By: MIASF Staff
Date posted: Mar 23, 2020 Mon
The 2020 Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance Leadership Study Group visited Charlotte, North Carolina, a city growing in popularity among site selectors as an area of innovation and excellence. Past leadership trips to study best practices have included Austin, Texas in 2016 and Nashville, Tennessee in 2018.
This was a working event with goals and metrics. By studying specific elements of Charlotte, there is an opportunity to learn best practices that can be employed in our own community.
Charlotte was chosen for many reasons:
• Like Greater Fort Lauderdale, Charlotte has a thriving business community with a world class reputation for quality of life
• Its population is approximately 890,000 within a general metropolitan area of 2.53 miles, while Fort Lauderdale’s is 1.9 miles
• Both are home to many distinct local communities that collectively fall under a larger umbrella name
• Both are car-loving communities
• Greater Fort Lauderdale’s medium household income is about the same at a little over $60,000 (2017), yet Charlotte’s housing and transportation costs as a percentage of income is 51% and Greater Fort Lauderdale’s is 64%
• For Greater Fort Lauderdale, natural assets include the beaches, Everglades National Park, and many outdoor offerings. For Charlotte, it’s NASCAR, the U.S. National Whitewater Center, and parks galore.
• Charlotte is the unofficial home of the banking industry in the southeast United States. Fort Lauderdale claims innovative tech company headquarters among its business strengths.
• Both have sports teams named Panthers - the Florida Panthers hockey team and the NFL Carolina Panthers.
• Charlotte is home to the largest cluster of biomedical device companies in the state of North Carolina. Florida ranks #2 in the country for FDA registered medical device manufacturing facilities with most of those companies located in South Florida, along the 1-4 Corridor, and in the Jacksonville area.
Key areas of study included Business Best Practices, Education, Housing, Healthcare/Life Sciences, Quality of Life, Transportation & Infrastructure, and Workforce/Talent Hub.
MIASF participated in tours and panels for both Transportation & Infrastructure as well as Workforce/ Talent Hub. A striking difference in Charlotte’s transportation system was group collaboration on joint projects being key to the successes in light rail, which has been in operation since 2007, and the current streetcar project. Chris Waters, Head of Broward County Transportation, assured us that Charlotte is ahead in rail transit, but Broward County surpasses it in the utilization of the bus system. Walkability of the downtown was notable with a trail along the light rail tracks that has transformed an industrial area into a new urban recreational community hub. Charlotte’s sports areas and arts district are all centrally located downtown within walking distance of each other. The marine industry in South Florida does seem to be ahead of Charlotte in the training and educational opportunities in a specific sector. The educational philosophy in Charlotte is that all companies are tech companies, and each provides a different service. Example a Yacht Broker sells boats but markets the product online (tech). There is a very strong push for tech education, however, Charlotte is just beginning to address trade skill training and apprenticeship programs. The group is currently digesting the highlights of the trip, which will be utilized to create a comprehensive report that will be shared when made available.