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Charlotte wins 2012 Democratic National Convention

Charlotte will be the host city for the 2012 Democratic National Convention, the Democratic National Committee said today, ending months of speculation in the Queen City.

The city beat out St. Louis, Minneapolis and Cleveland for the 46th DMC, an event expected to bring at least a $150 million boost to Charlotte’s economy.

“I think we can safely say that  this is a huge opportunity for the city,” Mayor Anthony Foxx said at a press conference today at the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce.

“Its huge,” he said. “It’s not only direct economic impact, it’s also the fact that it becomes a catalyst for driving essentially new businesses and new jobs to our community.”

The event, to take place the week of Sept. 3, is expected to bring 30,000 to 35,000 attendees to Charlotte, giving a lift to a city battling high unemployment and a glut of foreclosed homes. Today, the Employment Security Commission of North Carolina said the unemployment rate in the Charlotte area dropped to 10.7 percent in December from 11 percent in November. Although the rate fell, it stayed above the state’s December rate of 9.7 percent.

Gov. Beverly Perdue said the convention will help the state and Charlotte’s economy while also showcasing the state and Charlotte to the rest of the world.

“What they will see when they get here is what hundreds of businesses already know: Charlotte’s smart investments in infrastructure, cultural attractions and amenities have produced a climate perfect for work and play,” she said.

The announcement came this morning when the Democratic National Committee released an e-mail that first lady Michelle Obama sent to the committee.

“Charlotte is a city marked by its Southern charm, warm hospitality and an ‘up by the bootstraps’ mentality that has propelled the city forward as one of the fastest-growing in the South,” Obama wrote in the e-mail.

“Vibrant, diverse and full of opportunity, the Queen City is home to innovative, hardworking folks with big hearts and open minds. And, of course, great barbecue,” Obama wrote.

Such sentiments, as well as all of the reporters who will flock to the city for the event, make Ernie Reigel’s job as co-chairman of the Charlotte Public Relations Campaign Board a lot easier.

Having the convention in Charlotte will allow his campaign to leverage the money it’s already spending to bring positive media attention to Charlotte.

“We already have that attention,” he said. “There will be a lot of focus about what’s going on, a lot of in-depth views of what Charlotte has to offer in a lot of different ways.”

The news about Charlotte landing the convention comes after a wave of negative news stories within recent months. Stories about the Charlotte chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People being upset over the closing of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools for this year’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day — CMS used it as a snow makeup day — as well as coverage of anti-gay remarks from Mecklenburg County Commissioner Bill James have drawn national media attention.

But when asked whether having the national media focused on Charlotte for the convention could dredge up some negatives, Reigel shrugs it off.

“You can’t control those things,” he said. “The only thing we can control is our message and what we have to say.”

Those in the city’s hospitality industry said the convention will help attract other meetings to the Queen City.

“It’s a win for the city of Charlotte, and it will really help put Charlotte on the map as a destination for big conventions and meetings such as this,” said Sid Smith, executive director of the Charlotte Area Hotel Association. “This will bring an awful lot of people to Charlotte.

Some see the news as a new day for Charlotte, a rare opportunity for the rest of the nation and world to get a glimpse of the city.

Such is the view of Jim Rogers, CEO of Charlotte-based utility company Duke Energy Corp.

Rogers, co-chairman of the Charlotte committee tasked with luring the convention to the city, said Charlotte’s selection for the convention ”elevates our city to a new level in national and world stature.”

“Only a few singular events in the U.S. rival the domestic and worldwide media exposure of a major political convention: a presidential inauguration, a royal wedding, the Super Bowl and the Olympics,” he said. “The economic and reputational significance of being chosen for this honor cannot be overstated.”

Jennifer Roberts, chairwoman of the Board of Commissioners, said the event will bring Charlotte attention from across the world, improving the city’s ability to recruit new businesses.

“It’s not just the hotels and the restaurants and two weeks of economic impact,” she said. “I think it will be a game-changer for Mecklenburg County and the whole region, really, in terms of bringing international awareness. That kind of impact is going to encourage them to say, ‘Wow! I’m going to move a branch of my company there!’ or ‘Wow! I could probably sell this product there!’”

Charlotte City Councilman Patrick Cannon agreed, adding that other cities that have hosted such huge conventions have seen economic growth thanks to companies expanding or relocating there.

Some Republicans, though, seemed less enthusiastic.

In a statement, North Carolina Republican Party Chairman Robin Hayes said he looked forward to “Charlotte being in the spotlight in 2012.”

But he also took a jab at the Obama administration.

“North Carolinians will not be fooled again by empty promises of ‘hope’ and ‘change,’ Hayes said in the statement. “Just last November, North Carolinians rejected the failed policies of President Obama and Gov. Perdue and elected Republicans to lead the North Carolina state House and state Senate for the first time in over 100 years. We welcome the Democrats to Charlotte, but they must answer for their misguided policies that have led to more debt, more spending and more government.”

Perdue said the announcement was “fantastic news for North Carolina regardless of your political party.”

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