In Charlotte, Jitters Today but Confidence in Tomorrow
Folks in the Queen City today can be described as rattled but resilient.
Charlotte, NC woke this morning facing uncertainty after the buyout of Wachovia yesterday. Charlotte based Wachovia, the second major bank sold in less than a week, employees over 20,000 people in the region. Yesterday's buyout has left many Wachovia employees understandably shaken. Bank of America, which recently acquired Wall Street brokerage Merill Lynch, is also based in Charlotte.
News from the banking sector comes amid a persistent gas shortage that has people across western North Carolina lining up at the pumps. For over a week now, Charlotte, Atlanta, Asheville and other metro areas across the Southeast have faced scarcity and high prices because Colonial Pipeline, which connects the area to refineries in Louisiana and Texas, is running below capacity. Hurricanes Gustav and Ike are blamed for disruptions coming from the gas refineries. Out-of-cycle demand among nervous motorists is also blamed for the long lines at stations with gas to sell.
Despite it all business marches on and, of course, the Charlotte Chamber is leading the way. Natalie English, Senior Vice President of Business & Education Advocacy at the Charlotte Chamber, told me, "We are working hard to convince Citigroup that Charlotte is an ideal place to do business. North Carolina has a favorable climate for banking and the region is flush with the skilled workforce the industry demands."
Just this morning the Charlotte Chamber joined with other community leaders to issue a statement on the Wachovia buyout. The release clearly articulates the case for why Citigroup should keep their newly acquired banking operation in Charlotte.
“We will all work together to make the case to the leadership of Citigroup to retain every job that is currently in Charlotte and to encourage them to increase their investment in our community. The case is simple. We offer a labor force that is skilled in banking. We offer a cost of living that is 94 percent of the national average. And we offer attractive and affordable commercial real estate that is currently occupied by Wachovia or under construction. In addition, the Charlotte region has a transportation infrastructure and quality of life second to none."
The city certainly has plenty to brag about. Just this week Time praised Charlotte as the city with "the nation's least-battered metropolitan-housing market, lowest office-vacancy rates and fastest-growing airport."
Charlotte, like the rest of America, will weather the current financial storm and emerge strong.