Charlotte Begins To Get Ready For 2012 DNC
Now that Charlotte will host the 2012 Democratic National Convention, organizers of the city's bid will have to prove they can raise the $40 to $50 million they promised. They have 19 months to get the city ready to host more than 35,000 visitors in a week. There's no doubt many people in Charlotte, like Thomas Blue, are jazzed to see their city get the spotlight. "Oh, wow this is exciting. This is huge," Blue enthused. "We're going to be on the world stage for a solid week. People all over the United States are going to be thinking about Charlotte. We can really showcase what our city is all about." But the world stage comes with its hassles. "It's going to be a boon for the city, but it's going to be a horrible week to work downtown," said commuter Randy Fryer. "It's good for Charlotte, but I don't want any more traffic," shrugged Will Riney. City leaders acknowledge there will be inconveniences, but the prospect of full hotels, packed restaurants, international broadcasts is enough to let out a yelp. "Hot damn, wasn't that good news," exclaimed Cammie Harris, a prominent Democrat in the area and one of the leading fundraisers for the convention. He spoke to a room full of community and business leaders, their faces wide with grins. The banner behind him read "Charlotte in 2012, Reaching for Tomorrow." "I can remember when Sharon Road was a farm road that connected my granddaddy's milk cattle farm to a beef cattle farm down at Quail Hollow Country Club, a dirt road. And here we are getting ready to have the democratic convention. Damn, what a move this city has made," Harris thrilled. Throughout the press conference, the stories of what Mayor Anthony Foxx called a "can-do place" tumbled out. "I think about the time when the city couldn't imagine gaining an NBA franchise or an NFL franchise or hosting the final four or a major PGA championship. We've done those things together and just today. . . " began Foxx. He got the call from DNC Chairman Tim Kaine in the morning. Kaine says one selling point for Charlotte and North Carolina was the state's success in re-making the economy. "From an economy that was about tobacco, textiles and furniture to now a research-driven economy with advanced manufacturing and other new industries, Charlotte and North Carolina will be part of a story that we'll want to tell through Election Day, November 2012," says Kaine. Charlotte leaders hope the convention will be another economic jump-start to the region, which has taken a beating in the recession. The city is expected to host more than 35,000 delegates, visitors, and media for the convention. The Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority estimates the convention will generate $150 to $200 million. Fundraisers say they'll need $40 to $50 million in donations to host the event. Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers, who's coordinating the fundraising effort, wouldn't say how much they've raised so far. "I think quite frankly the fact that we demonstrated that we can raise money is one of the edges we had compared to other cities," says Rogers. Besides money matters, city leaders have to figure out plenty of logistics to get Charlotte ready for September 2012, including security plans, infrastructure tweaks and traffic flow. DNC Chairman Tim Kaine kicks off the preparations today with a visit to Time Warner Cable Arena, where the event will be held.