Charlotte is the largest city in the state of North Carolina and the 20th largest city in the United States. It has a 2006 estimated population of approximately 664,342as of January 1, 2007. It is the county seat of Mecklenburg County,GR6 and is located in the south-central part of the state in the Piedmont region, near the South Carolina border. The city's economy has matured in the 1990s and early 2000s to become dominated by financial services, as well as retail commerce. According to 2006 estimates, Charlotte is the 5th fastest growing among large U.S. cities.
Nicknamed The Queen City (which it shares with Cincinnati, Ohio and Buffalo, New York), Charlotte (as well as the county containing it) was named in honor of Queen Charlotte of Mecklenburg, wife of King George III of the United Kingdom. During the American Revolution the British Commander in the Southern Colonies, General Cornwallis, occupied Charlotte but was driven out soon afterwards by the fierce opposition of the city's residents to British rule. Cornwallis famously wrote that Charlotte was "a hornet's nest of rebellion", leading to another city nickname: The Hornet's Nest.
The Charlotte metropolitan area (MSA) had a census estimated population of 1,583,016 in 2006. As of 2006, the Charlotte-Gastonia-Salisbury combined statistical area (CSA) had a regional population of 2,191,604. A resident of Charlotte is referred to as a Charlottean
Charlotte has become a major U.S. financial center, and, based on assets, both the nation's second largest and fourth largest financial institutions call the city home (Bank of America and Wachovia, respectively). Bank of America' headquarters, along with other regional banking and financial services companies, are located primarily in the uptown financial district. Thanks in large part to the expansion of the city's banking industry, the Charlotte skyline has mushroomed in the past two decades and boasts the Bank of America Corporate Center, the tallest skyscraper between Philadelphia and Atlanta. The 60-story postmodern gothic tower, designed by renowned architect Cesar Pelli, stands 871 feet tall and was completed in 1992.
Other major companies headquartered in the Metro Charlotte include Time Warner Cable (a business unit of Fortune 500 company Time Warner), Continental Tire North America (formerly Continental/General Tire), Muzak, Belk, Harris Teeter, Meineke Car Care Centers, Lance, Inc, Bojangles' , Carlisle Companies, LendingTree, Compass Group USA and Food Lion in suburban Salisbury. Also, neighboring Gastonia is home to Choice Beverage, Inc., makers of SunDrop and Cheerwine, and Parkdale Mills world headquarters.
Charlotte is also a major center in the US motorsports industry, with NASCAR having multiple offices in and around Charlotte. Approximately 75% of the industry's employees and drivers are based within two hours of downtown Charlotte. Charlotte is also the future home of the NASCAR Hall of Fame, expected to be completed in 2009. The center city/uptown area of Charlotte has seen remarkable growth over the last decade. Numerous residential units continue to be built uptown, including over 20 skyscapers either under construction, recently completed, or in the planning stage. Many new restaurants, bars and clubs now operate in the uptown area.
The city's public school system, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, is the largest in North Carolina and 23rd largest in the nation. About 130,000 students are taught in 161 separate elementary, middle and high schools. Secular and religious private schools are prominent, from well-established schools with large campuses to others that are small and new. The relatively recent phenomenon of charter schools, independently operated public schools, are another education option.
Charlotte's largest higher education institution, the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, is located in University City, as the northeastern portion of Charlotte is called. At 20,000 students and counting, it is the fastest-growing university in the state system. The area is also home to University Research Park, a 3,200 acre (13 km²) research and corporate park. Central Piedmont Community College has multiple campuses, all in the Charlotte metro area, and is the largest community college in North Carolina or South Carolina. Charlotte is home to a number of notable private universities and colleges such as Queens University of Charlotte and Davidson College; the latter being 20 miles north of Charlotte.
The Public Library of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County serves the Charlotte area with a large collection of books, CDs and DVDs in 20 branches. Most of its locations provide free access to Internet-enabled computers and WiFi.