Our city’s (failed) quest to land Amazon’s second headquarters has highlighted a crucial question: Who’s ultimately responsible for bringing jobs to Charlotte?
The answer is complicated. Charlotte’s economic development efforts are spread across a variety of organizations at the city, regional and statewide level.
Combined they have budgets of more than $100 million each year, and they’re staffed with a number of well-compensated officials.
The nine organizations below play nicely with each other, the overwhelming majority of the time. But this system of recruitment and development also hasn’t been seriously questioned on its efficiency in the recent past.
Here are the major players in Charlotte economic development.
The Charlotte Chamber is the city’s primary economic recruiter. Businesses looking to move to Charlotte typically start here. Chamber officials can coordinate economic incentives with state and local governments and direct companies to top sites.
They also serve as the general voice of the local business community and help existing businesses grow and expand. The Chamber has been criticized in the past for being dominated by the city’s largest corporations and not doing as much to support startups and small businesses.
Annual budget: $9 million
Where the money comes from: About half comes from member dues, and the other half from “project revenue” including their awards, Inter-City Visit, marketing, planning retreats, surveys and research.
Top economic development official: CEO Bob Morgan ($402,000 salary + bonus).
Charlotte Regional Partnership
The partnership represents 16 counties in North and South Carolina. They host site selection officials from around the world and market globally under the name “Charlotte USA.” The Charlotte Regional Partnership led the bid for the Amazon second headquarters.
From time to time, some of the counties will debate whether they’re getting their money’s worth from funding the partnership. The city of Monroe and Union County are the most recent examples.
Annual budget: $2 million
Where the money comes from: About half comes from donations from 170 private companies (giving from $2,500 to $50,000+ per year) and the other half from numerous local governments in the 16 county area.
Top economic development official: CEO Ronnie Bryant ($285,000 annual salary)
City of Charlotte Economic Development
The city maintains resources for new businesses, creates workforce development programs, redevelops city property like the Eastland Mall site, coordinates with other recruitment organizations and directs resources to emerging corridors.
There is also a City Council committee that examines potential incentives to new and expanding companies and oversees the city’s efforts.
Annual budget: $5.4 million
Where the money comes from: City taxpayers
Top economic development official: Kevin Dick, interim head of economic development (predecessor Patrick Mumford made a salary of $171,000); City Councilman James Mitchell, chairman of the economic development committee
Mecklenburg County Office of Economic Development
The county’s efforts include county incentives to new and expanding businesses, redeveloping county property and directing county contracts to minority- and women-owned businesses.
Annual budget: $11.5 million
Where the money comes from: County taxpayers
Top economic development official: Peter Q. Zeiler, economic development director ($125,000)
Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority
The CRVA is a division of the city that brings in tourism and manages facilities like the Convention Center, Spectrum Center, Bojangles’ Coliseum and the NASCAR Hall of Fame. They’re the primary destination marketers for the city and the ones with the slogan “Charlotte’s got a lot.”
Annual budget: $64 million
Where the money comes from: Event venues and the city’s hospitality tax
Top economic development official: CEO Tom Murray ($275,000)
Charlotte Center City Partners
Center City Partners drives vitality in Uptown, South End and West End and helps recruit businesses to the area. They’ve funded placemaking efforts in South End, retail pop-ups Uptown, and have helped devise compelling vision plans for all three areas they cover.
Annual budget: $5 million
Where the money comes from: About 95 percent comes from the municipal service district tax that center city property owners pay.
Top economic development official: CEO Michael Smith ($357,000)
University City Partners
This organization is similar to Center City Partners but covers the area around UNC Charlotte. They advocate for property owners and help develop vision plans.
Annual budget: $1 million
Where the money comes from: Half comes from the municipal service district tax on property owners, half comes from contributions from companies.
Top economic development official: CEO Darlene Heater ($134,000)
Centralina Council of Governments
This group encompasses nine North Carolina counties in the Charlotte region and helps coordinate planning across governments. One of their major roles is to administer state and federal grants related to aging, workforce development, economic development and planning.
Their economic development commission also puts together reports analyzing major industry sectors and has set plans to attract entrepreneurs. They also host a lot of meetings, workshops and conferences.
Annual budget: $17 million. About $2.2 million goes to economic development.
Where the money comes from: 95% of the revenue comes from state, federal or private organization grants.
Top economic development official: Mike Manis, Community & Economic Development Director.
Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina
This nonprofit spun out of the state Department of Commerce and is responsible for marketing the entire state for business. While they’re not Charlotte-specific, they work closely with the other organizations on the list and administer state incentives.
Annual budget: $19 million
Where the money comes from: State taxpayers and private companies
Top economic development official: CEO Christopher Chung ($225,000)