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August 2004
Charlotte...by Design

      Unlike a lot of major cities, Charlotte has been in an enviable position, as a relatively modern city, to create an identity tailored to its foundation of skilled and talented people, giving thoughtful consideration to this region’s accessibility, business climate and quality of life. Strategic decisions – from the mix of methods for mass transportation, to the cultural development of our center city, to our system of public education and availability of post high school educational opportunities, to the preservation of our cultural heritage after the substantial decline of our textile and tobacco industries – continue to challenge the Charlotte region to make conscious, purposeful, well-informed decisions based on the experience of other world-class cities but with the benefit of hindsight and, more importantly, foresight. The mass influx of newcomers over the past few decades, from the northeast and elsewhere, has further enriched our cultural mix, strengthening our ability and the experiences we draw upon to engage in more lively debate and informed decision-making. We have a rich foundation upon which to compose the strata of a world-class city and a framework to make the best decisions given our resources.

      As a contemporary city, we can evolve in new ways that take the best from cities that have grown up around us. Each year, the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce takes city leaders to different cities around the U. S. to learn from their growth experience and apply their lessons to projects in and around Charlotte. In recent years, they have visited Denver, Nashville and Indianapolis. In light of our global marketplace and our solicitation of companies around the world, we should be visiting other cities around the world and learning from their initiatives for economic growth.

      Unlike other cities that have found themselves locked in all bus or all train or all auto systems, it is good that our city leaders are looking at the best combinations that will serve our long-term interests for the movement of our citizens as well as quality of our environment. We can combine rail with buses and highways in ways that serve different centers of our population and recognize our expectations for growth.

      Unlike other cities whose downtowns have deteriorated or been abandoned all together, Charlotte has made concerted efforts to rebuild and recreate neighborhoods around our commercial districts. Thanks to the visionary leadership of Hugh McColl, Ed Crutchfield and Bill Lee and the legions of new leaders that have picked up on their

legacy and carried their initiatives forward, we can be confident that our city planners will continue to find formulas for greater growth in concert with our needs and resources.

Unlike other cities whose educational systems continue to decline, Charlotte school leaders have developed a highly integrated system that serves families, businesses and intellectual growth from kindergarten to post graduate studies. While many families still leave the public system for private schools, scores are climbing and we hope they will continue. At the same time, our community college system is recognized as one of the best in the nation and UNCC is also being recognized for its superlative undergraduate, graduate and doctoral programs.

      Regardless how you look at Charlotte, Charlotte is defining itself in many different ways. We need not only be known as the NASCAR city, a music city, a design city, an arts city, a professional sports city or a banking city; we are increasingly known for all of them. We are becoming more diverse from many different perspectives… cultural,

professional, educational, enterprising and entrepreneurial. We are respected and appreciated for our quality of life. While we might not be the city that Ronald Reagan spoke about as the “shining city up on a hill,” that may be who we are becoming.

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