Charlotte’s post-recession economic growth is reducing the city’s dependency on the banking industry and propelling it toward the top ranks of American cities, Mayor Dan Clodfelter told a business group Tuesday.
Speaking at First United Methodist Church uptown, he told the Business Leaders of Charlotte networking group that when he arrived in 1977, the city wasn’t much different than Richmond, Va.; Birmingham, Ala.; or Nashville, Tenn.
But after more than three decades of growth, he said, Charlotte has eclipsed such cities and finds itself on a growth path reminiscent of Chicago and other major urban areas. The city’s strong post-recession economic growth is evidence of that, he said, adding that the local economy has diversified in recent years by adding new growth sectors such as advanced manufacturing.
“We never really were a one-horse banking town,” he said. “What we discovered after 2008 or 2009 was that there was so much more to Charlotte’s economy than what the national media said which was that Charlotte was just a banking town.”
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Here’s what the mayor had to say on other topics:
• The airport. Clodfelter was asked by an audience member what he thought of Republican state Sen. Robert Rucho’s recent statement about a court ruling earlier this month that left Charlotte Douglas International Airport in the city’s hands.
Rucho, who helped lead the push for a regional airport commission, said the state law creating the commission requires the city to ask the Federal Aviation Administration to let the commission operate the airport.
Clodfelter said he disagreed with that reasoning. He said the General Assembly can’t force the city to comply with that section of the law, given that the city maintains its legal opposition to the law as a whole.
• Regional competition. Clodfelter said he isn’t alarmed when Charlotte companies move elsewhere in the region. The Lash Group and LPL Financial, both Charlotte firms, raised concern among some business leaders in June when they announced on the same day that they were moving to Fort Mill, S.C.
Clodfelter said more moves within the region will likely happen, but he said that’s fine because the economy is an increasingly regional one, “in which Charlotte is the anchor.”
• What Charlotte lacks. Asked what the city needs when it comes to growing its economy, Clodfelter said amenities for young people. The city has to work on its “cool factor,” he said, by adding more attractions such as the NC Music Factory and the U.S. National Whitewater Center.
• His future. Asked whether he will run for mayor in 2015, he said he’d rather focus on being mayor rather than running for mayor. City Council appointed him in April to fill the term of fellow Democrat Patrick Cannon, who was sentenced last week to 44 months in prison on federal corruption charges.
Clodfelter, who has previously said his 18-month appointment might not be long enough to accomplish his goals, said Tuesday that he will decide well in advance of the candidate filing deadline, which is July 17.