Charlotte Sees Beyond Bank Of America's Troubles The North Carolina city is perhaps best known as the home of Bank of America. But Mayor Anthony Foxx, banks aren't the city's only job engines. Other big sectors include energy, health care and transportation. Energy workers now compete with bankers for a sunny spot to lunch downtown.
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Charlotte Sees Beyond Bank Of America's Troubles

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Charlotte Sees Beyond Bank Of America's Troubles

Charlotte Sees Beyond Bank Of America's Troubles

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The economy of Charlotte, North Carolina is under threat from personnel cuts in the banking industry. Charlotte is home to America's largest financial institution, Bank of America. Now, though, Bank of America is struggling to revive its stock price and eliminating tens of thousands of jobs. Julie Rose of member station WFAE reports from the bank's hometown.

JULIE ROSE, BYLINE: If you want to irk a proud Charlotte resident, insist on adding North Carolina after the city's name. National media do it all the time. Charlotteans like to think their city needs no clarification, but the truth is a lot of people get confused.

BRIANA LEE: I didn't really know where Charlotte was. I actually thought it was on the coast. A lot of people seem to mix it up with Charlottesville, Virginia and Charleston, South Carolina.


ROSE: Charlotte isn't far from South Carolina, but it's a good three hours from the coast, which Briana Lee now knows. She moved to Charlotte over the summer. We met at a regular mixer for newcomers. These events are always packed, because Charlotte has long been one of the fastest growing regions in the country. It's actually rare to find a born-and-bred Charlotte native living here. But there's one sitting in the Mayor's Office.

MAYOR ANTHONY FOXX: My name's Anthony Foxx. I'm 40 years old, the youngest mayor in the history of the city. And I'm very much a product of Charlotte.

ROSE: Mayor Foxx took office in 2009, just as Charlotte's twin corporate pillars - Bank of America and Wachovia - began to crumble. Wachovia collapsed into the arms of Wells Fargo, and Bank of America teetered. The banks bled some 3,000 jobs during the height of the crisis, dealing a blow to the city's economy and ego. But Mayor Foxx says banks aren't the only job engines in Charlotte.

FOXX: The economy is a lot more diverse that we've given it credit for. You would think that for all the talk we do about financial services here and being the second largest financial services center in the country, fewer than 12 percent of our workforce is tied to the financial services sector.

ROSE: Other big sectors for Charlotte include energy, healthcare and transportation. Energy is rising to such prominence that it's even changed the downtown skyline, long-dominated by banks.


JIM ROGERS: I am delighted that y'all are here today.

ROSE: That's Jim Rogers, CEO of Duke Energy, at the grand opening of the company's new headquarters skyscraper. It's now the largest building in downtown Charlotte. But And through a merger, Rogers soon hopes to make Duke Energy the largest utility in the country. He boasts that Charlotte is becoming a national hub for the energy sector.

And several big engineering firms have recently expanded in Charlotte to be near Duke Energy. But Rogers admits...

ROGERS: We have to go a long ways to be as important as banking, OK.


ROGERS: Let's put that in some perspective.

ROSE: Along Charlotte's main downtown drag, energy workers now compete with bankers for a sunny spot to eat lunch. Iris Jones used to work for Bank of America. She's with Duke Energy now. And says there's a gloomy vibe around town.

IRIS JONES: By this time, people were thinking the economy was definitely going to pick up. I think it's just not progressing as fast as people want it to.

ROSE: Nearly one in 10 Charlotte residents is out of work, but people are still moving here. They're drawn by the city's mild weather, or the outdated perception that Charlotte's still booming.

Steve Berhannan just came from Phoenix to take a temp job with Bank of America. He was en route as the bank announced it would cut 30,000 jobs nationwide. Berhannan's contract goes through December. After that, he's not sure, but says he's got no plans to leave Charlotte.

STEVE BERHANNAN: You know it's pretty tough a lot of places right now, especially in the metropolitan areas. So, you know, just got to keep banging away at it.

ROSE: Charlotte's Got a Lot is the tourism mantra of city leaders. They're intent on making a good show when the Democratic National Convention comes to Charlotte next year. It'll bring the brightest media glare the city has ever known, and probably also the best hope for establishing Charlotte as a name that needs no clarifying North Carolina tag.

For NPR News, I'm Julie Rose.



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