Charlotte USA's workforce, academic and quality-of-life advantages are drawing talent and investment
The language of business is spoken with many accents in Charlotte USA, where 950 foreign-owned companies, 14 Fortune 1000 headquarters operations, and businesses of all sizes are expanding a fast-paced and diverse economy.
Since 1990, new and expanding businesses have invested more than $18 billion throughout the 16-county, two-state region, which offers an unparalleled quality of life that makes it easy to recruit and keep talent. Many of those employees are graduates of the region’s network of colleges and universities, including UNC Charlotte.
“Look at the diversity of our business climate, the cooperative relationship between government and business, the quality of life and the total critical mass of our advantages. You can’t look at the Southeast without considering us,â€ says Ronnie Bryant, president and CEO of the Charlotte Regional Partnership.
Advantages Add Up
Charlotte USA offers advantages including a location within a day’s drive of the majority of the U.S. population, an inland port with Foreign Trade Zone status and the world’s sixth-busiest international airport. An intermodal facility at Charlotte Douglas International Airport links air, rail and truck transportation to national markets and to the world via Atlantic ports.
The region’s infrastructure network includes the intersection of I-77, I-85 and I-40 and the new LYNX light rail line connecting commuters with Charlotte’s central business district.
Economic opportunities attract businesses to the region, and the quality of life makes them never want to leave.
“We have great neighborhoods, great cultural assets including the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra, Charlotte Ballet, Charlotte’s Off Broadway theater productions and professional sports,” says Bryant.
UNC Charlotte, a major research university, is a significant asset, talent magnet and economic driver in the region.
“UNC Charlotte is a key source of talent for the Charlotte region. Because of our scale and breath of expertise, UNC Charlotte is also a talent concentrator, drawing large numbers of talented knowledge workers to the Charlotte region,â€ says Bob Wilhelm, the university’s vice chancellor for research and economic development.
UNC Charlotte is the largest source of basic and applied research for the Charlotte region, with focus areas in diverse fields including energy, advanced manufacturing, data analytics and cybersecurity, and life sciences. The university is a national leader for efficient commercialization of research, he says.
University assets include Ventureprise, a longstanding program to support high-growth startup companies based on research at UNC Charlotte and also based on new businesses that launch in or are attracted to Charlotte USA.
UNC Charlotte also operates the Small Business Technology Development Center, part of a national network of centers funded by the U.S. Small Business Administration to support growth of small business.
Academic and research programs at UNC Charlotte are highly aligned with regional economic clusters, Wilhelm says, with tailored curriculum, focused research, technical services offerings, access to specialized facilities and the opportunity to co-locate research and redevelopment teams at the Partnership, Outreach and Research to Accelerate Learning (PORTAL) facility on the UNC Charlotte campus. PORTAL, located at the Charlotte Research Institute, includes more than 90,000 square feet of space for innovation and collaboration and ready access to university resources, facilities and academic talent.
“Currently, there are nearly 50 companies located at UNC Charlotte,â€ says Wilhelm. Recent successful spinout companies include OncoTAb, which develops cancer diagnostics and prognostics, and InfoSense, which develops acoustic sensing systems for large scale waste water systems.
Recent Ventureprise startups include Atom Power, which develops digital switches for large-scale commercial power systems, and Ecomdash, which provides IT infrastructure software and multichannel inventory control for e-commerce.
Additionally, Ernst & Young (EY) selected Mecklenburg County for development of its EY wavespace innovation center. It is part of a global network of centers bringing together multidisciplinary teams to focus on disruptive growth, improvement strategies and technologies.
The wavespace innovation center represents an investment of $8.2 million in Charlotte over several years and creation of 375 jobs.
EY wavepsace locations feature a shared methodology and platform that combines EY’s deep industry domain and regulatory experience with its experience in disruptive technologies such as artificial intelligence, robotic process automation (RPA), blockchain, the Internet of Things (IoT), data analytics, digital, customer experience and cyber security.
“We are seeing new and diverse skills bringing creative ideas and innovation to business leaders across the state. It’s our hope that EY wavespace will build on this momentum, providing a physical location where innovative talents come together to collaborate and navigate this transformative age,â€ says Malcomb Coley, EY Charlotte managing partner and Carolinas market leader.