Development

Is Charlotte an ‘American middleweight’ city?

View of uptown Charlotte skyline from atop Mosaic Village at Johnson C. Smith University.
View of uptown Charlotte skyline from atop Mosaic Village at Johnson C. Smith University. mhames@charlotteobserver.com

Charlotte is a city with big ambitions, a big airline hub and numerous international companies – and a new Brookings Institution report classifies it as an “American middleweight” city.

That puts Charlotte in the company of cities such as Detroit, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Kansas City and Tampa. According to the Brookings report, released last week, 16 American cities fit into that category of “mid-sized U.S. metro areas striving for a post-recession niche in the global economy.”

“While many of the cities in this group are still finding their global niche, they all maintain at least one globally relevant export sector,” the Brookings report said. For Charlotte, that’s the engines and power equipment made here, such as the Siemens gas turbines manufactured in southwest Charlotte. Other characteristics include a reliance on local services, such as construction and real estate development, that exacerbated the effects of the 2008 financial crisis.

“American Middleweights have a base of educated workers, research universities and hospitals, and trade-able clusters,” Brookings researchersc wrote. “Aligning these assets to improve export competitiveness through coordinated economic strategies will be critical if these metros are to compete in global markets.”

Other categories of cities Brookings ranked include “global giants” (such as London, New York, Tokyo), “emerging gateways” (Ankara, Turkey, Cape Town, South Africa, Warsaw, Poland), “knowledge capitals” (Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Seattle, Washington, D.C., Minneapolis), “factory China” (Changchun, Zhengzhou, Zibo), “Asian anchors” (Beijing, Hong Known, Seoul) and “international middleweights” (Rome, Perth, Montreal, Madrid, Hamburg).

So, Charlotte finds itself in some pretty good company. What do you think of the rankings and where Charlotte fits? You can find and read the report yourself online here.

Ely Portillo: 704-358-5041, @ESPortillo

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