Not very neighborly: NC county sells Charlotte, then disses it

Cleveland County is selling itself by selling (and slapping) Charlotte.
Cleveland County is selling itself by selling (and slapping) Charlotte. Charlotte’s Backyard/Cleveland County, NC

Cleveland County, N.C., has a bit of a problem. Its leaders want to attract more manufacturing companies, which help drive the local economy, but those prospective employers need to be convinced that they’ll find a robust pipeline of talent to fill the jobs they’ll bring.

The problem? While Cleveland County is a fine place to live for many, it doesn’t exactly jump off the map for millennials. Young workers generally prefer to live in livelier cities like Charlotte (more than a half hour away) or Asheville (a little more than an hour).

So the county’s economic development arm got together recently with a marketing firm, New York-based Development Counsellors International, to craft a talent-attraction campaign that includes a sleek new web site, Charlotte’s Backyard NC. The campaign, which launched this month, does what a marketing campaign should do – put the best possible face on its client. In this case, that means selling not only the benefits of Cleveland County, but the big city down the highway.

“You’ll find the best of both worlds here in Charlotte’s Backyard,” boasts the web site, which notes that Cleveland County is just a car ride away from professional sports and Carowinds, along with “Charlotte’s burgeoning culinary scene, exciting nightlife, shopping opportunities and (an) assortment of museums and entertainment options.”

Better yet: Cleveland County offers proximity to all these fine Charlotte things – “coupled with the safety, friendliness and Southern charm you won’t find in major cities.”

In other words, come for the food, sports and culture. Leave before the shooting starts and middle fingers fly.

Um, thanks?

A couple of things: It’s perfectly OK that Cleveland County wants to sell itself by selling Charlotte. We do the same, regularly, when we tell prospective employers and workers that our city is halfway between the mountains and the beach. Best of both worlds, and so forth.

It’s also fine to point out that living in a more rural setting has some benefits. As the website notes, Cleveland County doesn’t have the high cost or stress of city living. Your paycheck goes further. Your commute is easier. That’s common sense.

But when you start in on safety and Southern charm, you move past “best of both worlds” and into “you don’t want to live there,” which is not charming at all. You’re also veering dangerously close to “you don’t want to live with them,” which is another issue altogether.

(Update: Reader @cltcheap notes that Cleveland County’s county seat, Shelby, has a higher violent and property crime rate than Charlotte. So there’s that.)

All of which is familiar to us city folk here in Charlotte, and Greensboro, and Raleigh. We’re accustomed to our neighbors liking our amenities – not to mention our economic engines – yet slapping at us in other ways. Even, apparently, when they want to use our name. After all, if you’re going to be Charlotte’s Backyard, shouldn’t the fence go around us, not between?