Charlotte Chamber, Regional Partnership agree to study of roles

The Charlotte area’s top two economic development groups, mired in a sometimes tense tug of war over roles and responsibilities, have agreed to a study of the current model of development between them.

The Charlotte Chamber and the Charlotte Regional Partnership announced the study last week in a joint statement. The statement said the Foundation for the Carolinas’ Catalyst Fund is underwriting the study. It will be conducted by an independent third-party group.

“It’s a good opportunity,” said Charlotte Chamber CEO Bob Morgan. “We’re thankful for the support from the Catalyst Fund.”

The study will “analyze the effectiveness of the two organizations, research best practices for economic development in peer cities, and review the impact of changes in the state of North Carolina’s development program structure,” according to the joint statement.

The study should be complete by January, and will be followed by recommendations on “the best structure(s) and organization(s) to address economic development” in the city and region “in the most effective and efficient way,” the statement says.

It is signed by Morgan and Michael Tarwater, president of the chamber’s board. Pete Acker and Ronnie Bryant, the partnership’s chairman and CEO, respectively, also signed it.

The sometimes-tense alliance between the two groups has been further strained in recent months as the state cut funding for the partnership and moved to create a similar statewide organization.

The state’s public-private partnership, which is still under construction, likely will seek private funding from many of the same corporations that support the partnership and the chamber.

Some in Charlotte’s business circles have speculated that it might be time to consider folding the Charlotte Regional Partnership into the Charlotte Chamber – the group from which it was birthed in 1989.

Bryant has said that would be unwise, since the partnership represents the 16-county Charlotte region, while the chamber focuses on Charlotte-Mecklenburg. The surrounding counties, he added, would be reluctant to be represented by Charlotte’s chamber when pursuing new companies and jobs.

Bryant couldn’t immediately be reached for comment late Monday.