Viewpoint

Is Charlotte poised to move on its next big idea?

From David Howard, at-large member of the Charlotte City Council:

Throughout its history, Charlotte has achieved economic development by advancing infrastructure and strategic workforce training to support industries in the region. Charlotte has grown into a financial hub and an energy capital because entrepreneurs, economic developers, urban planners and a progressive electorate were visionary, intentional and committed to building communities that are increasingly desirable for businesses, visitors and families.

Our reputation for success hinges on our collective intelligence and resolve to make big ideas reality. Charlotte attracts thousands of visitors and transplants every year because it is viewed by the rest of the country as a city on the move; a city that has a sound infrastructure for business and job creation.

With advancements in mobile technology, it’s now possible for an entrepreneur to relocate his or her business to Charlotte without having to start all over because LinkedIn and other platforms have virtually replaced physical access points for business (or offices and storefronts). Now, our growing technology base has the potential to move Charlotte to become a global competitor for attracting those technology based entrepreneurs.

With technology infrastructure investments made in preparation for the 2012 Democratic National Convention – and potential investments from AT&T, Google, Comcast, Microsoft and others on the horizon – Charlotte is poised to enter the global realm of “Smart Cities” like Barcelona, which is the Mobile World Capital.

Our community college and universities are successfully training our local workforce in informatics, big data analytics, mobile computing, and nanotechnology. Packard Place and UNC Charlotte’s small-business incubators are facilitating entrepreneurship and collaborative technology development. The tools are in place, but the question is how do city leaders and private business come together to move beyond our traditional vertical business models to a more linear and horizontal connected business environment where innovation is spurred by mobile computing?

Given the need for new jobs, new industries and economic growth, Charlotte must start to rethink how to harness the vast amount of intellectual capital that exists in the city in order to move to the next level. That’s why I’m hosting the first of a series of think tank salon conversations Monday at the Government Center.

Charlotte has thrived for decades on the vision that made us a financial powerhouse. Now it’s time to start to think about Charlotte over the next 50 years. What will be the next big vision? There are examples in cities such as Barcelona that we can look to. Now is the time to rethink Charlotte’s future.

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