Chamber Blog

Wednesday, June 25, 2014
Civil Rights in America: Then and Now

Last year, Charlotte celebrated the 50th anniversary of the desegregation of its restaurants, which happened in 1963. In partnership with civil rights activists, the Charlotte Chamber and local business leaders played a leading role in the city’s integration. On July 1, 2014 the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Community Relations Committee (which was born during Charlotte’s desegregation efforts) will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1964 Civil Rights Act through a program entitled “Civil Rights in America: Then and Now.”

Theodore M. “Ted” Shaw will serve as the keynote speaker for the event. Mr. Shaw, a distinguished law school professor and former director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, has been selected as the second director of the Center for Civil Rights at the University of North Carolina School of Law. The position has been vacant since the founding director, legendary Charlotte attorney Julius Chambers, stepped down from the post in 2010. Other special guests include Attorney James Ferguson, II, Dr. Tom Hanchett of the Levine Museum of the New South, and Dianne English from the Community Building Initiative.

As we prepare for this year’s Independence Day, the opportunity to commemorate the civil rights movement through a discussion on both our social progress and remaining challenges, is an ideal way to celebrate the meaning of the Fourth of July.

Civil Rights in America: Then and Now
Commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the 1964 Civil Rights Act

July 1, 2014 – 6 p.m.
6 p.m. – Reception
7 p.m. – Program

Wells Fargo Playhouse at ImaginOn
300 E. 7th St.

You may RSVP by calling Renee Thompson at704.336.2424 or emailing her at



Posted by: Rod Garvin @ 12:00:00 am  Comments (0)
Wednesday, June 18, 2014
Policies Passing With Breakneck Speed

It’s that time of year.  As state and local fiscal years come to a close, budgets are debated and adopted quickly.  And, in some cases, major policies are adopted or changed without a lot of input from the constituencies they impact.  It’s not a new phenomenon.  Elected bodies have been operating like this for as long as I have been in the public policy business and probably long before that.

The process is criticized by many and yet isn’t it human nature to procrastinate?  I remember late nights in Lee Dorm at N.C. State cramming for the last few hours before an exam.  Even now, I race to purchase gifts for my son to take to birthday parties as we are on our way to the party.  Additionally, good ideas don’t come on schedule. I have had to change direction many times on a project when suddenly someone, usually Bob, has a great idea for how we can do something better.  You don’t ignore the good idea simply because it came at the last minute.

So, why should we be surprised that our policy makers might need a deadline to get focused on things that need to get done?  It isn’t the best way to adopt policies or to do anything else in life.  Even so, it is what happens, and, as infuriating as it can be, it isn’t likely to change.  We have to make the best of it.  We have to stay engaged and communicate with the policy makers so they have all the information they need to make the best decisions.

A couple of issues that have moved quickly lately are causing frustration for different groups.  In both cases, the policies were adopted quickly without much discussion.  While it remains to be seen what will happen next on both, it is certain that the debate about them isn’t over.

The legislature passed HB 133 this week in an attempt to clarify language regarding the governance of Charlotte Douglas International Airport.  Members of the legislature believe the airport would be best run by a group of people appointed to a commission.  Charlotte City Council members believe the airport should continue to be run as a department of the city.  The bill isn’t likely to put a halt on the legal debate, which keeps the airport governance in limbo.  An extensive legal debate is what concerns the Charlotte Chamber.  The airport is the economic development asset that is most critical to recruitment of jobs to the entire Charlotte region.  We urge the parties to come to a quick resolution on the governance issues to prevent impacting recruitment activities.

The Mecklenburg County Commission voted this week to ask voters to support a one quarter cent increase in our local sales tax.  They propose to use the $30-35 million in revenue to fund increases in compensation for CMS and CPCC teachers as well as to fund our public libraries and cultural organizations.  While all those organizations would benefit from the revenue collected, they weren’t involved in fully baking the idea before it was adopted.  We urge the County Commission to work with those groups to quickly develop a plan that creates trust in where the revenues will be spent.  Without that trust, a referendum will struggle to pass in November.

As citizens and voters, we must not only observe what our elected bodies are doing but also engage and communicate with them about the ramifications of their proposals.  And, as the days get longer and the temperature outside gets hotter, our engagement and communication will have to come faster.  The process won’t change unless human nature changes, and that’s not likely to happen.


Natalie Haskins English
SVP, Public Policy
Charlotte Chamber of Commerce





Posted by: Natalie English @ 5:00:00 am  Comments (0)
Thursday, January 9, 2014
Latest Jobs Report: Mecklenburg Co. Adding People and Jobs

The most recent jobs report is great news for our area with the unemployment rate now at 7.1 percent. For context, let’s go back three years to November 2010 when the rate was 10.9 percent – 3.8 percentage points higher than the current rate. The number of employed residents tells the story better — nearly 39,000 more Mecklenburg County residents are employed now than three years ago.

The most impressive part of the story is really the labor force growth. National labor force growth is essentially stagnant, growing less than 1 percent in three years, but the labor force here has grown by 4.7 percent, or 22,800 people. We are adding people and jobs.

So while the national unemployment rate is significantly lower than Charlotte’s, at 6.6 percent, our growth in employment and labor force with a declining unemployment rate means one thing: fewer unemployed people heading into the New Year.


Posted by: Andrew Bowen @ 12:00:00 am  Comments (0)
Thursday, October 31, 2013
Calling All Job Creators

Is your company expanding in Mecklenburg County? If so, let us know! We want to help every company large and small share their growth stories, which helps us track how well the local economy is doing.

We often get caught up in celebrating new companies that bring jobs to the county but miss out on identifying existing companies that choose to expand their current operations here.

The chamber’s quarterly “New and Expanded Report”  tracks all companies in the county that add jobs, take more office space or invest in capital improvement. We currently track as much as possible from sources including the news, county building permits and other announcements, but nothing is as good as word of mouth. If your company is just starting or undergoing expansion in Mecklenburg County, let us know using the short form at this link.

In order to qualify, certain conditions must be met:

  • Any jobs must be from growth, not the replacement of past employees.
  • Square footage counts if it is either new space or a larger lease than was previously occupied.
  • Investment comes in the form of space improvements, new buildings and machinery.




Posted by: Andrew Bowen @ 12:00:00 am  Comments (0)
Thursday, September 5, 2013
Hitting the Million Mark

Andrew BowenHere’s news you don’t hear every day: One million people live in Mecklenburg County. Well, not yet, but soon – Thursday, Sept. 12, in fact (or somewhere around there).

Noting the consistent growth in Mecklenburg County, both the U.S. Census Bureau and the North Carolina Office of State Budget and Management expect the 2014 population estimate to be more than 1 million people. I took it one step further to estimate when our population would hit the coveted seven-digit mark.

How does one figure that out? The Census Bureau updates county population estimates every July. The latest estimate, from

2012, puts Mecklenburg County’s population at 969,031. The 2013 estimates have not been released yet. However, using the average growth from the 2010 census to the 2012 estimate puts the July 2013 population estimate somewhere around 995,000 people. Converted to a daily growth rate, the number exceeds 1 million on or around Sept. 12, 2013.

We may very well have already surpassed 1 million residents or may not reach that point until later in the year. While the news of surpassing 1 million residents is not in itself terribly exciting, the growth from a population of 511,000 just 33 years ago is. While many other areas of the country struggle with consistent population losses or stagnant growth, the Charlotte area has thrived, boasting population growth of more than 2.5 percent annually; people are flocking to Charlotte from elsewhere seeking opportunities.

Will we ever reach 2 million residents? Maybe, but consider the fact that our population density would have to double from the current 1,900 people per square mile to 3,818 per square mile. That kind of density would have our landscape looking similar to present-day Milwaukee and Orange County, Calif. (Los Angeles suburbs) – both just slightly denser than the county that seats Detroit.

Charlotte’s growth is expected to keep pace with the last 30 years and doesn’t show signs of slowing in the near future. Homebuilding is increasing, and apartment complexes are hardly keeping up with demand. If my calculations are correct, expect the next milestone of 2 million residents sometime in the 2040s – but don’t hold me to it.

Posted by: Andrew Bowen @ 12:00:00 am  Comments (1)
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