and give back.” The city has an educated black population, with 17.5% black college graduates, slightly above the national average.
The only time Kim Michele Ratliff, 38, ever left Charlotte was to attend North Carolina Central University–just two hours away.
What has kept the native Southerner’s allegiance to the “Queen City” is the area’s phenomenal development. “Charlotte has been transformed,” says Ratliff, a line translations specialist at BellSouth, now AT&T, who earns $80,000 to $90,000 annually. “The culture is so different now, and there are so many more things to do.” Ratliff owns a home about 12 minutes from downtown Charlotte, where malls, condo developments, office buildings, restaurants, and a string of night spots help make it the quintessential one-stop shop.
The city continues to reign as one of the most hospitable places for African Americans to live. Today, blacks comprise 23% of the area’s population. While the median income for black households is $30,781, some 47% of black residents are homeowners in a market where the median home value is $150,900. A number of four-year colleges and universities, including the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and Johnson C. Smith University, help convert students into future residents.
Charlotte is also the headquarters for two corporations that have appeared on BE’s 40 Best Companies for Diversity: Bank of America and Wachovia, two of the largest bank holding companies in the nation. In 2009, Charlotte’s skyline will welcome the NASCAR Hall of Fame. A trolley system rolls through Center City, giving locals greater access to a number of attractions including the area’s two professional sports teamsâ€“the NFL’s Carolina Panthers and the NBA’s Charlotte Bobcats, the franchise owned by African American entrepreneur Robert L. Johnson.
For Ratliff, an abundance of social and cultural activities makes being single a non-issue. A vice president in her company’s union and a legislative chairperson within local government, Ratliff says, “When you get off work, you might say [to a friend] ‘Meet me in conference room R,’ like we’re having a meeting. But we’re really going to hang out at a place whose name starts with that letter.” There are several such meetings taking place throughout the city.
–Tennille M. Robinson
Shawna Wilson, 40, has lived in several cities, including San Francisco, Chicago, and Detroit, but none match the Southern charm of “Big D.” She says: “What makes this city different is the friendliness. People who didn’t even know me welcomed me to the city. It has been, by far, the easiest place to relocate.”
Wilson moved to Dallas in 2000 after receiving a job offer from Frito-Lay North America, where she currently serves as regional vice president of finance. “Employment opportunities are phenomenal. Dallas has a diverse base of corporations, from a manufacturing standpoint as well as the service industry,” she says.
Dallas has realized job growth of 2.3% in recent years. And this city of the 10-gallon hat has 27,514 black-owned businesses, several of which can be found among the BE 100S. In fact, Kneeland Youngblood, CEO of Pharos Capital Group