Charlotte Hornets, business alliance plan Paris game to attract French investment

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The Charlotte Hornets and Charlotte Regional Business Alliance announced a joint economic development partnership, along with the Jordan brand and NBA, that will bring international exposure to the Queen City. The partnership aims to bring in more foreign direct investment to the area, with a focus on France.

Fred Whitfield, left, Jesse Cureton, right,

Next year, the Hornets will take on the Milwaukee Bucks in Paris on Friday, Jan. 24 and play their first regular season game overseas.  The night before the game, the Hornets and Charlotte Alliance will host a networking event to highlight local business opportunities with foreign decision-makers.

It will feature executives from the Alliance, NBA and Hornets, including team president Fred Whitfield, principal owner Michael Jordan and French native Tony Parker, a veteran NBA star. The Hornets and Alliance are working on putting together a celebrity and legends game during the five days the team is in France, but plans haven’t been solidified, says Natalie Dick, vice president of branding for the alliance.

“This is really an opportunity to piggyback, to celebrate the fact that the Hornets are playing on a global stage and then really take the opportunity to share the Charlotte region story with companies there, with decision makers who would potentially be considering doing business not only in the United States, but in the southeast and more specifically in the Carolinas,” says Janet LaBar, president and CEO of the alliance.

The hope is to draw foreign fans to the Hornets’ and Jordan brand, have them associate the brand with Charlotte and then make the area compelling to business leaders and potential tourists or future residents.

Previous trips to China have been very successful at getting fans to associate the region with the basketball brand, according to Eileen Cai, the alliance’s vice president of business recruitment.

With French basketball star Nicolas Batum playing for the Hornets and Greek native Giannis Antetokounmpo lining up for the Bucks, the game should have major appeal in Europe.

Whitfield says the project will increase exposure for Charlotte-area business and assist the Hornets’ reach to help recruit foreign players and gain a larger international audience. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and Deputy Commissioner Mark Tatum worked with Jordan on the project.

“This is an unbelievable opportunity for us to have a few hundred companies that are based across Europe come and learn not only about our team, but as important, what a great place we have in Charlotte and in our region,” Whitfield says.

There are more than 1,000 international companies with a presence in the region, including 60 French companies and more than 4,200 employees in the area, according to alliance data.

Sven Gerzer, Alliance vice president of business recruitment for Europe and India, says there hasn’t been as much work done in France because it’s a more difficult market to break into. The previous focus was on German investment, which has 217 businesses and nearly 21,000 employees in the Charlotte region.

Marvin Price, Charlotte Alliance vice president of business recruitment, says foreign direct investment can drive economic progress because foreign investors are more likely to bring a network of suppliers and can act as a catalyst for other firms to invest in the area.

“I think we take for granted sometimes the things that we have right here in our backyard and how we can leverage it,” says Jesse Cureton, a Novant Health executive who chairs the Alliance board. “This is definitely going to be an exciting trip.”

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