Recently, Tony Zeiss, president of CPCC, and Chase Saunders of the McNair Law Firm sat down with me and turned my attention to an important initiative to focus attention on a new economic vision of the Charlotte region as a “global marketplace.”
In collaboration with local, nationally-recognized regional planner, Michael Gallis, they are initiating conversations with local business leaders, the Chamber of Commerce, the Charlotte Regional Partnership and others, to recognize the convergence of a number of factors leading to significant economic opportunities for our region.
Together they have laid out a perspective of business history from 1762 to 2011 and demonstrated how that impacts our future to 2030 in a paper entitled Create It; Make It; Move It—Charlotte 2030: a Global Intersection of Commerce.
They identify several factors leading to the next great surge in economic activity for this region. First, they describe the expansion of the Panama Canal and what that means to Charlotte. The Panama Canal is currently in the midst of a major expansion of its locks that will double the capacity of the canal by 2014.
This expansion will allow more and larger ships to transit the canal from one ocean to the other. The locks will be widened and dredged to accommodate the new Post Panamax ships that carry three to five times the cargo of current ships capable of transiting the existing Panama Canal structure.
Second, they indicate that the Panama Canal expansion will result in expanded deep water ports in Charleston, Savannah and Wilmington which are served by the Norfolk Southern Railroad with routes right into Charlotte.
Third, they note the expansion of the U.S. Intermodal System at the Charlotte-Douglas International Airport. While we have had one intermodal center on North Brevard Street, it is constrained and limited in scope. The new intermodal center at the airport will address those constraints and open important “Crescent Corridor” service lanes. Within five years, it will offer 250,000 lifts (a lift is counted as a trailer or container being loaded onto or off a railcar) annually.
They also make note of other favorable factors including:
• The growth of Duke Energy, its power facilities and other energy companies which provide reliable energy and very competitive rates to power users
• The growing number of educational facilities that educate and train our workforce and future generations
• The area’s financial support centers—Bank of America and Wells Fargo, as well as the multitude of smaller banks
• The thriving and expanding medical community providing the highest quality of care
• The growing biotech, informatics, engineering and agribusiness presence
• An east coast interchange of national information data pipelines
• Our central location with interstate highways to east coast population centers from New York City to Miami
• Our workforce that is reliable, dependable and adaptive to changing economic challenges
• Our attractive quality of life with access to the mountains and the shore within easy driving distance
With all of those factors in place, they have targeted a set of initiatives focusing on developing our region into a global center for the creation, manufacture and distribution of products to the United States and to the world. The ambition is to create, make and move things better than any other region in America and become a “global marketplace.”
The logic and foundation for this new long-term planning project are substantially in place. Business leaders who can see the future and help prepare the way for these opportunities will be preparing Charlotte for the next 50 years.
We have been fortunate that Charlotte’s leaders from the past have brought us to the bright circumstances of our current economy. It is time to lay the groundwork for the next great expansion of the Charlotte marketplace. We are immensely grateful to Tony Zeiss, Chase Saunders, Michael Gallis and others who continue to lead.
It is important to identify what you can contribute to this dialogue and planning effort. Who can be helpful and what can they bring to the table to effect these changes in the most beneficial way to all concerned?
We need you to examine these factors, consider the possibilities, and participate in these discussions. At the end of the day, this is how we plan for our future and that of our children.