Do you realize how hip Charlotte is?
I’m not sure I fully did until I watched the 5-minute video that business recruiters put together to show Amazon that we’re the coolest city this side of Seattle.
Charlotte is among 238 cities and regions trying to attract an Amazon headquarters that could employ up to 50,000 people. The Charlotte Regional Partnership, which is leading the effort, won’t even hint at how many millions of dollars in tax breaks the region and state are offering. But on Thursday economic developers released Charlotte’s audition tape, and is it sexy!
Pro sports stadiums. Light rail. Horse racing, sailing and motocross (motocross, in Charlotte?!). Whitewater, Carowinds and golf. Nightlife and culture and craft breweries. A magnet for millennials, a wealth of workers and a place that’s all about progress. And people are so friendly – we’re “New York’s polite cousin,” narrator Boris “Bluz” Rogers explains.
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We have mountains to the west and beaches to the east, and we’re right on North Carolina’s largest lake. We have sunshine, and we say “y’all.”
Watch this video, and you’ll never complain again that there’s nothing to do with the in-laws when they visit for Thanksgiving. I mean, recruiters threw the kitchen sink at Amazon with this video, and why not? Charlotte’s got a lot, as the slogan goes, and we need Amazon to know it.
It does make you appreciate how lucky we are to live here. Just about everything in the video is true, after all (except that part about the lake; Lake Norman is not the largest lake in North Carolina by at least some measures, though it might be the best).
Still, with this posting, Charlotte is like some of your high school and college friends on Facebook – just a little too good to be true. Most of us, actually, are guilty of it: creating a public persona with pictures from the slopes, or the boat, or the National Honor Society induction ceremony. I’ve posted photos of the kids holding their trophies after winning the softball championship; I’ve never posted one of them silently moping off the field after getting whupped.
We all want to present an ideal – or at least a darn impressive – version of ourselves. They don’t call ’em status updates for nothing.
But, as Billy Joel said, “We all have a face, that we hide away forever, and we take them out and show ourselves when everyone has gone.”
Charlotte has a side it didn’t include in the Amazon video. There was no mention that nearly half of CMS schools are high-poverty. Police shootings are raising tensions between CMPD and the community. Traffic is bad and getting worse, with seemingly little concrete plan to fix it. And, of course, we are 50th out of 50 big cities for economic mobility.
All cities have their challenges, of course, and it would be idiotic to include them in a business-recruitment video. But it’s important that we take them out and show ourselves when we’re done preening for others. We can’t let the persona we’ve created for Amazon make us forget that that’s not the real us. Or it is, at least, an incomplete version. What will make us great for the long term is not jet skiing on the lake. It’s universally strong schools, safe neighborhoods and opportunity for all.
I love Charlotte. I’ve spent 25 years of my life here. That’s why I hope we’ll never stop trying to make our real selves match the ideal selves we post for others to see.
Reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter at