HOUSTON After two and a half days of exploring the nations fourth-largest city, members of a 130-person fact-finding delegation from Charlotte said they learned valuable lessons about the perils and benefits of growth.
Business, political and civic leaders on the Charlotte Chambers annual inter-city visit said Friday they came away impressed by how Houstonians think big, and pull together for massive business and public works projects.
Charlotte City Council member James Mitchell and Center City Partners President Michael Smith were among many who admired the economic power of Houstons huge health care sector, which officials said accounts for one of every four hotel stays in the city.
On Thursday, they toured the 1,300-acre Texas Medical Center complex, whose economic impact was estimated at $14 billion. Mitchell and Smith, speaking at a Friday wrap-up session, both suggested Charlotte needs to grow its own health care sector.
Its a big opportunity for us, Smith said. What else grows at three to four times inflation?
Houstons king-sized ambitions showed through in other areas as well, from attracting foreign investment to growing its arts sector. Chamber President Bob Morgan recalled how Duke Energy executive and chamber board president Brett Carter had observed that some of what hed seen made him wonder if Charlotte was playing checkers when it ought to be playing chess.
I think weve seen a lot of chess playing on this trip, Morgan said.
Others said bigger isnt necessarily better.
Piedmont Natural Gas CEO Tom Skains, a former Houston resident, compared Charlottes tree-lined streets to Houstons sprawl of asphalt and billboards, and said hed never leave Charlotte for Houston.
I had a choice, he said, and I decided Charlotte was where I wanted to be.
City Council member David Howard noted that Houston was suffering economically during the oil bust of the 1980s but has made a strong comeback.
They hit the gas. They didnt hit the brakes, he said.
Frazier: 704-358-5145: @ericfraz on Twitter
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