CHARLOTTE, N.C. (Aug. 2, 2021) – Following the recommendations of a newly released study, the City of Charlotte is developing a strategy to attract employers, help residents access careers, and spark commercial real estate development in areas of Charlotte that lag in employment opportunity.
The study was done in partnership with EY and looked at five of the six Corridors of Opportunity – areas in Charlotte that struggle with high poverty and unemployment, even as Charlotte boasts one of the most prosperous economies in the country.
City staff presented the study's findings and recommendations on Monday to the Charlotte City Council's Workforce and Business Development Committee.
In November 2020, the City of Charlotte Economic Development Department engaged EY to examine the employment landscapes of the five corridors, clustered into three focus geographies: Freedom Drive, Wilkinson Boulevard and West Boulevard; Beatties Ford; and Sugar Creek.
With its experience and expertise in developing customized economic development strategies for comparable cities, EY evaluated these three geographies through three lenses: workforce, employers and commercial real estate to identify potential drivers for job creation and employment.
Through the EY team's evaluation, coupled with interviews from employers, workforce development organizations, community leaders, real estate developers and city leadership, the following findings were presented to city staff:
The workforce analysis explored the demographic composition, educational attainment dynamics, labor characteristics and potential barriers to opportunity.
- People of color represent nearly 90% of all residents in the five corridors. Citywide, racial and ethnic minorities comprise less than 60% of Charlotte's population.
A higher proportion of residents between the ages of 18 and 24, and 65 years of age and older live in the corridors, compared to the citywide average.
Corridor residents are less likely to possess a high school diploma or college degree compared to the citywide average.
Corridor residents still struggle with higher rates of poverty and unemployment compared to the citywide average.
Labor participation rates are lower among corridor residents compared to the citywide average. Although the unemployment rate among residents in all examined areas declined between 2013 and 2018, the decline in the corridors was relatively minor.
Youth and young adult unemployment is high in the corridors. One in three residents between the ages of 16 and 24 living in the Freedom Drive, Wilkinson Boulevard, West Boulevard area, or the Beatties Ford Road area, are unemployed.
The study determined the industries best suited for recruitment and growth in each corridor are manufacturing, logistics and distribution, health care, and technology and administrative support services.
These industries match the existing assets within the corridors, have long-term growth potential, and provide upward career opportunities for residents.
Residents have diverse skills to support numerous industries, but most commute out of their corridors for jobs.
EY also did a detailed evaluation of the current size, age and use of corridors properties and real estate broker industries.
Overall, Charlotte has a strong and growing real estate market, with development spreading from three major demand drivers: the Charlotte Douglas International Airport, Uptown and the city's central business district, and the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
Construction and development are following major transportation arterials, particularly the LYNX Blue Line and the proposed LYNX Silver Line.
Real estate data show the corridors have lower-quality, smaller and older buildings, and a shortage of sites to attract industry.
The project team also developed recommendations for the city based on what it learned about the workforce landscape in the city's Corridors of Opportunity:
Target employers that can locate and expand in the corridors.
Spark commercial real estate development within the corridors.
Help corridor residents overcome barriers to employment and access career and economic opportunities.
EY recommended the city create an Opportunity Employers program that proactively attracts target industry employers into the Corridors of Opportunity and helps existing corridor employers hire more corridor residents.
Commercial Real Estate Development
The recommendations include promoting sites and buildings within the corridors that are ready or almost ready for commercial and industrial development. The city and its partners could also empower public-private partnerships and acquire strategic sites within the corridors if public-private partnership opportunities are readily available.
It is crucial that economic growth benefits current corridor residents and business, so EY also recommended creating an equitable development program.
Overcome Employment Barriers
Finally, EY recommended the city and its partners focus on helping workforce nonprofits obtain the resources they need to assist more workers; expanding entrepreneurship opportunities for aspiring business owners; improving transportation solutions for corridor residents; and supporting programs that help residents with education, employment and career advancement.
The Economic Development Department will continue to have conversations with key stakeholders in the coming weeks. The implementation plan will be incorporated into the ongoing HIRE Charlotte Strategic Employment Plan, which will steer the city and communities next steps in implementing this work. In the interim, staff will be considering pilot projects that can be quickly implemented to inform final strategies, recognizing that each geography has specific business and workforce needs.
Residents interested in local job opportunities today can visit the City of Charlotte's Jobs Connector platform.