Cover Story: Companies coming to Charlotte

By Jeff Atkinson - bio | email

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - A new chief executive at the nation's biggest bank.  Bank of America's new CEO is Brian Moynihan.  He will take over January first, replacing Ken Lewis.  Moynihan is from Boston, but says he will move here to Charlotte and the headquarters to the bank will stay in Charlotte.

People we talk to today say being headquartered here is actually selling our city to the whole world.

The two big banks have certainly boosted the size of our skyline and having them here has given us bragging rights as the second biggest banking center in the country.

But as we're finding out in this economy, Charlotte has never been a one-industry town.

While BofA was getting all the attention and Charlotte was cheering the headquarters announcement little noticed in a quiet warehouse five miles away is another part of Charlotte's future.

Turman Commercial Painters, a San Francisco-area based painting company that came to town this summer with plans to set up a East Coast operations here.

"We wanted to be able to service the entire East Coast," says Doug Rancati.  "And within Charlotte you can really reach New York, Florida, St. Louis.. it had a good central location for our needs."

While banking brings more wealth here than any other, finance and insurance sector jobs make up one-sixth of Mecklenburg county's private sector wages even though they accounts for just 10-percent of the county's jobs, Charlotte Chamber CEO Bob Morgan says Charlotte has never been a one-industry town.

And he says we're seeing that more than ever in this recession.  Says Morgan, "We have seen that the basic tangible attributes of Charlotte have remained in place."

What are those?  A cost of living that's 94% the national average, a destination city with direct flights to anywhere in the country and adding international cities like never before, and a work force that even with a high unemployment rate is attractive to outside companies.

It's why in the last year and a half even in a recession the city's added a large list of companies, representing the banking, energy, health care and manufacturing industries.  A total of about 4,000 new jobs.

"This has been our best year in the last seven or eight," says Morgan.  "We're not finished with the year yet.. so we're still nailing that number down.

Still out there and being discussed in secret around town, a big industrial project code-named "Project Cardinal," a $150 million investment that could add up to 650 jobs.

"Charlotte represents opportunity. We're seeing the results of that and how nice it is to be finishing the year on a strong note," says Morgan.

And seeing the small companies like Turman Commercial Painters come here too.

Doug Rancati says, "The quality of life here in Charlotte is great. If we can expand and create that for more people that's what we want to do."

Little known to many is that in the just last dozen years or so at least seven companies have relocated their headquarters in Charlotte.. and right now local economic development officials are trying to add to that list.