over our almost 250-year history in the Unites States, we’ve done pretty well. We’ve done pretty well I think for many reasons. First of all, we are a nation of laws, but we also have a system that allows us to self-correct. Now democracies have that, but we can self-correct without guillotining each other, without revolutions erupting. We have mechanics, mechanisms, processes to fix the problem and if the alignments need to be shifted, we can fix those alignments and make them relevant to the challenges of our day.

The United States does it better than anyone. That doesn’t mean we’re any smarter. Doesn’t mean we’re any better or mean we are God’s chosen few. While we’ve got this great capacity to self-correct, that’s what’s happening.

Let me shift a little bit to more current global challenges, to not just the United States but the world, because we are not an island. As we all know there has been a considerable amount of conversation during the election about essentially pulling back and lessening our commitments to NATO, to other alliances, trade issues. I’m not concerned about the challenging of those relationships in the sense that I think relationships should be challenged. Are they working? Are they relevant? Are they good for all the parties involved?

Businesses have to do that every day or you’re not going to be in business anymore. You’ve got to review your product. You’ve got to review every element of your business. Your life, your personal lives. If you’re getting a little bit out of line somewhere, people aren’t buying your product, whatever the signs are, you’re going to have to adjust. You’re going to have to do some things differently. That doesn’t mean you throw away your product. That doesn’t mean you throw away your relationship or you disband the alliance. There’s always a threat of that, of course, in these big global issues. We need to probe a challenge. We need to question.

I was a kid once in the Florida Senate and I was questioning a policy in Iraq and someone said that I was disloyal, and I even had someone call me a traitor. I said on the Florida Senate, “It’s not unpatriotic to question your government. It is unpatriotic not to question your government’s policies.” I further explained in elected office I, like all elected officials in Congress, took an oath of office to a constitution, not to a president, not to a political party. I think that needs to be realigned as well because we have become too brutally partisan.

Both parties are to blame on this I think in too many ways. They have become captive to special interests. I remember all the special interests that we—all almost all of us—were representing. It’s the larger purpose. It’s the larger responsibility than your special interests. If we are to lose that then we will lose our magic. We will lose our self-direction. We will lose our country.

There’s a lot riding here on how all of this plays out and I think we’re in for a bumpy road the next few years as we work through this alignment. It’s not going to be easy because the issues today are so complicated—whether it’s Syria, whether it’s the Middle East, whether it’s North Africa, whether it’s North Korea—because each of these issues is part of this bubbling toxic brew that connects so many pieces now to everything.

For example, ISIS. A lot of different views on ISIS. What do we do about ISIS? Well I have taken the view over the years, whether it’s ISIS, Syria, Iraq, terrorism wherever, that the military of the United States or anyone’s military is not going to fix that problem. Because what we haven’t done very well over the years is try to figure out how did this all happen? What produced ISIS? What produces Al-Qaeda? What produced this fundamentalism?

It just didn’t appear. Something happened. Something deep down in society and I think there’s where it starts to become complicated because ISIS, the Middle East in particular, Sunnis, Shias, Kurds, Persians—all of that not unlike how Catholics and Protestants killed each other for 30 years in the 30 Years War in Europe—all of that has been produced by centuries of cultural differences, religious differences, ethnic tribal differences.

I think we’re still seeing a very disastrous hangover from when the British and the French divided up the Middle East in 1923 and they invented countries that shouldn’t have been invented. They cut across lines of tribal and ethnic areas. The Kurds being a good example. The Kurds are in five countries on those corners. Kurds have never had their own country.

I remember meeting with President Erdogan a number of times. The Secretary of Defense, in fact Joe Biden and I were the first to meet Erdogan when his party just developed, just stepped into power in November of 2002. 2002. Biden and I were in the Middle East for 10 days to visit all the countries. We were talking with Erdogan then which you all know could hold no public office because he was not a member of Parliament. He was a leader of the party. We spent two hours with him and then Biden and I drove into Kurdistan that night, an eight hour drive to speak with the Kurdistan Parliament. This was December 2002 and then we invaded Iraq in March of 2003.

It was an interesting drive. Senator, Vice President Biden is a good friend. That was an interesting experience being locked into an SUV with Joe Biden for eight hours. Some of our staff people said by the time we reached Erbil the Kurdish driver spoke flawless English.

Point being with Erdogan—just to give you an idea of the complications—here is Turkey, as probably an indispensable member of NATO as any country since 1952. My point in telling you this story about when I first met Erdogan, I’ve known him for years and had a very good relationship with him. Last time I saw him, when I was Secretary of Defense, we had a long conversation about trying to get the Turks to allow us, the Unites States, and some of our NATO allies to use the NATO base there in Turkey for short range and into Syria both pilot and pilotless aircraft.

He said to me, “We have a problem, the U.S. and Turkey on this issue.” Because he, Erdogan, was one of the first and the strongest leaders of the area to get rid of Assad. We were trying to get this agreement with him that focuses on ISIS and Al-Qaeda. He said to me, “ISIS is not our biggest problem. It’s a problem. We’re going to handle it, but the Kurds are our biggest problem. You are supporting the Kurds and you won’t go to war with Assad. You won’t help me by setting up a safe zone or a fly zone in northern Syria.”

Now let me stop there. I think you get my point. Here’s a country, Turkey, that has been as close to the United States and as reliable NATO partner as we’ve had. It’s important because before the implosion of the Soviet Union there was only one NATO country that lived right on the border of the Soviet Union republics. The only Muslim country in NATO. Our interests diverged in a very significant way. This is a good example of the complications of not just that part of the world but every part of the world.

We’re going to have to be smarter in how we do things. The military can’t fix the problem. The problem in the Middle East can’t be fixed in the Middle East. The problems in the Middle East aren’t going to be fixed without the Russians. The Russians are there and they’re not going anywhere. That problem in the Middle East isn’t going to get fixed without the Iranians. We may not like either one of them and have major differences with both of them, but then the alternative is to just allow the continuation of the systematic destruction of the Middle East.

That’s just wrong. You go across most of those countries in the Middle East and things get worse in Saudi Arabia. There’s a lot of internal conflict going on there. That isn’t getting better, I don’t think. GCC (Gulf Cooperation Countries) countries are threatened, very concerned about where does this put us.

We’re going to have to think through some things a little differently. I think do some things differently our NATO allies are questioning in many ways our leadership in some of these areas. Afghanistan is another area. We are in our 16th year in Afghanistan and we’ve still got 8,500 troops there taking casualties there. That’s not getting better. Actually, the Taliban control more territory today in Afghanistan than they have in 15 years.

We have NATO partners with us. We also have partners like Jordan in Afghanistan. How much longer their public are going to put up with their troops being in Afghanistan not seeing any kind of turn is an open question. Obviously North Korea, how do you deal with that continued complicated problem, especially now in light of the problem in South Korea. President Park will be soon to leave office.

Our new administration transitioning in from the former administration is always a time of great danger and threat because of countries challenging us, taking advantage of that vacuum. You’re not going to fix any of those problems with the military. There is a military piece to it, but I go back to the two fundamentals that did more to help the world and help the United States. They were the defining platforms of the world order that was built after World War II that I was referencing.

Alliances, strong common-interest alliances and trade. Now both can only do so much but without those you have no common-interest platforms to work together from. Middle East again. There will be no possibility, no hope for any kind of solution or resolution in the Middle East until there is some platform of stability that’s constructive to allow the next stage to start taking shape. We may see it differently at least in borders. The 1923 borders maybe changed once we see a cease-fire that everyone can agree to.

When I say everyone, you’re still going to have terrorist groups that won’t agree. That’s not new. You’ve got to put that in perspective too. Terrorism. Terrorism is not new. The sophistication of terrorism and the empowerment of non-state activists is new because of technology and technology is driving as much of this as any one thing. It has now empowered groups. Social media for example. ISIS is as adept and sophisticated at using social media as any country. In fact, more so than most countries. Their equipment and techniques, strategies. You’re not going to undo that.

Again, I go back to a comment I made early. We’ve got to get underneath this. Stability in the Middle East. That’s going to require enough of the powers there, the governments there. Certainly the Russians, certainly us. You can’t put NATO troops in the Middle East. I don’t think an American president anytime soon is going to put any kind of significant troop strength back in the Middle East. I remember my predecessor Bob Gates said a few years ago, “Anybody who again advises a president of the United States to put troops on the ground in the Middle East ought to have his head examined.” I fully subscribe to that. Fully subscribe to that.

The answer to this is a, not just a continuation but a strengthening of alliances, of building new partnerships that aren’t necessarily based on a NATO-type alliance. Mutual security because there is no such thing as just straight military security as we think of security. The security of any nation rests upon the most fundamental of all securities and that’s economic security. A nation is only as powerful as its economy. It’s very simple. Your household. If you don’t have any income you probably don’t have any options. It’s the same thing about nations.

Our economics, our diplomacy, our trade, our relationships, everything is now connected in the world fabric of security. That is security. Partnerships, new partnerships in Asia-Pacific. When I was Secretary of Defense, I took many Asia-Pacific trips, more than Secretary Kerry did. More than anybody in the administration. United States, in fact the entire Western Hemisphere, the western border of the Western Hemisphere from Canada all the way down to the tip of Chile, border the Pacific, so we’ve always been a Pacific partner. You know all the demographics and the economies and all the dynamics in play there.

I focused on strengthening our alliances there, certainly military, certainly our more refined security interests. Also on new partnerships. I’ll give you an example. I was the first Secretary of Defense to invite all the ASEAN defense ministers to Hawaii for a conference. Never been done. Ten ASEAN ministers to a three-day conference. Half of those three days I put together an agenda having very little to do with military issues. I had the USAID director there. I had senior members from the Agriculture Department, the Commerce Department, Weather Bureau all there meeting with the ministers because I wanted to focus on where the common denominators are of people. Of people. Of your country, your people. How can you improve the lives of your people?

Education, agriculture, everything. The rest of it flows from that. I think we actually did quite a bit of good from that. Then we had a day and a half of military and we showed off all our power. We didn’t have to do that. The ASEAN nations knew that. Give them a little inside sense of that.

It’s going to be a balance. New partnerships, stronger enhanced relationships, alliances and trade. I mean, we couldn’t back away from trade if we wanted to. We are so connected to the world in every way and trade is not a guarantee. Never has been. Trade is an opportunity.

Trade does so much more than just exchange goods and commerce. It opens doors that allow nations to respond to each other, understand each other, communicate with each other, connect with each other, coordinate with each other in ways that nothing else can. It opens everything up. It can’t do everything—you need all the other pieces of government as well—but those are fundamentals. Alliances and trade.

Let’s go back to the Middle East here a moment. How does anyone believe that eventually the Middle East gets put back together? In the destruction of the Middle East and Syria, Syria is unique. It’s a destroyed country, the infrastructure, the housing. Good parts, major parts of Iraq, Libya, Danube, and it just continues to see more destruction, more destruction. What’s happening in Mosul? I mean it’s just how do you put that back together?

It’s going to require immense, immense new building and economic efforts, trade to do that. What do you do with the people? People just can’t keep risking their lives going across the Mediterranean however they want to get to Europe. That, in itself, is starting to seriously fray the EU. That’s probably the jolting gong that led to the Brexit vote. The Syrian refugee issues.

There were other issues too that were more basic and academic contributing to that. Brussels has become this empire of a parliament, a European parliament which is silly. People are fed up with it and I understand that. Why are we having to listen to what the people in Brussels have to say on … We are French, we’re Italian, we’re British, and so on and so on and so on. By the way, to say that just can be said about NATO. That they’ve been likened to these large model, this huge bureaucracy. Now that’s no reason to do away with them, but that’s part of what’s happened here too.

We’re going to need the trade. We’re going to need the relationships to rebuild any part of the world. We don’t often think enough I think and the United States is guilty of this or thinking through these things. Certainly, if the United states military faces another military there is no country whether it’s partnered with Saddam Hussein or Muammar Gaddafi that’s going to stand a chance. No one can on a battlefield against the United States power. This ain’t going to happen because no one has that kind of power. Does that fix the problem?

I think we learned a hard lesson in Iraq, we learned a hard lesson in Afghanistan. Unless there are functioning institutions of governments. This is the biggest problem I think there is in Afghanistan. Afghanistan has never had a central government. It’s never had functioning institutional bodies. It’s still a tribal country. That doesn’t mean they can’t have, won’t have, shouldn’t have. It’s up to them to have democracy but we can’t dictate that. The United States cannot dictate that. The Europeans cannot dictate that. We can help facilitate. We can help support but that’s beyond our capability to do that. We are surely not going to shock and awe countries into new democratic governments and new freedoms. Again we’ve learned some tough lessons the last 16 years and I think that was also part of what happened in this country in the election here this year.

I end with this. Is this fixable? Is this doable? Do we have a future? Yes. Yes. Yes. We do. It’s really within our grasp. The Chinese aren’t going to dictate that. The Russians are not going to dictate that. We control our own destiny with our friends, with our allies. Boy, if there was a time you need friends and you need allies it sure as hell is now. It sure as hell is now. You don’t want to be pushed back.

I used to be asked a question, “What’s it like to be the leader of the largest entity in the world?” The Defense Department is. Most complicated too. I said, I was Secretary of Defense but I never confused that with the reality. The Department of Defense consisted of empires within empires. You had to deal with all these different emperors at times. Once you start believing you’re running things, oh you’re in for a real shock.

Chuck Hagel served as the 24th Secretary of Defense from February 2013 to February 2015. During his tenure, he directed significant steps to modernize America’s partnerships and alliances, advance the rebalance in Asia-Pacific, bolster support for European allies, and enhance defense cooperation in the Middle East while overseeing the end of America’s combat mission in Afghanistan. In addition, he led major initiatives for service members and their families, including increasing resources for suicide prevention, combating sexual assault, and accounting for missing personnel. He is the only Vietnam veteran and the first enlisted combat veteran to serve as Secretary of Defense.


Our World Better or Worse Off?

A History of Global Living Conditions

Max Roser

In an incredibly important article, economist and media critic Max Roser, known for his research on global trends of living conditions and his visualizations of these trends, shows us the history of global living conditions—“the history of everyone.”

Very few people think that the world is getting better. In a handful of charts, Roser instantly communicates the progress of the human population over the last two centuries in poverty, literacy, health, freedom, fertility and education. If you don’t read anything else this week, make sure you make to time to read this and consider its implications with respect to your current world view.

Here are the highlights of Roser’s piece:

Global_world-population-living-in-extreme-povertyPoverty: In a time of unprecedented population growth, increasing productivity—more output from less input—and economic growth—you are better off when others become better off—have combined to give more prosperity to more people and to continuously lift more people out of poverty. Roser points out that because of disparaging media reports, it is easy to miss the slow developments that reshape our world, suggesting that the headlines since 1990 could have read instead, “The number of people in extreme poverty fell by 130,000 since yesterday!”—and that could have run every day.

Global_literate-and-illiterate-world-populationLiteracy: It was in the last two centuries that literacy became the norm for the entire population. If you think science, technology, political freedom are important to solve the world’s problems and you think that it helps to read and write to do this, Roser points out that in 1800 there were 120 million people in the world that could read and write; today there are 6.2 billion.

Global_global-child-mortalityHealth: In 1800 the entire world lived in poor conditions; in all countries of the world more than every third child died before it was 5 years old. For a combination of reasons—rising prosperity, changing social life, improved housing and sanitation, healthier diet, and innovations in science and medicine—child mortality is now down to 4.3 percent—10-fold lower.

Global_world-pop-by-political-regimeFreedom: Using the Polity IV index to measure regimes, Roser points out that the share of the world population living in democracies has increased continuously; now more than every second person in the world lives in a democracy, and 4 out of 5 living in an authoritarian regime live in one country—China.

Fertility: Population growth increases humanity’s demand for resources and amplifies humanity’s impact on the environment. Roser points out that world is well into the demographic transition and global population growth has in fact peaked. Global life expectancy doubled just over the last hundred years; global fertility has more than halved in the last 50 years.



Education: Roser points out that the revolution in how we live was not only driven by education, it also has made education more important than ever. Researchers expect that there will never be more children on the planet than today. Their projection suggests that by 2100, there will be almost no one without formal education and there will be more than 7 billion minds who will have received at least secondary education.

Global_world-as-100-peopleRoser concludes by pointing out that most of us have a very negative perspective of global development and suggests that the media is in part to blame because the media does not tell us how the world is changing, it tells us what in the world goes wrong. When we are ignorant about global development, he says, it is not surprising that few think that the world is getting better.

“What is clear from the long-term perspective is that the last 200 years have brought us to a better position than ever before to solve these problems,” Roser summarizes. “Solving problems—big problems—is always a collaborative undertaking. And the group of people that is able to work together today is a much, much stronger group than there ever was on this planet. We have just seen the change over time; the world today is healthier, richer, and better educated.

“For our history to be a source of encouragement we have to know our history. The story that we tell ourselves about our history and our time matters. Because our hopes and efforts for building a better future are inextricably linked to our perception of the past it is important to understand and communicate the global development up to now. A positive lookout on the efforts of ourselves and our fellow humans is a vital condition to the fruitfulness of our endeavors.”

To read the entire Roser article:

Max Roser is an economist and media critic. He is known for his research on global trends of living conditions and his visualizations of these trends. He is currently a research fellow in economics at the University of Oxford.






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