Don’t Hold Charlotte Back: Erase the Good Ol’ Boy Network

As an outside observer, I have been watching Charlotte’s economy for a while. From the banking industry, to construction, to consulting, and to politics, Charlotte’s economic community is as diverse as it is difficult, and as dynamic as it is comedic. Let me explain further.

“It’s not what you know but who know” as the old adage goes. Like I said, I am an outsider, and never have I seen such a “Good Ol’ Boy” (G.o.B.) network. For one of the fastest growing cities in the nation, does it really matter who is related to who, what the last name of that person is, and what their grand daddy did for a living? So one of Charlotte’s sons has a business, other businesses are going to be shunned out because the owner’s roots aren’t kin? Now, in few situations, that doesn’t bother me. What I think is appalling is that a majority of Charlotte’s economic community is like that, and NO ONE says anything. Sure, some people might whisper it during lunch, or IM it to each other across the office, but really? I thought that kind of network was dead and gone. Not yet.

Charlotte is experiencing growing pains, that much is clear. What isn’t clear is how much of that pain is self-induced.

For example, if the political powers-that-be finally realize that green technology is not only better for the environment, but better for the city, jobs will grow and Charlotte could be the green technology hub in the southeast. If those same powers agreed that the light rail is actually a huge success, it can lay down the foundation of a highly efficient public transportation system; and Charlotte could pass Atlanta in as little as three years as one of the South’s best cities.

And what about Charlotte’s nightlife? The G.o.B. network is holding that back from growing as well. If those responsible for bringing in musicians, artists, comedians, etc. treated the talent with any sense of decency, those performers would come by the hordes to the Queen City. Don’t get me wrong, I love the idea of supporting the lesser known performers, but you have to bring headliners for those lesser known to be discovered. Let some events be held later in the evening. Allow a few nightclubs to stay open later. I’m not saying that Charlotte has to stay up all night, but she should be allowed that option. Give Charlotte some breathing room; don’t strap a strangling electric collar around her neck. Don’t act like it is a privilege for performers to come and visit Charlotte; we should be thanking them for helping our city grow.

I am not bashing cliques. In many cases, cliques are good- they establish a sense of identity and those within the group create roles and a little society. But for a city like Charlotte to grow, I recommend that we abandon the G.o.B. clique and create a New Charlotte clique; a clique that recognizes that growth and innovation, the acceptance of non-conventional ideas and the willingness to get out of this “old south” comfort zone will make the city more prosperous than we can imagine.

If not, we can just carry on with this good ol’ boy nonsense, and those with big ideas and big hopes will leave the city and Charlotte will be that “city-that-could-have-been.”

And who is to say that those Good Ol’ Boys don’t want that? Actions speak louder than words.