The real development of Charlotte started with the discovery of a gold nugget in 1799 which then led to a short lived gold rush in the area. The city turned to the plantation of tobacco and cotton and ultimately the textile industry. Charlotte became an important railway hub after the Civil War. Continuous influx of people ensured that the growth of Charlotte sustained, and it became Carolina's largest city. The addition of the streetcar system and the well planned suburbs of Myers Park and Dilworth consolidated its reputation as a Southeastern textile and distribution hub.
Post Depression, the city witnessed economic diversification and continued steady growth which sustains to date. The national Interstate highway program helped Charlotte further consolidate its position as the leading city in North Carolina. The opening of I-85 and I-77 directly connected Charlotte to other important cities like Atlanta, GA; Richmond, VA and Columbia, SC. The Interstates reinforced Charlotte's position as the Piedmont's distribution center, particularly for trucking.
As businesses continued to flock to Charlotte, the city's banking industry gained momentum in the 1970s and 1980s under the able leadership of financier Hugh McColl. McColl was instrumental in transforming North Carolina National Bank into the present day Bank of America. The combination of Bank of America and Wells Fargo made Charlotte the nation's second largest banking center with New York City holding first position.
The change in Charlotte's economy can therefore be summed up by the following three factors:
- The rise of trucking.
- The declining importance of textiles.
- The emergence of the banking sector in the region.
Today, Charlotte has become the financial center of the Carolinas. With $1.7 trillion in assets, Charlotte ranks behind only N.Y. The finance sector provides employment to one out of every five people in the region. More than 30,000 of them work for either Charlotte-based Bank of America, the nation's largest financial institution; or Charlotte-based Wachovia, the nation's fourth-largest bank.