Charlotte, N.C. metropolitan area
2000 Population: 1.34 million
2009 Population: 1.74 million
Percent growth 2000-2009: 30.2 percent
In 1981, North Carolina National Bank, a small chain of banks based in Charlotte, opened its first branch in Florida, and with that, interstate banking was born. Today, that bank is known as Bank of America, and its headquarters are still in Charlotte, the nation’s second-largest banking city (after New York). Charlotte’s growth took a hit during the recession, but with companies such as Wells Fargo, Siemens, and BFGoodrich tires headquartering or holding major operations in the city, it has resumed growing at one of the fastest rates in the country. “It’s like we had to take one step back and now we’re going back to taking two steps forward,” says assistant city manager Jim Schumacher.
Atlanta metropolitan area
2000 Population: 4.28 million
2009 Population: 5.47 million
Percent growth 2000-2009: 27.8 percent
Atlanta’s metro area grew more than any other city’s during the 2000s, gaining about one million people to push its population to 5.2 million. Atlanta’s city limits also saw huge growth, and both the city and region are popular places for corporate headquarters. The Peachtree City’s low taxes, cheap office space, and temperate climate have led companies like Home Depot, CNN, and Delta to call Atlanta home. The federal Centers for Disease Control are also Atlanta-based, which has contributed to Atlanta’s growth. “Since 2001, there has been a huge investment in defending the country from biological attacks,” says Peter Aman, Atlanta’s Chief Operating Officer.
Riverside-San Bernardino, Calif. metropolitan area
2000 Population: 3.27 million
2009 Population: 4.14 million
Percent growth 2000-2009: 26.4 percent
Inexpensive land and a location between Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and Phoenix made the “Inland Empire”—located about 60 miles east of Los Angeles—a popular area for industrial and residential development. But the recession caused foreclosures and industrial vacancies to skyrocket—by the end of 2008, the city had a 12.4 percent vacancy rate. Toyota, Whirlpool, and grocery giant Kroger Co. have distribution centers there, and it continues to grow as more Hispanics and Asians move to the area. Educational achievement remains a problem; one-in-four adults doesn’t have a high school degree, and median wages are among the lowest of any metropolitan area.
Orlando metropolitan area
2000 Population: 1.65 million
2009 Population: 2.1 million
Percent growth 2000-2009: 25.7 percent
Florida is often seen as a place to retire, but Orlando is one of the younger cities in the state—just 13 percent of Orlando’s population is made up of people 65 and older. The city and surrounding metropolitan area spurred much of Florida’s growth. Natural birth and immigration led the population increase; many longtime residents are moving out of the city. With nearby Disney World, Orlando is always one of the country’s major tourism spots, and Disney is one of the area’s largest employers. Lockheed Martin and Siemens AG also have large facilities in the area.