The 14 counties served by the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute are a diverse and complex region, one that has seen dramatic economic and physical changes in recent decades. Yet it has retained a deep connection to a rich cultural and natural heritage.
As one of the fastest growing metropolitan areas in the United States, the Charlotte region embodies both the promises and challenges associated with the emergence of great economic regions.
Outside the urban core, the subtle beauty of the region’s varied landscape of farms, forests and small towns is a physical reminder of the tenuous relationship between human progress and the stewardship of the Carolina Piedmont’s natural resources. From the Native Americans whose early trading paths formed the literal and figurative crossroads of the region, in what today is uptown Charlotte, to the early 20th-century capitalists who harnessed the region’s rivers for industrialization, the balance between economic growth and environmental responsibility has always been in flux.
A sparkling skyline and an abundance of new cultural attractions reflect the growing affluence of an urban area that transformed itself economically, almost overnight. Meanwhile, abandoned factories and persistent high unemployment in many of the region’s counties reveal the uneven distribution of that new wealth.