Apr 5, 2024 - Business

4 ways Charlotte will reach its potential, from a top CEO

Gene Woods giving a speech

Gene Woods at the 2024 Vision Awards. Photo credit: CCCP and Grant Baldwin

Advocate Health CEO Gene Woods has four requirements for Charlotte.

Why it matters: This city was shaped by business leaders. Often they can effect change more than politicians can.

Driving the news: Woods shared a must-do checklist for city leaders and the business community in an audience Wednesday as he accepted the Center City 2024 Vision Award.

  • The honor was largely bestowed upon Woods due to his leadership of The Pearl.
  • The mixed-use development will be home to Wake Forest University School of Medicine Charlotte and elevate Charlotte into an innovation destination, attracting international medical experts.
  • Woods also steered Atrium Health through its merger with Advocate Health in 2022.

What he's saying: "Our potential will only be fully realized if we not only shape our buildings but shape a city in which every resident here has the opportunity to truly thrive," Woods told the audience, "from Tryon Hills ... to Ballantyne."

Here are Woods' requirements.

1. Tackle homelessness

Around 3,000 people are experiencing homelessness in Mecklenburg County.

  • "We can't be that beacon of hope as a city if we don't solve for that," he said.

Homelessness should be "rare, brief, and nonrecurring," Woods said. The community should focus on preventing evictions, critical home repair, street outreach and converting hotels to shelters, he added.

2. Invest in transportation

Wood stressed the region must invest in transportation as it grows by millions of people. And, it should do so before federal infrastructure funds run dry.

Those investments could range from roads that accommodate autonomous vehicles to new light rail, Woods said.

  • Charlotte and Mecklenburg County have made little headway on their transit needs because they haven't secured a local funding source.

3. Support education

"Education is still the great equalizer of this nation," Woods said.

Woods said the city and its business community must continue to invest in pre-K and ensure third-graders are reading so they're on track to graduate.

  • He called for support of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and its relatively new superintendent, Crystal Hill.

4. Find a cultural soul

Woods knows a thing or two about soul. When he's not at his day job, he's a singer and guitarist who features the Charlotte skyline as the backdrop in his music videos.

"We should strive to be a city known for art, sports and music," Woods said.

  • Woods said Charlotte must figure out its version of "cultural soul," as "music cities" like Nashville and New Orleans have.

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