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