McColl bullish on future for Charlotte and its ‘rich uncles’

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Former Bank of America Corp. chief executive Hugh McColl Jr. paints an optimistic picture of Charlotte’s future, including his outlook on its two big banks, the Charlotte Observer reports.

As the financial crisis shook Bank of America and led to the sale of Wachovia, McColl was fond of saying that the city’s two “rich uncles” had died and that the city needed to learn to do without them. But he told told a gathering of businesspeople snd government officials last Friday that he was happy to report that he had overstated the case.

“The good news is they weren’t dead,” McColl told the audience at Carmel Country Club. “They were just in intensive care. They’re back making money again…and both of them are contributing mightily to our city as we have seen in their philanthropy throughout the last two years when we really needed it.”

Still, McColl said Charlotte is like a city that lost a military base and is now searching for the way forward. He listed a number of positive attributes that he said will help the city, including a single county school district that prevents wealthy families from branching off on their own and leaving disadvantaged students behind. He also praised the city’s burgeoning arts and pro sports scene, a contrast to the landscape that greeted him in 1959.

Charlotte “was singularly the most boring city in America or anyplace in the world that I had been,” said McColl, 75, who has long promoted uptown development.

Going forward, the city should be buoyed by its livability, its energetic youth and the creation of new businesses, he said. “The real issue for us now is to forget about the two rich uncles, and let’s get up and go do it,” he said.

As for the economy, McColl, who retired as CEO in 2001, said consumers and businesses are still in the process of paying down their debt and adjusting their lifestyles to fit their income. Before the nation’s overhang of unsold homes can be cleared, he said prices need to hit a “market-clearing” level.

“Until we get there, its not going to be over,” he said. “That is a painful thing.”
McColl said artificial support for the housing market such as first-time homebuyer tax credits only delays this process. “We need to let the market solve it,” he said.

Asked in a question-and-answer session what advice he would give President Barack Obama on the economy, McColl said he has already told Obama that the country needs a tax credit that encourages investments in small businesses. McColl, who co-founded a namesake investment bank in 2001, said U.S. businesses also need certainty about the tax code so they can plan for the future. Congress is expected to debate whether to renew tax cuts enacted during the Bush administration. Read more.

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