News Column

Tension Between City, State Bad for Business

Feb. 21, 2013

Kerry Singe, The Charlotte Observer

Two of the Charlotte region's leading economic developers on Thursday admonished state and city elected leaders for fighting in public, saying it was hurting Charlotte's image and ability to attract new businesses.

Charlotte Chamber president Bob Morgan and Charlotte Regional Partnership chief executive Ronnie Bryant were speaking to roughly 400 business leaders attending a conference on global competitiveness when the men separately addressed growing acrimony between Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx and state Republicans, including GOP Gov. Pat McCrory.

Charlotte Democrats have accused McCrory of meddling in local affairs. On Wednesday, a Senate panel endorsed a bill to create a new Charlotte airport authority and strip control from the city.

Tensions also have escalated over funds for a streetcar and the light-rail extension. Republicans have accused Foxx of "bad faith" while the mayor has criticized a "culture of intimidation."

On Thursday, Morgan spoke about the Chamber's new plans to create an updated economic development vision for the area and to pinpoint ways for Charlotte to compete globally.

Then he said he was going to speak off script.

Citing "blue city... red state dynamics...," Morgan said such tensions are "pulling us more apart than together."

Such fighting, which he attributed to policy differences, partisanship, personal feelings and the exercise of power, hurts Charlotte's image because one of the Queen City's historic attributes has been its perceived ability to get along and get things done, he said.

"The game is on," he said of the negative city-state dynamics. "We have to figure out a way to manage those differences in a way to retain our ability to get the job done."

Regional economic developer Bryant echoed that sentiment, sharing a story about how he dined with two Vermont business leaders recently after showing them the county.

They commented on relations between the mayor and governor.

"They asked 'What's going on ...,'" Bryant said. "This is serious....We need to minimize that type of public display of dissension."

Source: (c)2013 The Charlotte Observer (Charlotte, N.C.) Distributed by MCT Information Services

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