Posted by: Tampa Bay Chamber on Friday, October 11, 2019

The Chamber's 2019 Benchmarking trip to Charlotte, North Carolina


The group arrived on Sunday, October 6th and started the trip off with a welcome reception at the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

Monday, October 7th consisted of sessions on demographic realities, workforce housing, the LYNX blue line, and transportation.

Tuesday, October 8th was the final day and had sessions on attraction and retention, the state of the city of Charlotte, Charlotte's brand, and social impact.

Below is a recap of the sessions that the group attended over the two days.

Demographic Realities (Dr. Johnson)

The group heard from Dr. James H. Johnson Jr., distinguished Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship and Director of the Urban Investment Strategies Center at the Kenan-Flagler Business School and Frank Hawkins Kenan Institute of Private Enterprises at UNC. This session was designed to help attendees learn about the changing demographics in the United States, Florida, and Tampa Bay and how they will impact their businesses.

Dr. Johnson discussed the “Browning” and “Greying” of America.  The demographic data backs up the growing Hispanic and non-white population.  With this shift, companies need to understand the impact that a changing demographic has on hiring and retaining talent (ex. elder care benefits), advertising and marketing and how the multi-generational workforce affects all of us. Most relevant to us here is that Florida has a positive 326 people per day net migration.

Workforce Housing

A robust panel consisting of Pamela Wideman, Director of Housing & Neighborhood Services for the City of Charlotte, Brian Heide, SVP of Community Development for Banc of America Community Development Corporation, Rob Ledford, Managing Partner for Baker Barrios, Eileen Pope, SVP of Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Erin Smith, Vice President of Bank of America, and Dennis LaCaria, Managing Partner of gruppoETICO presented on this topic. This session was designed to explore what Charlotte is doing to enhance the affordability for workforce housing and what can be taken back to Tampa.

The panel addressed how it requires a partnership between private, public local and public federal to solve the housing shortage. “You can’t build your way out of this.” The availability of quality workforce housing is critical to all communities and employers.


The group took the afternoon to ride the LYNX Blue Line from uptown to Tyvola and heard a presentation from John Lewis, CEO and Director of Public Transit for CATS (Charlotte Area Transit System) and Benjamin Limmer, CEO for HART (Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority). This session was to find out how proven successful strategies in Charlotte can be implemented in Tampa.

The major key takeaway from this session was that it takes time to execute a comprehensive plan.  Charlotte has had great development along their rail system, specifically at the station stops. This is something we can look to and try to implement here.

Attraction & Retention

Presented by Rod Gavin, SVP of Talent Development an Workforce Innovation for the Charlotte Regional Business Alliance, John Martin, CEO and President of YBLA (Young Black Leadership Alliance), and Effin Logue, Chief People Officer for Dixon Hughes Goodman, this session discussed how Charlotte is aggressively recruiting outside talent while retaining their home-grown talent.

One of the most important points addressed during this session was that showing youth a path to success is critical, and understanding the unique methods of communication that Gen Y and Gen Z prefer is crucial to “attract & retain” the best talent, especially diverse talent.

Charlotte: State of the City

Michael Smith, President & CEO of Charlotte Center City Partners presented on how live, work and play is driving a robust downtown.

Michael addressed the importance of arts and culture in attracting and retaining companies.  Charlotte has been misunderstood on their availability of tech talent, and that was an impediment to growth in that sector.

Charlotte’s Brand What is Charlotte’s "brand" and why? Gina Sheridan, Chief Marketing & Communications Officer, and Thomas Murray, Chief Executive Officer of the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority presented on how Charlotte puts an emphasis on arts and culture and outdoor activities in an effort to appeal to a broad range of visitors.  Their slogan of “Charlotte’s Got a Lot” is rather open ended, and that seems to be the intent.

Social Impact Brian Collier, Executive Vice President for the Foundation for the Carolinas presented about workforce development and ensuring social capital.

The major takeaway here was that you need to understand if geographic segregation exists and how to change it, because it inhibits mobility.  It's crucial to focus earlier (even prenatal) not just in later education and career to make greater changes for the future.

Overall it was a positive trip packed with valuable takeaways that we can hopefully begin to implement in the coming years.

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