When you ask most people what the dominant industry is in Charlotte they will typically tell you banking. That response is generally the same both inside and outside the community. While banking is a major component of our economic base, it is actually surpassed in terms of employment numbers by the healthcare industry. Many people are surprised to learn that the Carolinas Healthcare System is the largest employer by far in this market with more than 26,000 employees. Presbyterian Hospital is also a major employer with more than 9,000 employees.
Utilizing a grant from the N.C. Biotech Center, the Charlotte Chamber recently conducted a study to determine the actual number of companies in the area that are connected to the healthcare/biotech/life science sector. Surprisingly, there are more than 772 firms in the Charlotte area representing everything from hospitals to clinics to medical device manufacturing to research and development labs. Those firms employ more than 86,000 people. This compares to 52,000 people employed in the banking and financial services industry.
The chamber has identified five key industry target sectors on which we are focusing our proactive outreach activities: energy, financial services, healthcare/life science, motorsports and aerospace/defense. In addition we are focusing on recruiting corporate headquarters and international business from Europe and Asia.
One of our recent headquarters relocation successes also has ties to the healthcare industry. Premier, Inc. announced in the fall of 2009 that they would relocate their corporate headquarters from San Diego to Charlotte, adding 300 jobs to the base of 700 employees that they already had in Charlotte. Premier is the largest healthcare alliance in the nation serving more than 2,500 hospitals and 73,000 other healthcare sites. It provides purchasing clout to its members helping to lower the cost of healthcare. It also provides data to its members to help them find areas for process improvement and cost savings.
Along with the Carolinas Healthcare System, Premier has been a major driver behind the scene helping to grow the healthcare sector in Charlotte. In April this year, Premier allowed the chamber to entertain a group of vendors in town for meetings with Premier executives. The chamber hosted a reception at which we were able to make a soft sell pitch to Premier’s vendors regarding Charlotte as a potential place for them to locate their business. This event enabled us to utilize some creative technology to sell Charlotte. In addition to thumb drives containing customized data on Charlotte that were given to the event attendees, we printed special name tags and business cards with a QR code on them. When an attendee at the event scanned the QR code with their smart phones, they were directed to a special web page with information customized for the event and their industry. Thanks to Premier opening this group to us for our sales pitch, we identified two new prospects and laid the groundwork for other companies to consider Charlotte in the future. We plan to host additional groups of Premier suppliers in the coming months with similar events.
We see this as just the beginning for the healthcare industry in Charlotte. As the N.C. Research Campus in Kannapolis matures and begins to spin off growth oriented companies, Charlotte will be a primary beneficiary of that activity. Other companies already here are working on developing medical devices and other products that will keep us alive longer and live healthier lives. Now that is something we can all get excited about.