If you're a STEM graduate, then Charlotte, NC needs to be on your radar for your next career move - it ranked as one of the best places to live for college grads. The city has seen a dramatic uptick in technical jobs in recent years – and talent is coming. Why? While growth in STEM industries, such as energy and life sciences, motivates skilled talent to move, the quality of life and amenities bring them to Charlotte.
"One of the reasons why there's so many people with a STEM background choosing to move here and why companies are attracted to this area is it's a affordable place to live. If you're young, it's a very young and vibrant city. There's a lot of things to do," says Vanessa Goeschl, senior vice president, Economic Development, Charlotte Regional Partnership.
Young professionals in STEM-related fields are attracted to Charlotte’s lower cost of living coupled with big-city amenities, such as a diverse food scene and multiple entertainment and recreation options, that help them achieve that work-life balance. Charlotte also offers a commuter-friendly public transportation system and an international airport.
"People go on weekend getaways all the time. We're just so close to everything. The airport that we have here is the fifth busiest in the world now, so even if you wanted to fly somewhere for the weekend, you can," Goeschl says. "We also have a light rail line that connects folks from a more suburban area in southern Mecklenburg County, southern Charlotte, directly to uptown Charlotte."
Plenty of Places to Play
Charlotte’s location between the mountains and the coast add to its appeal, but relocating talent soon discover a wide range of recreation options right in their own backyard. The U.S. National Whitewater Center, the world’s largest manmade whitewater river, offers rafting, canoeing and kayaking, and the 50-square-mile Lake Norman offers adventure in and out of the water, from boating, wake boarding and paddle boarding to birding, fishing or camping at one of six waterfront parks.
Compared to Silicon Valley and other tech centers across the country, Charlotte offers relocating talent plenty of affordable housing options -- from historic and eclectic tree-lined neighborhoods to downtown lofts and apartments with urban amenities.
"A lot of the areas that have carved out niche communities. If you want to be in an urban area, you can. There's a ton of residential construction in process right now, new apartments going up," Goeschl says. "It's definitely contributing to the number of people that are living in uptown areas, but then you also have a lot of suburban subdivisions that are being built to accommodate a lot of those young families that are living here and see this as a place where they can grow their careers and where they can see their kids grow up. "
Not only that but Charlotte boasts an arts and entertainment scene that rivals more expensive metropolitan areas. And the Queen City has quickly become a foodie and beer-lover's paradise with more than a dozen craft breweries on tap.
Energizing Job Market
Known for its prowess in the banking industry, Charlotte's growth in energy technology has earned the city the title New Energy Capital. Charlotte is home to more than 250 companies connected to the energy industry, including Eaton, Siemens, Strata Solar and Duke Energy, the country's largest electric power holding company. Charlotte employs more than 28,000 in highly skilled jobs related to energy technology, such as solar panel manufacturing, research and development of renewable energy and nuclear engineering.
Another reason Charlotte is so attractive to relocating talent is the educational system's dedication to training the next generation of STEM workers. Charlotte is home to a number of STEM-focused public and charter schools, including Queen City STEM School, Lake Norman Charter School and Cato Middle College High School. There’s also the Charlotte Regional Collaborative for a Global Economy, which brings together 15 community colleges to ensure students are receiving skills needed to compete in an increasingly high-tech and global marketplace. Then there are organizations, such as the North Carolina Stem Center, a web portal that directs educators, students and their parents toward STEM-related careers.