Charlotte’s small businesses are among the best in the nation when it comes to using the Web to find new customers, connect with clients and power the city’s economy.
So says Internet search giant Google, which has included the Queen City as one of 50 winners of its eCities Award.
Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts and U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis, R-Huntersville, announced the city’s designation at an event Monday afternoon at Amelie’s French Bakery on North Davidson Street.
“It’s not surprising our entrepreneurs have so enthusiastically embraced the latest tools of technology,” Roberts said.
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“The eCities award focuses on small businesses, which are the backbone of our economy. And I’ve been so impressed with all of our city’s small businesses, and the community that they’re building.”
Tillis, a former member of the Cornelius Board of Commissioners, noted that the town of Cornelius won the award last year.
“I want North Carolina to be the most wired state in the nation,” Tillis said. “It just adds another win to have Charlotte join other cities as an eCity.”
Amelie’s co-owner Bill Lamb noted how the bakery uses digital tools to promote word about it worldwide, including a Periscope project broadcasting kitchen production.
Google launched the eCities award in 2013. North Carolina’s previous winners are Cary and Cornelius.
This summer, the Mountain View, Calif.-based company started construction in Charlotte for Google Fiber, its high-speed Internet and television service. Google plans to lay approximately 3,200 miles of cable in the city.
Members of the Charlotte Google Fiber team were at the Amelie’s announcement, and Lilyn Hester, Southeast public affairs spokeswoman for Google, said “a lot of our Googlers come here for coffee and for meetings.”
To conduct the study, Google teamed with research firm IPSOS. Hester said they evaluated towns and cities across the U.S. – as well as 13,000 small businesses – for their use of social media. The team also looked at how businesses used websites and blogs, and how they sold goods online.
In its description of Charlotte on the award website, Google calls the city “...future focused. The Charlotte Research Institute helps the University of North Carolina collaborate with industry experts, host science festivals and create incubator-like workspaces for tech entrepreneurs.”
The Charlotte Research Institute campus, located off U.S. 29, includes the nonprofit business incubator Ventureprise, and the Energy Production and Infrastructure Center, known as EPIC, to train future engineers for the energy sector.
In a statement, Robert Wilhelm, vice chancellor for research and economic development and executive director of the Charlotte Research Institute, said it was created “to drive innovation and economic growth in the Charlotte region. The Google eCity Award recognizes the many collaborators that advance digital business in our community. UNC Charlotte will continue to be a strong partner to create, grow, and attract businesses.”