Report outlines roles for Charlotte Chamber, regional partnership

The Charlotte Chamber and the Charlotte Regional Partnership – two economic development agencies with similar goals – are both needed but should take steps to eliminate redundancy and competition between them, a report released Friday said.

The group behind the report, the Economic Development Task Force, was formed last year after the state legislature created the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina that now oversees luring businesses to the state and raised questions about the future private funding of entities like the Chamber and the Charlotte Regional Partnership.

The task force is composed of members of the Chamber, regional partnership and the Foundation for the Carolinas, which funded the project.

The report recommends that the regional partnership, which represents 16 area counties in North and South Carolina, and the Chamber work closely with the North Carolina partnership even though the new state agency’s impact on the area “remains to be seen.”

“Any new business or relocation to the Charlotte USA region is a ‘win’ for everyone in the region,” and business expansion should be done with the goal of generating the most opportunity in the region overall, it said.

The report recommends the regional partnership lead marketing and outreach efforts for the greater Charlotte region and that it should be informed of all regional leads. The Chamber would continue to be responsible for Mecklenburg County, and, as needed, lead region-wide public policy and advocacy efforts.

It noted similar cities such as Tampa, Fla.; Columbus, Ohio; and Raleigh all have strategic economic plans and suggested the regional partnership and Chamber put one together. The three- to five-year strategic plan would have a goal of growing the Charlotte-Mecklenburg region into a top-15 metropolitan area. The plan would maximize return on investment and should analyze the region’s strengths and weaknesses.

The task force’s other key suggestions for a more streamlined and efficient approach to economic development included:

▪ The Chamber should improve its handing off of leads on companies that were originally looking into Mecklenburg County but are better suited for other regional counties.

▪ The agencies should better coordinate international leads because that was seen on as a source of confusion among global firms.

▪ The Chamber should focus on retaining existing businesses. That’s because 76 percent of a region’s economic expansion comes from existing area businesses, according to the report.

▪ The agencies should better coordinate regional marketing and domestic lead generation between the two entities.

▪ The agencies should spend their money efficiently because of the state’s need for increased private funding to help the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina.

The respective heads of the Chamber and regional partnership praised the findings of the report in a news release Friday.

“We commend the work of the Task Force and appreciate that the task force process regularly invited the input of the Chamber and Charlotte Regional Partnership. We know that both the recommendations and the research behind them can strengthen our work,” Chamber CEO Bob Morgan said.

Ronnie Bryant, president of the Charlotte Regional Partnership said the agencies are already working on a Memorandum of Understanding “that will provide the structure to ensure that our joint efforts are even more effective to augment Charlotte USA’s economy and quality of life.”

When that memo of understanding will be complete is unclear. Bryant couldn’t be reached for comment Friday afternoon. The Chamber declined to comment further.