Business

In a major move that will shape job growth in Charlotte, two business groups merge

Ronnie Bryant, president and CEO of the Charlotte Regional Partnership, center, greets attendees at the Amazon HQ2 Media Event at the UNC Charlotte Center City building last year. The chamber and regional partnership announced Tuesday the appointment of a transition director as the two organizations prepare to merge.
Ronnie Bryant, president and CEO of the Charlotte Regional Partnership, center, greets attendees at the Amazon HQ2 Media Event at the UNC Charlotte Center City building last year. The chamber and regional partnership announced Tuesday the appointment of a transition director as the two organizations prepare to merge. dlaird@charlotteobserver.com

In a major move that will shape the future of economic development and job growth in Charlotte, the Charlotte Chamber and Charlotte Regional Partnership said Thursday afternoon that they will merge.

In a statement, the chamber and regional partnership said their boards still need to vote on the deal, and that the combined organization will begin operating Jan. 1. News of the merger was first reported by the Charlotte Business Journal.

The purpose of the merger is “to build on the experience and passion of both organizations to galvanize the 16-county Charlotte region through a shared vision and coordinated efforts,” the two said in the statement.

The chamber and regional partnership are responsible for recruiting businesses to relocate and expand in the Charlotte region. Over the past few years, the two groups have worked together a strategic plan to better collaborate on recruiting companies to the area.

The regional partnership, which represents Mecklenburg County along with 10 nearby counties in North Carolina and four in upstate South Carolina, has overseen a number of high-profile economic development projects, including Charlotte’s failed Amazon HQ2 bid.

The organization, also called Charlotte USA, lost one county in February when the Union County board of commissioners voted to suspend the county’s membership in the regional partnership.

Last summer, the chief financial officer of the regional partnership left the group after an audit found “sloppy accounting” at the economic development group, CEO Ronnie Bryant said at the time.

Bryant would not comment Thursday.

“We believe a unified enterprise provides a clear path and single development team for site selectors and business leaders and owners who are considering a corporate re-location or business expansion,” the groups’ statement read.

“We are confident a new combined organization is the right strategic decision for our region’s future.”

Carroll Gray, former Charlotte Chamber president, spoke positively of Thursday’s announcement.

Gray, who headed the chamber when it created the regional partnership in the 1990s, said there was feeling then that it was important to take a more regional, unified approach to economic development. The regional partnership was later spun off from the chamber.

“I think that’s been largely successful,” said Gray, president of the chamber until 2006. “But I think we complicated it to some extent by having separate entities. I feel like we missed opportunities to collaborate that we could have done over the years. Some of that was on my watch.

“There have been periods of cooperation and periods of not so much cooperation.”

Gray called the proposed combination “a good move.”

A national search for a new CEO to oversee merged organization is underway. Chamber CEO Bob Morgan will be in consideration for the role. A committee has been formed to oversee the integration of the two organizations, and to come up with its new name.

Katherine Peralta: 704-358-5079, @katieperalta
Deon Roberts: 704-358-5248, @DeonERoberts
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