A demographically diverse population. Good quality of life. A visionary place.
Charlotteans gathered on Wednesday generated those and other descriptions of the city, at a public event intended to help shape the region’s pitch to e-commerce giant Amazon.com. Dozens of attendees met at UNC Charlotte Center City’s campus for the brainstorming session, the latest efforts in the nationwide race to lure Amazon’s second headquarters.
“The possibility of being involved in the process of whether or not Amazon makes a decision to be here is important to me and the future of my family in Charlotte,” said Ed Price, chef manager at Charlotte Rescue Mission, who moved to Charlotte from New York City 12 years ago.
Charlottean Tim Whitmire, who came up with the idea for Wednesday’s event, said the goal was to produce ideas for local officials to consider as response to item No. 9 on proposals due to Amazon Oct. 19. That item deals with “intangible considerations” about competing states and cities – meaning, the features that make those places stand out.
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Participants Wednesday worked in teams to develop “headlines” around themes, including diversity, sense of community, upward mobility, entrepreneurial spirit, restaurants and breweries and family-friendly.
Here’s a look at some of the headlines:
▪ “I am diversity, I am Charlotte, I am Amazon.”
▪ “Alexa, where’s home? Charlotte.”
▪ “Amazon propels Charlotte to top 10 for economic mobility.”
▪ “Amazon chooses to grow with Charlotte. Visionary city welcomes visionary company.”
▪ “Amazon chose Charlotte because it felt like a ‘smart’ home.”
▪ “We offer Amazon quality of life from A to Z.”
Whitmire, co-founder of men’s workout group F3, said the next step is for each working group to produce slides by Friday based on their headlines. There’s no guarantee those ideas will make it into Charlotte’s application to Amazon, but Whitmire said he was very grateful for everyone who took the time to participate in the 8 a.m. event.
He said the event reflected the collaboration Charlotte is known for: “And to me, this is a great way to send that message.”
Wednesday’s attendees included Ronnie Bryant, CEO of the Charlotte Regional Partnership, which along with the Charlotte Chamber is leading the region’s effort to attract Amazon.
Competition is fierce: More than 100 cities have expressed interest, according to The Seattle Times, including Atlanta, Washington, D.C., Boston and Dallas. To help Charlotte’s chances, the city’s economic developers have launched a new website, www.CharlotteIsPrime.com.
Wednesday’s crowd included residents from all over Charlotte, from Foxcroft in South Charlotte to Highland Creek in northern Mecklenburg County.
SouthPark resident Elizabeth Flynn Harrison, who moved to Charlotte 12 year ago from Lexington, Ky., said Charlotte’s positive attributes include its weather, green spaces and sports and entertainment options.
“It’s safe, it’s clean, the variety of opportunities are growing,” said Harrison. “We are a global city. ... There’s a lot going on in this city that we are proud of.”
Elaine Powell, chair of the county’s Park and Recreation Commission, said – perhaps not surprisingly – that for her local green spaces are a selling point.
“When you are relocating a company, you have to make sure that families are happy,” said Powell, who lives near Mountain Island Lake. “And so I think that parks and green space are a really important part of quality of life.”