Spotlight: Charlotte

Tom Williams, director of corporate media relations and executive support, Duke Energy, discusses how the city transformed into a global business hub.

Spotlight: Charlotte

Political pundits said Charlotte’s chances of landing the Democratic National Convention in 2012 were zero, but they were wrong, explains Tom Williams, director of corporate media relations and executive support at Duke Energy.

In an effort headed by Duke’s then-CEO Jim Rogers and mayor at the time, Anthony Foxx, the smallest city to ever attract an NBA franchise – the Charlotte Bobcats – hosted the convention, which "helped the city get its mojo back," says Williams.

A Charlotte resident since he was 3 years old, Williams has seen the city’s tough times – such as during the banking crisis – but now, "the fact that it is changing and growing makes Charlotte a more exciting place than many cities," he explains.

Fast Facts

  • When the craving hits for some Carolina barbecue, Williams recommends Mac’s Speed Shop on 223 Atherton Street ( – and don’t forget the mac and cheese.
  • Fortune 500 companies headquartered in the Charlotte, North Carolina area include Lowe’s (#56); Nucor (#146); Family Dollar Stores (#287), Sonic Automotive (#307); SPX (#431); and Domtar (#458).
  • Mecklenburg County topped 1 million residents in 2013, according to The Charlotte Observer, and added 11,530 new jobs in 2013, according to the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce. Charlotte was ranked number one Best City for High Pay and Low Expenses out of 60 US cities by Yahoo Finance in March 2014.
  • North Carolina was third among states with the fastest growth of women-owned businesses, according to a recent American Express OPEN report.
  • During the American Revolutionary War, a British force led by General Cornwallis held Charlotte for two and a half weeks, leaving only after enduring hostile attacks by locals. Cornwallis called Charlotte a "hornets nest of rebellion," an image incorporated into the county seal.

The city is home to the Mint Museum of Art, NASCAR Hall of Fame, Discovery Place, and ESPN Events. And, of course, there’s Carolina barbecue.

But it’s also "very much a corporate town," where banking is "huge," says Williams. Bank of America and Wells Fargo Securities are headquartered in Charlotte. According to the chamber of commerce, 270 Fortune 500 companies are represented in the city, including Duke Energy.

Williams has seen Charlotte evolve from a city with mostly regional businesses to a place where national and some global companies are setting up offices. There are 194 German-owned companies in Charlotte, including 59 US headquarters, with Daimler Trucks North America employing several thousand people.

A 2014 study by KPMG ranks Charlotte number four among the most cost-friendly business locations in the country, thanks to its competitive labor costs and factory lease costs.

Duke Energy has seen its CEO featured in top-tier outlets, such as 60 Minutes, The New York Times Magazine, and The Colbert Report, but Williams says the company still works regularly with local affiliates and regional papers, such as The Charlotte Observer, Charlotte Business Journal, and WFAE radio.

Agencies with offices in the city include FleishmanHillard, Taylor, PivotPR, and Catalyst. Williams calls the PR culture in Charlotte "active" and advises young, job-hunting PR pros to become an expert in a field.

"I would encourage them to pick an industry and stick with it," he adds, "as it can prove beneficial with large companies."

"Most people are new to the city," Williams says of Charlotte’s population. "The jobs market is growing." According to the Observer, sectors expected to see growth include construction, transportation, warehousing, utilities, and wholesale trade sectors.

"Charlotte is an affordable place to live," he adds, and the establishment of a downtown campus for the University of North Carolina at Charlotte has helped fuel the growth of a population of young professionals. 

Reach Out
PRSA Charlotte Chapter
Mandy Drakeford, contact for new professionals

Charlotte Economic Development
600 E. 4th Street, #138, Charlotte, NC 28202
(704) 336-7600

Charlotte Business Journal
1100 S. Tryon Street Suite 100, Charlotte, NC 28203

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