At the center of the Charlotte region is Mecklenburg County, home to the City of Charlotte and its innermost suburbs. The emergence of Charlotte as a prominent financial center with a national and even global reputation catapulted the county into the ranks of America’s major urban areas, with many of the same “big-city” amenities and challenges experienced by other urban counties in the United States. Charlotte’s growth not only established Mecklenburg County as the economic engine of the region but also its center for arts, culture and entertainment. With the exception of a few preserved agricultural lands in the northern part of the county and scattered public recreation areas elsewhere, Mecklenburg is likely to be fully developed by the year 2030.
Policy decisions in Mecklenburg today hinge mainly on issues associated with the urban/suburban divide and debates about the nature of the county’s emerging urbanism. Economic discussions center on the issue of diversification and how to make sure the county does not depend too much on the financial and service industries that fueled its recent growth and how to safeguard against the potential flight of established businesses to surrounding counties where the tax burden is lower. Land use discussions focus on issues of density and the preservation of green space for a growing urban population. Transportation decisions focus on the relationship between the county’s transportation network and its land use policies, and efforts to address social inequities within the community cover the diverse and cosmopolitan population.