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Charlotte Area News

Charlotte's problems are Atlanta's too

Political leaders, business executives and planners are hashing out ways some cities and states in the Southeast can collaborate to tackle problems and deal with growth. The mayors of Charlotte and Atlanta hosted a conference this week in Charlotte to begin the process. WFAE's Lisa Miller has more: The Piedmont Atlantic Megaregion is a term that some people are hoping will catch on to describe the area stretching from Raleigh to Birmingham, Alabama. Cities and states within the region share many of the same natural resources, compete for some of the same economic projects, and deal with several of the same growth issues. The two day conference included the mayors of Gastonia and Macon, Georgia as well as academics, and utility and construction executives. Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory says the idea is to plan ahead as a region and not just react to problems as they arise. "If we do nothing the megaregion will become an area in which we'll have continued congestion," says McCrory. "We'll not have sufficient water supply. We'll have energy issues and we'll have environmental issues. And so we've made an agreement in both the private and public sectors that we're going to work together." These are problems the region has been dealing with for years and sometimes with antagonism. Recently four states in the megaregion have taken water disputes to court. In one case, South Carolina has a lawsuit against North Carolina over the use of the Catawba River. And Alabama and Florida say Atlanta is taking too much from a watershed they all share. Leaders said they didn't come up with any solutions to those problems, but they hope planning will head off future disagreements over water. The group also pledged to work together to push for federal money for high-speed rail connecting the Carolinas and Georgia and for improvements along I-85 like the Yadkin River Bridge. McCrory said creating jobs will be a major factor in getting cities and states to cooperate with each other in the region. However, the conference did not bring up the issue of using tax incentives to lure companies to particular cities or states. Macon Mayor Robert Reichert says some competition is healthy. "If you think Atlanta and Charlotte are going to have a lovefest and not compete from now on, I think you're wrong and that's not what we're saying," explains Reichert. "They're each going to compete for projects and try to put their best foot forward to get those projects, but the idea is to collectively recognize the importance of controlling growth and being able to be competitive and yet still compatible." The group agreed to meet again in October in the Greenville-Spartanburg area to begin drawing up a 25 year plan for the megaregion.