This Week’s Podcast: Ronnie Bryant on Attracting CEO’s to Charlotte USA – Part 2

In last week’s podcast, we heard Ronnie Bryant share some behind-the-scenes during the Amazon headquarters debacle (yes, I’m calling it that). In part 2 of my interview with Ronnie we go in-depth to talk about the changing nature of the economic development business. We also talk about Charlotte’s future – what we should be concerned over, and Ronnie and I debate over what city Charlotte is starting to resemble.

Ronnie spent more than 30 years as an economic developer, and late last year retired from the Charlotte Regional Partnership, where he spent 14 years. He now works as a consultant, has his own leadership and coaching firm, Boldly Leading, and has written a book filled with insights from his years leading communities. (Find Driving from the Backseat: Tips for surviving as a not-for-profit CEO on Amazon.

Sit back and listen as Ronnie and I take a deep dive into how North Carolina handles incentives. We also discuss the evolution of the economic development professional as real estate companies increasing cultivate in-house experts on the issue.


Dear El Cardinale,

I’m thinking about the upcoming Republican National Convention that will be held in Charlotte this summer. What do you think the impact will be on our fair city? Should I get out of town during that time?

– Convention-ally Curious

Dear Convention-ally,

Charlotte will be the center of worldwide attention when the RNC is in town on August 24th through the 27th. Given the expected 15,000 credentialed reporters who will be working in Charlotte during that time, millions of eyes and ears will be on the Queen City. I recently heard Ron Kaufman, head of the RNC site selection team, speak to NAIOP about the RNC. He shared some interesting details. Among them:

  • Other than Donald Trump, the most important person whom Kaufman will be paying court to is, get this…. City of Charlotte Fire Marshal Jon Leonard! Recall that during the Democratic National Convention in 2012, then-Time Warner Cable Arena (now Spectrum Center) reached capacity and had to be closed by … guess who. Not once, but three times! As an aside, John and his brother Andy were my best friends in grade school. He was a nice kid who always cautioned me about playing with fire.
  • As far as your question about getting out of town, I would stick around for the windfall of money we Charlottians will reap in. Kaufman says the convention will provide a $300 million economic boost for the city.
  • The reason Charlotte was selected is surprising. Kaufman said there was one glaring reason – our Walkscore(™). He said that “partiers want to be within walking distance to events”. The density of downtown achieves this. The second reason Kaufman cited made me wonder if someone misrepresented CLT. He said that “Charlotte has more direct flights than any other City”
  • Kaufman thinks Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles and Charlotte Police Chief Kerr Putney are “rock stars”, and closed the deal. Ah! The results of The Charlotte Way(™).
  • There will be an estimated 3,200 convention-related public events held during the two weeks.

Kaufman stressed to the audience that the RNC was more about democracy than politics. He said that other than the Olympic Games, no other event generates more worldwide press coverage than these conventions. Regardless of one’s political leanings, the RNC presents an opportunity for our city to shine on the world stage.

As for whether or not you should get out of town, it’s a personal call. However, if you are concerned about safety, I can tell you this: Kaufman says that during the RNC, Charlotte will be the safest place in the world. He said that “Security is the last thing that I worry about.”

Merry Christmas and happy holidays to all of our friends and clients of the firm. I wish everyone a warm and joyous holiday season.