The model for Charlotte's growth has changed too. The city in its exuberant youth used to look to Atlanta, and its grow-at-all-costs philosophy. In recent years, the city has become more reflective and started to emulate Portland, Ore., by looking to be a growing city that's more environmentally responsible and compact.

The problems in the banking industry also didn't hurt as bad as they could because Charlotte has diversified. The city is becoming a leader in energy too. One of its most recently-built skyscrapers, the 48-floor Duke Energy Center, houses what is now the largest utility in the nation after its namesake merged with Progress Energy recently.

"We would not have survived what happened a couple of years ago if there weren't other enterprises to fall back on. We're no longer a one-horse town," Vinroot, the former mayor said.

The Democratic Convention is a coronation of sorts for a place nicknamed the Queen City. While Atlanta remains the king of the South, Charlotte boosters think the convention will leave little doubt that cities like Raleigh or Birmingham, Ala., or even the old Confederate capital of Richmond, Va., are at least a tier below.

Vinroot likes to think Charlotte's willingness to accept anyone from anywhere â¿¿ almost all of its most successful people are from somewhere else â¿¿ is what drove the city's growth.

"It's a can-do, get involved place,' Vinroot said. "And I'll contrast that with Richmond. I've never lived in Richmond, it's a lovely place. But I my guess is there is a lot more interest in who your grandparents were than here in Charlotte. We're more interested in you and what you can do and how quickly you can do it."

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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