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Old 09-25-2009, 10:48 PM
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Why Is Atlanta, GA Not Charlotte, NC the Capital of the South

Why is Atlanta, Georgia not Charlotte, North Carolina the cultural and economic centre of the South? Charlotte has a larger population, is a major banking center, and is closer to the Boston-Washington Megalopolis so why is it less promient then Atlanta?
Old 09-25-2009, 11:00 PM
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Measured by city limits Charlotte has a larger population than Atlanta, but the population of the Atlanta metropolitan area is three-and-a-half times larger than that of the Charlotte metropolitan area.
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Old 09-25-2009, 11:09 PM
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Atlanta has also been a major transportation hub since it was founded as Terminus before the War Between the States. I believe Atlanta has also hosted major educational and Federal Government institutions since before Charlotte became a wide spot in the road. What has Charlotte got, exactly, other than banks?
Old 09-25-2009, 11:44 PM
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I thought Richmond was the Capital of the South.
Old 09-25-2009, 11:47 PM
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City population is meaningless in every way except as a local political issue (and for dispensing funding, which is also a political issue). In every other way, only the metropolitan population means anything.

I agree that Atlanta has both the historical importance and a much larger population. Charlotte also has to compete with Raleigh-Durham, which isn't much smaller, has three major universities and a booming economy, and is the state capital. Except as a banking center, the Research Triangle beats Charlotte in most every measure of importance.
Old 09-26-2009, 11:49 AM
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Atlanta got at an NFL team first.

I don't know much about Charlotte, but I remember someone noting that in the 50s, Birmingham and Atlanta were of similar size and relative importance and chalked up Atlanta's rise and Birmingham's relative lag as a symptom of Alabama having to be dragged kicking and screaming out of the Jim Crow era.

Was North Carolina known for much of anything other than college basketball and tobacco and stock car racing until the 80s? Honest question. Georgia, being known as the Empire State of the South for many years, perhaps attracted the most varied business attention for the greater part of the 20th century.

Last edited by fiddlesticks; 09-26-2009 at 11:50 AM.
Old 09-26-2009, 11:57 AM
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Well, for one thing, Charlotte isn't even the capitol of its own state, which Atlanta is.
Old 09-26-2009, 12:10 PM
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Originally Posted by An Arky View Post
Well, for one thing, Charlotte isn't even the capitol of its own state, which Atlanta is.
New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Houston are not the capitals of their respective states, either.
Old 09-26-2009, 01:13 PM
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Is Charlotte even the economic center of North Carolina? It's got Bank of America, sure, but isn't Raleigh-Durham/the Research Triangle doing better economically?
Old 09-26-2009, 01:13 PM
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Banks (didn't Wachovia leave, btw?) and a larger population and you think that entitles you to the distinction anymore than us?

Since we're listing our accomplishments, I'll give you ours and after you read it, you decide if it's still debatable:
  • Busiest airport in the world.
  • 3rd most Fortune 500 company headquarters (UPS, Home Depot, Coca Cola, Delta Air, etc.) - only behind New York City and Houston.
  • Major television and media outlets located in the city itself (CNN, TBS, TNT, Cartoon Network, Court TV, etc.)
  • Prominent schools such as Emory University and Georgia Tech.
  • Major government facilities such as the CDC headquarters and a Federal Reserve branch.
  • Tourist attractions galore, including the world's largest aquarium.
  • A sports team in every major league. We even hosted the Olympics in 1996.

I'm not trying to turn this into a pissing contest but it's silly to think Charlotte can contend for that title with Atlanta. Miami? Definitely. Charlotte? No way.
Old 09-26-2009, 01:23 PM
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The OP's question is phrased a little strangely but I have wondered about something similar myself. Charlotte, NC seems to be one of, if not the most, obscure large cities in the U.S. Most people from outside the area don't know much about it at all in either a good or bad sense. I was shocked when I read how big it is and that was only a few years ago. It keeps a really low profile.

Last edited by Shagnasty; 09-26-2009 at 01:23 PM.
Old 09-26-2009, 02:43 PM
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It's only within the last few years that Charlotte has gained a decent reputation. When I lived there ~15 years ago, it was an economically depressed inner-city hellhole. And the humidity! Atlanta's always had it going on. Charlotte? Not so much.
Old 09-26-2009, 03:18 PM
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I grew up in Charlotte, early 1970's to late 1980's. Back then it was decidedly a small(ish), out of the way, unremarkable town. As others have already pointed out, it didn't become "big" until the past 20-25 years. On the other hand, Atlanta has been a major city for 150+ years.

Charlotte always had (at least when I was there) an inferiority complex about Atlanta. Everything was measured in terms of Atlanta. Population, pro sports teams (none in the 1970's, the Charlotte Checkers didn't count, anyone remember the Charlotte Checkers?), even the height of the tallest skyscraper in downtown. As I recall, there were, literally, only 3 - 4 big buildings in downtown Charlotte in the 1970's. And when they talked about building a new one, included in the selling points was something to the effect of "... and it'll be taller than the tallest one in Atlanta!"

Douglas airport. Not "Charlotte-Douglas International Airport", just "Douglas". Many, many, many flights simply connected through Atlanta. No matter where you wanted to fly to from Charlotte, you had to go to Atlanta first. (Again, part of the inferiority complex.) There was a joke... when you died and went to heaven you had to change planes in Atlanta.

Atlanta has been a major player for 150+ years, Charlotte's just arrived at the party.
Old 09-26-2009, 03:34 PM
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Charlotte's banking rep is largely due to BoA remove that and what have you got?

Throughout history, North Carolina has always been a large state population wise, usually in or near the top ten states. But North Carolina always had a huge rural population.

Atlanta going back to pre-Civil War (USA) days, was a hub.

Sherman needed to destroy Atlanta even though it was not that large of a city. A little less than 10,000, Savannah had over 22,000, more than twice as big and a huge port.

But Atlanta was where the (few) railroads in the south, the roads, and the trade passed through. Remember during the US Civil War, Atlanta wasn't even the capital of Georgia. Even Augusta Georgia was bigger at 12,000.

But Atlanta is what connected the "border states" to the "Deep South" so population had little to do with it.

Cities like Birmingham, AL arose after the civil war and in Birmingham's case was based on steel production. It was known as the "Pittsburgh of the South"

Atlanta is still where centers of population connect. Look at St Louis, a huge city historically because it was were the East met the West. Until railroads took over from river traffic and Chicago bested it. You will note St Louis conveniently has the Missouri and Mississippi, the two main "roads" of transportation till railroads replaced rivers.

Charlotte wants to be Atlanta and may some day long time off be it. Atlanta has huge problems 'caused by quick population and urban sprawl, the most important is "where to find water."

I found Atlanta, like Nashville to be decidedly "un-Southern." This is because of the influx of Northerners since the 60s.

I wouldn't call Atlanta as representative of the "Southern culture" but it certainly is the main hub of the South
Old 09-26-2009, 03:49 PM
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Can Charlotte boast of municipal corruption on Atlanta's scale? Six public employees taking a full work-week to fill a half-mile of potholes? Bush league: Atlanta also has crews going around digging potholes in the middle of the night.
Old 09-26-2009, 04:22 PM
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Charlotte has always wanted to be like Atlanta. The people there are all about promoting the city as a major city. They even went so far as to rename downtown as "uptown" because the word down is "negative"
Old 09-26-2009, 04:36 PM
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Part of it could be because the title is meaningless. I live in the south and didn't know Atlanta was called the capitol. But it makes sense, just look at a map of the interstate system. Atlanta is a hub, Charlotte just sits at an intersection
Old 09-26-2009, 04:41 PM
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The history of Atlanta is all about transportation. It is well located in the center of the southeast. (There's a lot of people who refer to the region as the southeast rather than the south.) Because of the angle of the coastline, it is actually surprisingly close to Ohio, etc. That makes it very convenient for lot of companies. Recent companies to move there include UPS and Rubbermaid. It is also the regional headquarters for a lot of companies. Virtually all Japanese electronics giants have major regional headquarters there, for example.

Charlotte started on the wagon road between towns near the fall line. Not much geographically to recommend it.

OTOH, banking is a major issue. Things grow where the money sits. (Even in this electronic age.) Charlotte has a lot more big banks than Atlanta. Atlanta's last remaining major bank is SunTrust. If Charlotte hadn't become a banking center, it wouldn't be where it is today.
Old 09-26-2009, 04:53 PM
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Since someone was comparing Charlotte to Raleigh- Durham the main difference is that Charlotte is pretty much 100% banking - which has led to a higher than average jobless rate now. RTP area is much more diversified - government, universities, software, electronics, medicine and biotech are all big here. In the last few years finance is growing here too with Fidelity, Credit Suisse and others opening centers here.
Old 09-26-2009, 07:27 PM
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All the previous posters have given the best answers.

I just wanted to add that in 1900, the population of Atlanta was over four times that of Charlotte. And that would have been the surrounding 50 miles probably.

In 1940, Atlanta still had THREE times the population of Charlotte. This, before suburbs mostly.

It was only by 1990 that Charlotte equalled Atlanta's population.
Old 09-26-2009, 08:06 PM
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Well, for one thing, Charlotte isn't even the capitol of its own state, which Atlanta is.
"Capital," to be picky. But as pointed out, lots of important cities aren't state capitals.

A lot of the differences that have been pointed out - the big airport, sports teams, Olympics, head offices, and that - are just products of the simple central fact: Atlanta's bigger, end of story. It is (in the sense that matters - the urban agglomeration's population, not the city limits) by far the largest city in Dixie, assuming that doesn't include Texas or Florida. Charlotte isn't half as big.
Old 09-26-2009, 08:58 PM
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As someone who has lived in Charlotte for the last 5 years after relocating from NYC, I have been somewhat curious as to the lack of identity the city has. People have been flocking here in droves for the last 10 years, mostly from northern states, to take advantage of good housing prices, reasonable taxes, and the climate. As others have said, Charlotte's mass appeal is a fairly recent development. Atlanta has been a center of culture for much longer. From what I've seen and heard, there is definitely Atlanta-envy around here (except for the traffic...) That being said, there is more to Charlotte than banking. Many Fortune 500 companies have large presences here. There are NFL and NBA teams, and it is the center of NASCAR (with the NASCAR HOF opening soon.) I don't think it can compete with Atlanta in terms of history, but in 10 - 20 years it may have a better argument in terms of importance.
Old 09-26-2009, 09:13 PM
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Busiest airport in the world.
Greetings to my neighbor to the East.
Why the busiest airport?
Old 09-26-2009, 09:28 PM
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It's a major hub.
Old 09-26-2009, 09:41 PM
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It's a major hub.
Ah, as in flying me from LIttle Rock to Dallas to Boston.
So that would be determined by location and airport size, I'll warrant.
Old 09-26-2009, 09:51 PM
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Greetings to my neighbor to the East.
Why the busiest airport?
Lots of people flying in and out.
Old 09-26-2009, 09:55 PM
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Lots of people flying in and out.
Old 09-27-2009, 12:49 AM
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Ah, as in flying me from LIttle Rock to Dallas to Boston.
So that would be determined by location and airport size, I'll warrant.
Busiest in terms of passengers as well as take-offs/landings. This is Delta's headquarters and main hub (also the world's largest).

I'll go a bit further and say that it was designed and expanded with the utmost efficiency in mind, which airlines seem to love. You haven't been to an airport until you experienced Hartsfield, just a great airport.
Old 09-28-2009, 05:55 AM
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Everything that was used to describe Atlanta sounds so unSouthern. I've never been to Charlotte, but it sounds a little too large for my tastes.

Three different cities come to mind when I think of the South. The historic area of Savannah is just incredibly beautiful. I keep forgetting how many parks make up the city center -- sixteen? Twenty? Spanish moss, fountains, traditions, music, mystery, the river, the food! This place is so Southern the air is saturated with it.

Charleston is such a blend of cultures. Such beautiful homes! Interesting history! Baskets like you have never seen. Very coastal in its nature.

Ashville is in the mountains. I suspect everyone I see of being an artist or a writer. Thomas Wolfe lived here. The boarding house that was the setting for Look Homeward, Angel is open. So is the largest residence in the United States with its vineyards and gardens. This small city seems secure. I doubt that it would want to be the capital. Think I will stop by the Savoy for a bite to eat while I'm here, though. Charleton Heston used to live here. O. Henry is buried here. There might be even a Doper or two. You should see this place in autumn -- and in the spring. Summers are a little cooler and well, you know.

The South doesn't need a capital, but if it has to have one, give it something that still reflects Southern traditions.
Old 09-28-2009, 08:37 AM
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In most large cities in the South there are tons of transplants from other areas, many of them come from the Midwest and North. Smaller cities like Savannah and Charleston have not grown as much and don't have many transplants.
Old 09-28-2009, 09:24 AM
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As someone who has lived in Charlotte for the last 5 years after relocating from NYC, I have been somewhat curious as to the lack of identity the city has. People have been flocking here in droves for the last 10 years, mostly from northern states, to take advantage of good housing prices, reasonable taxes, and the climate. As others have said, Charlotte's mass appeal is a fairly recent development. Atlanta has been a center of culture for much longer. From what I've seen and heard, there is definitely Atlanta-envy around here (except for the traffic...) That being said, there is more to Charlotte than banking. Many Fortune 500 companies have large presences here. There are NFL and NBA teams, and it is the center of NASCAR (with the NASCAR HOF opening soon.) I don't think it can compete with Atlanta in terms of history, but in 10 - 20 years it may have a better argument in terms of importance.
Self-importance, maybe.

Charlotte has a serious case of Atlanta envy and (oddly enough) Raleigh envy. Before I moved from Raleigh, no one I know of gave Charlotte a second thought. That was where the Panthers played (who cares - we had two good teams and Duke). After I moved here, and I would mention that I'm from Raleigh, I would hear about how jealous Raleigh is of Charlotte. It was like there was a huge rivalry between Raleigh and Charlotte that no one in Raleigh know about.

Charlotte needs one major thing before it could compete with Atlanta: Character. I don't really have a sense of Character from Charlotte, like I did from Atlanta or from Raleigh.
Old 09-28-2009, 09:49 AM
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I live in Charlotte. It would be odd for Charlotte to be the "Capital of the South", as Charlotte is in many ways not a southern city. There are a huge number of transplants here, and a very large share of those are from the North (NYC, Buffalo, Philly, and Chicago are heavily represented, among others). It is somewhat rare to meet a true Southerner in downtown Charlotte, and it is very rare to meet a native Charlottean. One anecdotal example, my 5 year old daughter was born in Charlotte and has lived here all of her young life, but has no trace of a Southern accent. Once you get outside the city a ways, you are back in the South, but if you were put down in the middle of downtown Charlotte, it would take most people quite a while before they figured out they were in the south.

The people who have said that Charlotte doesn't have much of an identity are spot on. Having said that, there are a lot of great things about living here. There is a lot of Atlanta envy, which I don't get; I much prefer Charlotte.
Old 09-28-2009, 10:06 AM
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Atlanta is even less "southern" than Charlotte. Lots of transplants over a very long period of time. Because of its more liberal reputation, it also draws "alternative" folk from around the SE who drop southern culture ASAP. I don't think Charlotte is that much of a draw for such people yet and that lowers its diversity level.

Rarely meet people with southern accents as well, especially among younger folk. If a kid at my kids' high school spoke with an accent, they would be labelled a "gomer". No encouragement there.

Like I said, Atlanta is in the SE, not The South.
Old 09-28-2009, 10:55 AM
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Rarely meet people with southern accents as well, especially among younger folk. If a kid at my kids' high school spoke with an accent, they would be labelled a "gomer". No encouragement there.

Like I said, Atlanta is in the SE, not The South.
WTF are you talking about? Most Atlantans, even the young ones, speak with southern accents if they grew up in the south. They don't have a long drawn-out drawl in some stereotypical antebellum plantation sense, but they most assuredly have an accent much like everyone else in this country has their own accent.

and Atlanta is most definitely The South. It tries to distance itself from it in its attempts to bill itself as a world city, but making a distinction between "being in the southeast" and "being in the south" is lame, and inaccurate.
Old 09-28-2009, 11:09 AM
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As a foreigner, when I think of major US cities, its NYC, LA, Chicago, Houston and Atlanta. Charlotte although charming is not someplace that comes to mind.

Atlanta is a major international business centre. Charlotte is an oversized Canary Wharf.
Old 09-28-2009, 11:13 AM
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Everything that was used to describe Atlanta sounds so unSouthern. I've never been to Charlotte, but it sounds a little too large for my tastes.

Three different cities come to mind when I think of the South. The historic area of Savannah is just incredibly beautiful. I keep forgetting how many parks make up the city center -- sixteen? Twenty? Spanish moss, fountains, traditions, music, mystery, the river, the food! This place is so Southern the air is saturated with it.

Charleston is such a blend of cultures. Such beautiful homes! Interesting history! Baskets like you have never seen. Very coastal in its nature.

Ashville is in the mountains. I suspect everyone I see of being an artist or a writer. Thomas Wolfe lived here. The boarding house that was the setting for Look Homeward, Angel is open. So is the largest residence in the United States with its vineyards and gardens. This small city seems secure. I doubt that it would want to be the capital. Think I will stop by the Savoy for a bite to eat while I'm here, though. Charleton Heston used to live here. O. Henry is buried here. There might be even a Doper or two. You should see this place in autumn -- and in the spring. Summers are a little cooler and well, you know.

The South doesn't need a capital, but if it has to have one, give it something that still reflects Southern traditions.
Pretty much par for the course that major metropolises are "different" in culture from the geographical location they are in. London is definatly nothing like the SE of England politically and culturally for instance.
Old 09-28-2009, 11:15 AM
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Atlanta is a major international business centre
Not really.

There are probably 6 or 7 us cities that are more important to global commerce than Atlanta - it's a hugely important regional center for a very large and economically/demographically powerful area of the country, but it does not sniff the jock of an international city yet.

NY, Chicago, LA, San Francisco, Houston, Miami, Boston are probably more important in a global sense than Atlanta.
Old 09-28-2009, 11:30 AM
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As a foreigner, when I think of major US cities, its NYC, LA, Chicago, Houston and Atlanta. Charlotte although charming is not someplace that comes to mind.

Atlanta is a major international business centre. Charlotte is an oversized Canary Wharf.
What's a Canary Wharf?
Old 09-28-2009, 11:52 AM
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This is Canary Wharf.
Old 09-28-2009, 11:54 AM
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Not really.

There are probably 6 or 7 us cities that are more important to global commerce than Atlanta - it's a hugely important regional center for a very large and economically/demographically powerful area of the country, but it does not sniff the jock of an international city yet.

NY, Chicago, LA, San Francisco, Houston, Miami, Boston are probably more important in a global sense than Atlanta.
Internationally, I think Atlanta is bigger than SF, Miami and Boston easily. As mentioned above some of the worlds biggest and most influential cooporations are based out of there. I can't speak as to Atlanta's domestic influence.
Old 09-28-2009, 12:03 PM
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Internationally, I think Atlanta is bigger than SF, Miami and Boston easily. As mentioned above some of the worlds biggest and most influential cooporations are based out of there. I can't speak as to Atlanta's domestic influence.

SF is the center of the global IT industry and is a gateway to Asia
Miami is a gateway to Latin America
Boston is really the debatable one

Atlanta's Gross Metropolitan Product (GDP for the city) puts it 10th in the nation - the only one of my cities on that list with a lower GMP is Miami at #11, and I would still assert that its South/Latin America positioning gives it the nod over ATL.
Old 09-28-2009, 12:10 PM
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Well, anybody who's ever flown in an airplane domestically has probably been there, like it or not.

I went to college in Atlanta. I can't imagine anybody with a wide variety of educational choices going to college in Charlotte. Is that indicative? (Unless you want a culinary arts degree from Johnson and Wales - I took a class there a year ago and was duly impressed.)

Atlanta has Emory, Georgia State, and Georgia Tech as well as my alma mater (Agnes Scott), an asston of historically black colleges including Morehouse and Spelman, etc. There are more than 30 institutions of higher learning in the Atlanta metro area, most of them actually in town.

Charlotte has.... UNC Charlotte? Not even the state's flagship university? Davidson is nearby, but not in town in any real way. Queens University?

Colleges and universities are a lot of the driving force behind the culture of a city. I'm sure Columbia would be a shithole without USC, as odd as that is to say. I've been to Charlotte many times, although I've never lived there. There's no there there. (There is, however, an Ikea and an Apple Store.)
Old 09-28-2009, 12:39 PM
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Ted Turner and the Milwaukee Braves really turned things around for Atlanta.
If not for them, Charlotte would've been the capital.
Old 09-28-2009, 12:41 PM
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Banks (didn't Wachovia leave, btw?)
No. Wachovia is still in Charlotte. They're just about to change to color scheme from blue and green to Wells Fargo's red and gold.
Old 09-28-2009, 03:22 PM
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As a foreigner, when I think of major US cities, its NYC, LA, Chicago, Houston and Atlanta. Charlotte although charming is not someplace that comes to mind.

Atlanta is a major international business centre. Charlotte is an oversized Canary Wharf.
Hopefully without the cybermen.

I see more Charlotte Area Dopers coming out of the woodwork. Maybe it's time to try another dope-fest?
Old 09-28-2009, 03:41 PM
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Another Charlotte tidbit - people from Charlotte have a real hard time winning a statewide election in NC. They have a long track record of losing when they run statewide. Gov. Jim Martin is the 1 exception, he served from 92-2000 but he tried to claim he was from Lake Norman which is just outside Charlotte.
Old 09-28-2009, 03:46 PM
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and is closer to the Boston-Washington Megalopolis so why is it less promient then Atlanta?
How in the world would being closer to Boston give you points for being the capital of the SOUTH?
Old 09-28-2009, 03:56 PM
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Another Charlotte tidbit - people from Charlotte have a real hard time winning a statewide election in NC. They have a long track record of losing when they run statewide. Gov. Jim Martin is the 1 exception, he served from 92-2000 but he tried to claim he was from Lake Norman which is just outside Charlotte.
According to one radio host, whom I otherwise like, it's because the rest of the state is Jealous of Charlotte.
Old 09-28-2009, 06:22 PM
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Atlanta's Gross Metropolitan Product (GDP for the city) puts it 10th in the nation - the only one of my cities on that list with a lower GMP is Miami at #11, and I would still assert that its South/Latin America positioning gives it the nod over ATL.
Give it time. Didn't the FBI/DEA just say we were the 'new Miami' in terms of drug trafficking?
Old 09-28-2009, 06:42 PM
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Internationally, I think Atlanta is bigger than SF, Miami and Boston easily. As mentioned above some of the worlds biggest and most influential cooporations are based out of there. I can't speak as to Atlanta's domestic influence.
According to the Globalization and World Cities (GaWC) Research Network US cities rank as follows:

Alphas - Very important world cities that link major economic regions and states into the world economy
New York
Chicago
Betas - Important world cities that are instrumental in linking their region or state into the world economy
Los Angles
Washington
Atlanta
San Fransisco
Dallas
Boston
Miami
Houston
Gammas - World cities linking smaller regions or states into the world economy, or important world cities whose major global capacity is not in advanced producer services
Denver
Minneapolis
Seattle
Philadelphia
Portland (doesn't specify which, I am assuming Oregon)
Detroit
San Diego
High Sufficiency - Cities that are not world cities as defined here but they have sufficient services so as not to be overtly dependent on world cities. Two specialised categories of city are common at this level of integration: smaller capital cities, and traditional centres of manufacturing regions
Columbus (also not specified)
Phoenix
Cleveland
Kansas City
Pittsburgh
Orlando
Charlotte
Indianapolis
Baltamore
St Louis
Sacramento
San Jose
Milwaukee
Richmond
Las Vegas
Sufficiency - Cities that are not world cities as defined here but they have sufficient services so as not to be overtly dependent on world cities. Two specialised categories of city are common at this level of integration: smaller capital cities, and traditional centres of manufacturing regions
Memphis
Nashville
Honolulu
Omaha
Raleigh
Hartford
Salt Lake City
Austin
Tulsa
Birmingham
Cincinnati
New Orleans
Buffalo
It is an interesting site. And it has all the base data available as downloadable Excel files. Here for example are some data points between Atlanta and Charlotte (showing why they have ranks they do).
Data Set 11 World City Network: The Basic Data (number and size of Global 100 company offices) - Atlanta: 122, Charlotte: 49
Data Set 21.1 Embassys recieved - Atlanta: 6, Charlotte: 0.
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