Raleigh is known for having more tech jobs than Charlotte but that could soon change. Charlotte is on pace to surpass Raleigh-Durham and be dominant in the process. That's according to reporting in the Charlotte Ledger Business Newsletter. Tony Mecia, a former Charlotte Observer reporter, launched the newsletter in March and it's beating the rest of the media in a lot of business stories. So we invited Tony to join Morning Edition for a new segment to talk business news. He spoke to WFAE's Marshall Terry.
Marshall Terry: So I want to go back to the tech jobs. How many are we talking about in Charlotte and what are they specifically?
Tony Mecia: You know for a long time we've often thought of the Charlotte region as not being very heavy in tech but that's really starting to change and it has to do with the nature of work. A lot of the banks now in town, they're becoming more technologically savvy. They're hiring more tech workers. We have some homegrown companies. Lending Tree obviously has been around for a while but you're seeing new entrants, (such as) Avid Exchange, MapAnything. If you look at the number of tech jobs in the region we are growing a lot faster in Charlotte than they are in Raleigh and we're about to catch them. There about 54,000 tech jobs in Raleigh. Now about 52,000 in Charlotte and we're just growing a lot faster and within the next year or two should really overtake the Triangle.
Marshall Terry: Let's shift now to UNC Charlotte. You found out that school leaders were taken totally by surprise by the announcement in April that Atrium Health and Wake Forest University are working together to build a medical school in Charlotte.
Tony Mecia: Sure. You'll recall that was pretty big news when Atrium and Wake came out and said they want to start a medical school in Charlotte. And it was a little bit surprising because UNC Charlotte had been working with Atrium to try to develop a medical school. Chancellor Phil Dubois had come out in March and said well we don't really think that's feasible, and then three weeks later Atrium and Wake come out and say, well we do think it's feasible and we're going to start one. Now with the Charlotte Ledger, I was able to get a copy of the emails from the Dubois' office and it looks like they were caught pretty much completely off guard.
Marshall Terry: And some of those emails had some fairly strong rebukes for Dubois.
Tony Mecia: Well, you know there are a lot of haters out there, there a lot of trolls, there a lot of people with a lot of very strong opinions and they certainly let Dubois know what they thought about it. You know one of them said, 'Gosh you're just going to keep us as a third-rate diploma mill.' You know they called for him to be fired. They said he had sort of stood by while Wake and Atrium had gone on and done something that they had wanted to see UNCC do.
Marshall Terry: One of the big ongoing stories this year is the planned merger of BB&T and SunTrust. Last week those banks announced they'll headquarter the new bank in uptown Charlotte's Hearst Tower. They also announced the new bank will be called Truist. But that name has run into a legal challenge from Truliant Federal Credit Union. What's Truliant's complaint?
Tony Mecia: Well Truliant's complaint is that the Truist sounds too much like Truliant and that customers are gonna be confused by these similar-sounding names. That may or may not be true. One of the things that I've wrote in the Charlotte Ledger looking at this is that it's really going to be a battle over who has the right to make really bad puns over the word, over the letters TRU. Truliant has already done that to a certain degree. They have all kinds of things - Tru2Go which is their mobile app. They have TRUisms, which they call little pieces of financial advice. They even have a cartoon dinosaur called Truceratops, who teaches kids financial literacy. So they're very much engaged in this battle. We'll see how it plays out. You know usually these things kind of... they tend to get settled outside of court. The cynical view, Marshall, would be that this is just a chance for publicity really for both of these banks. I mean we're sitting here talking about Truliant and Truist. We might not be doing that in the absence of a lawsuit.
Marshall Terry: I'm kind of getting the sense that a lot of people don't really like the name Truist.
Tony Mecia: Certainly if you look at social media, it really blew up last week when the name Truist was announced. A lot of people had a lot of very unkind things to say about Truist. Some people said, well it sounds kind of like a cult. One of them actually wrote in my newsletter and said, 'Well it sounds like a bad name of Truliant Federal Credit Union.' And then of course you have a lawsuit a few days later. American Banker, which is a a trade publication that covers the banking industry, did an online poll and people 6 to 1 said they hated the name.
Marshall Terry: There's big development news out of Matthews. Town officials there are looking to build an entertainment district. What's the plan exactly?
Tony Mecia: For a lot of people in the Charlotte region the idea that Matthews would have an entertainment district sounds sort of laughable. Matthews has always been thought of as a bedroom community of Charlotte - a bunch of single family homes. But really in the last few years Matthews has kind of come alive. They have now a much more thriving downtown than they used to. Wine bars, kids playing corn hole, all kinds of restaurants. And so what we're seeing now is there's an apartment complex being built that's been under construction now for the last couple months that is about 360 luxury condos in Matthews and the town officials are hoping that that really jump starts some more development in that area. It's near the Matthews Sportsplex, which was finished a couple of years ago, and they're hoping to see some more restaurants in there - maybe a hotel, some retail shops. They're hoping really to kind of catch in on the boom that other parts of town have seen.
Marshall Terry: Is this a trend happening in the other bedroom communities, the other suburbs?
Tony Mecia: Definitely a trend. I mean if you look at what's going on in other parts of the area, you look at Ballantyne, you look down at Waverly. A lot of these are suburban locations that are now trying to develop in a way that is more of an urban style, walkable communities, a lot of heavy pedestrian access, mixed use developments which mean offices, retail, apartments. That's sort of a more urban development pattern that we're seeing spread out into the suburbs.
Marshall Terry: Finally, beginning today there's a new option at Charlotte Douglas International Airport, Spirit Air. What can you tell me about this carrier?
Tony Mecia: Sure. So this is a low fare carrier, a national carrier (that's) been around for a while. They've been expanding. Their model is sort of like some of these European carriers that we've seen like Easyjet, like Ryanair in which they have very low rock-bottom fares. But if you want to do anything besides get on the plane in the clothes that you're wearing, you're going to be paying an extra charge. If you want to reserve a seat, if you want to carry on a bag bigger than a purse. If you want to check bags, if you want to eat food, there're going to be up charges for that. They call it "ala smart" pricing. They see it as a way to make really low fares available and they do have some low fares. I think about $100 roundtrip to Newark and the New York area. They're flying down also to Orlando, to Fort Lauderdale,.
Marshall Terry: But there's a catch.
Tony Mecia: There's a catch. There's an asterisk by that. Just buyer beware just because you see a low fare on Spirit and a lot of other airlines these days incidentally, that's not necessarily the final price you're going to pay.
Marshall Terry: That's Tony Mecia of the Charlotte Ledger Business Newsletter. It comes out three days a week (click here to subscribe). Thanks, Tony.
Tony Mecia: Thanks a lot.