Thursday, May 14, 2009

Rivalry to be economic King of South heats up

By Dan Chapman
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Sunday, May 10, 2009

CHARLOTTE — From his 15th floor City Hall aerie, Mayor Pat McCrory sees what Atlanta’s missing.

To his left sits the soon-to-be-completed NASCAR Hall of Fame. Straight ahead is the headquarters for GMAC Financial Services. And, running up the spine of this slim and sleek city, rolls a Euro-sleek light-rail train.

Atlanta offered big bucks for NASCAR, tried to land GMAC and has suffered a long, unrequited romance with light rail. Charlotte, like a feisty, undersized boxer, punches above its weight.

“We could’ve easily become a Knoxville, Greensboro or Richmond,” McCrory said. “Instead we compete, fortunately, with Denver, Dallas and Atlanta.”

Charlotte, the Queen City, maintains pretensions of one day surpassing Atlanta as economic King of the South. Sam Williams, head of Atlanta’s Chamber of Commerce, says dream on.

“We don’t really compete tooth-and-nail with Charlotte because the companies we go after (are) in the international trade, logistics and biomedical fields and they’re not looking to go to Charlotte,” he said. “Dallas, Tampa and northern Virginia — those are our consistent competitors.”

But some observers say recent missteps by Atlanta — over traffic, transit, water, the environment and politics — may enhance Charlotte’s position.

Nothing underscores Atlanta’s angst like the state legislature’s refusal last month to let the region decide its transportation fate. A traffic-choked Atlanta threatens to repel businesses and individuals. Growth could slow to a crawl.

“We’ve had the opportunity to learn from Atlanta’s mistakes,” McCrory said in a recent interview. “We’ve seen how to grow and how not to grow. We’ve seen what works and what doesn’t. We’ve had the advantage of growing up second.”

And, for the foreseeable future, that’s where Charlotte will remain. More here.

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