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Charlotte’s banking sector doing ‘reasonably well,’ Richmond Fed president says

Five years after the financial crisis, Richmond Federal Reserve Bank President Jeffrey Lacker says Charlotte’s banking sector is doing “reasonably well,” partly because of operations outside its biggest banks.

The financial crisis in fall 2008 led to a government bailout for Bank of America and Wachovia’s sale to San Francisco-based Wells Fargo. But there is still a “vibrant” financial services workforce in the city, Lacker said in an interview with the Observer on Monday.

“There is business apart from just the big banks that you think of,” he said. “As a long-run matter, as a financial center, I think it will be on the American landscape for some time to come.”

On a whole, the Charlotte economy is “pretty diversified” and its manufacturing base has become more advanced after a downturn in the 1980s and 1990s, Lacker said. Like many areas, it faces a challenge in developing the workforce of the future, but it has taken creative approaches to the problem, he said.

Lacker plans to learn more about these efforts during a two-day visit to Charlotte designed to take the economic pulse of one of the regions in his Fed district, which stretches from Maryland to South Carolina. Twice a year, he holds regional forums in cities in his district, where he meets with business leaders and local officials.

On this trip, he will visit a Siemens turbine plant, learn more about an entrepreneurship program at Johnson C. Smith University and study a Central Piedmont Community College apprenticeship program. On Tuesday, he’ll make a speech to business leaders at the Federal Reserve’s Charlotte branch in uptown.

Lacker, who has led the Richmond Fed since 2004, says workforce development is important not only for laid-off workers seeking training for new jobs, but also teenagers preparing for life after high school. For example, he said, only a little more than half of the students who go to college graduate, an expensive way to learn college wasn’t the right choice for them.

“There are these other options that don’t involve college, some of these things CPCC is pioneering,” Lacker said. “If young people and their parents knew more about the different paths forward and different ways they can invest in their own human capital, they would make better decisions, and we would have a workforce whose skills grow more rapidly over time.”

Rothacker: 704-358-5170; Twitter: @rickrothacker
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