CHARLOTTE, July 30, 2012 — Charlotte, North Carolina has had an on-going struggle with its image for many years. Call it an inferiority complex, worries about its image more rooted in self-doubt than in reality. Being awarded the Democratic National Convention was a major boost to the community’s self-esteem.
Now, as the big moment looms ever closer, self-doubt is again creeping in as the pressure to make it happen effectively and efficiently is becoming a reality.
For years Charlotte struggled for an identity, existing in the shadow of Atlanta, which was making its impact in the growing region of the New South.
Today, the “little sister” has made a mark of her own as the second largest financial district in the United States. While that fact goes largely unnoticed, the sheer notoriety of the DNC cannot help but place Charlotte firmly in the global spotlight.
Labor Day week will bring more than 35,000 delegates, journalists, celebrities and protesters to Charlotte’s streets. The Secret Service will announce its security plans sometime this week, and then it will be up to Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx and his team to put their public relations program on warp speed for Charlotteans.
The fear is that while Charlotte will become a “guest town” for four days, it could also become a “ghost town,” and the mayor wants the community to emphasize that it is definitely “open for business.”
Once the announcement is made about which streets will be closed, where the parking restrictions will be and how to manipulate past the steel fencing and concrete barriers, it will be a major challenge for city officials to assuage the concerns of Charlotte’s citizens. Cities like New York and Los Angeles are accustomed to such inconveniences, but for Charlotte the problem is like dealing with a major blizzard and having only one snow plow.
Foxx prefers to focus upon the benefits Charlotte will receive, saying that the DNC is a little bit like Christmas. “You know that there is a surprise coming and you know exactly what it is. And you know when people see this city and get to know it up close and personal, that they are going to fall in love with Charlotte,” said Foxx.
Foxx is absolutely right about people falling in love with Charlotte, which frequently makes locals wonder why there is such uncertainty about its image.
“The Queen City” is one of the best kept secrets in the South. When people experience Charlotte for the first time they are blown away by its beauty, its contemporary attitude and its trees. There is no question that the thousands who visit Charlotte for the first time will be both surprised and impressed.
But there is also that unknown factor that uptown businesses represent. Since the day the convention was announced, Charlotteans have been making plans to leave town in droves to avoid the temporary hassles of the huge onslaught of people.
For a business community where a major portion of business is conducted in the city center, the streets could easily become deserted, just as they were in Chicago when NATO came to town.
Whether that will matter to the participants of the DNC and the television cameras that focus their lenses upon them is something over which the mayor and his team have little control.
Only time will tell, and by the end of the first week in September, Charlotte will know whether its fears of inferiority are founded in fact or fiction.
Bob Taylor is owner of Taylored Media Services in
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