Economic Development's Tony Crumbley
shares his thoughts on Charlotte's economy
It seems all we hear today is how bad the economy is in Charlotte. The stock market is declining, houses are being foreclosed and banks are laying off workers. Clearly the vast majority of the community is experiencing the “half empty glass” syndrome.
We are currently placing the blame of the economic slowdown on the lending institutions and the real estate community, when, in fact, the real culprit is the lack of consumer confidence driven by daily negative media. It’s time someone puts in perspective just how “bad” our economy really is.
Money magazine recently ran a chart that gives a good perspective of this. The chart compared 1932 with 2008.
||Gross Domestic Product
As you see, the nation as a whole has a long way to go to reach the bread lines of the 1930’s. The reason it has taken so long for the feds to call the recession is because the American worker is still producing positive growth.
We, here in Charlotte, are considerably better off than the rest of the nation. There are few places in the world one could be today and have such a positive quality of life and economic future as Charlotte.
There are many positive economic indicators reflecting the stronger local economy as compared to the nation. Residential housing across the nation has seen a decline in sales price of nearly 17% over the past year. Only recently has Charlotte seen any decline, which totals less than 3%. Dallas is the only other metro city that can make that claim. Many cities have seen declines in the 30% range.
The next time you are driving past the downtown skyline, take a look at all the construction cranes you see. Few, if any, cities in the nation have that many. Charlotte will have a record year in 2008 for value of new non-residential construction. We are 30% ahead of 2007 and expect to end the year at $2.8 billion in new construction. One of the reasons for this success is because construction costs are 20% less in Charlotte.
In general, the living cost in Charlotte is 7% less than the national average. This is one of the reasons nearly 40,000 new people a year are moving to Mecklenburg County. All we hear on the news is the increase in unemployment. The fact is there are more people employed in Charlotte today than were employed a year ago. Charlotte is still creating jobs and will continue to do so. We saw 12,165 new jobs in Charlotte in 2008. New companies looking at opening a new operation in Charlotte continue to keep the Chamber’s economic developers busy. Each week on average ten new companies seek information about the city and the Chamber staff hosts four visits by companies for a closer look.
In spite of all the banking turmoil, Charlotte continues to prosper from the banking community. In the beginning of 2008, Charlotte was the #2 banking center in the nation, with $2.2 trillion in assets behind only New York City. Today, we have $3.3 trillion in assets and are still the second largest. San Francisco is third with just over $1 trillion. When all the dust settles there will be more people working in finance in Charlotte than ever before.
Lastly, let’s look at our often beaten up airport for its seemingly high ticket prices and full parking lot. Those full lots should tell you something and all that red dirt along I-485 should reinforce your conclusion. 2008 will be a record year for passenger enplanements at Charlotte/Douglas International Airport. The airport is on track to surpass more than 17 million passenger enplanements, an increase of 11% from 2007.
Why aren’t we reading and hearing about these positive indicators? The list of indicators is out there and continues to grow. When will this community understand that the “glass is half full” and consumer confidence return?