By Daniella Cheslow
Brittany Smith grew up mostly in Detroit, earning a master's degree in public health from the University of Michigan. But when she and her then-boyfriend, Sam, began their careers, they ran into roadblocks. It was 2013, and Detroit was still struggling from the effects of the Great Recession. Sam Smith couldn't find full-time work. His job as a college career counselor wrapped when the campus where he worked shut down.
They began looking for an out.
"We were looking at what cities are growing for young professionals, and Charlotte was always one of the top five," says Smith, now 32.
So they picked up and moved to Charlotte, N.C., where the couple has done well. Two years ago, they bought a custom-built house. They had a daughter, Erelah, who is now 15 months old. Smith just began a new job leading a community outreach team at a health insurance company. She gave up what she calls a dream job at a different health care company because this one pays better and is more challenging. And Sam found work as a university career adviser.
"As much as I love Detroit ... I was looking for a change and more opportunity," Smith says. "And we received some great ones here in Charlotte."
The Smiths are part of an influx of African Americans to Mecklenburg County, where Charlotte is located. The African American population here has ballooned by 64% since 2000. Some people come from neighboring counties in North and South Carolina, but thousands are from Ohio, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Illinois, according to Chuck McShane, vice president of business analytics at the Charlotte Regional Business Alliance.