Originally created 07/14/01

Business model helps Charlotte mayor govern



Pat McCrory, the mayor of Charlotte, N.C., says he prefers to run his city the way most people manage a business: constantly checking out the competition and never settling for the status quo.

Speaking to politicians and business representatives at a luncheon for Mayor Bob Young's Business Action Team early Friday afternoon, Mr. McCrory was the first of what will be many mayors to share their city's successes with Augusta's movers and shakers.

"Cities use similar concepts," Mr. Young said. "It's how cities use concepts to address an issue that makes it interesting and gives you specific information you can use."

The mayor's Business Action Team, which has met twice, was developed to bridge the communication gap between industry and politics. The goal of the group is to generate ideas people can take back to their respective boards and businesses.

Mr. McCrory talked about what can happen when a city government not only models itself after the business world, but also works hand-in-hand with private corporations to invigorate economic development.

"Augusta has some of the same issues as Charlotte," he said, citing abandoned shopping centers, blighted residential areas and competition to keep industry from going to South Carolina.

Charlotte has revitalized abandoned factories and brownfields - property that is contaminated by industrial pollutants - by leasing the land for a nominal fee to industry: What sounds like a waste of taxpayer dollars to some, he said, has the short-term benefit of decreasing blight and the long-term monetary benefits from property and sales taxes.

There is "Augusta-size potential" for government and business to attract new business to the city and keep existing businesses, said Comcast Cable Public Relations Manager Bill Botham, who listened to Mr. McCrory's presentation.

"The city was most cooperative in helping us build our new facility," Mr. Botham said of the cable company's new $5 million building that sits on a 7-acre tract off River Watch Parkway.

"If we hadn't gotten that cooperation, other markets would have gotten those jobs," he said.

But, Mr. McCrory told the room full of businesspeople, politicians and city leaders, most cities have a vocal contingent that prefers to keep business and politics separated. And even when changes are made for the better, there is opposition, he said.

"Whether or not you want to change, it's going to occur," Mr. McCrory said.

The mayor of Detroit, Dennis Archer, is tentatively scheduled to speak to the group in September about his city's success in revitalizing its downtown.

Reach Heidi Coryell at (706) 823-3215.