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Charlotte leaders appeal to Stumpf to keep jobs

By Jefferson George
jgeorge@charlotteobserver.com

With roughly 20,000 Wachovia jobs in the Charlotte region at stake, local leaders Wednesday directly appealed to the head of Wells Fargo to keep those positions in place as the merger of the two banks moves forward.

Before and after addressing Wachovia employees in the bank's Atrium, Wells chief executive John Stumpf chatted with elected officials and business leaders – most of whom made their top priority clear.

“We have a very savvy work force,” Charlotte Mayor Pro Tem Susan Burgess said she told Stumpf, “and I hope you can be working with every single one of them.”

Stumpf's answer, she said: “We will continue to invest in cities where we make money.”

The Wells CEO also told Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Superintendent Peter Gorman of “his support of public schools and desire to be a strong corporate partner,” Gorman said via e-mail.

State Sen. Malcolm Graham, D-Mecklenburg, said Stumpf was “very outgoing and approachable,” and that the Wells-Wachovia deal represents “a new era of civic engagement.”

But in their brief conversation, Graham said Stumpf was noncommittal about keeping all Wachovia jobs in the region. He noticed that Stumpf told employees more than once that there were “no promises.”

“That's the kind of thing you underline and highlight,” Graham said, adding, “Hopefully, his visits to Charlotte will be frequent.”

If so, Stumpf won't lack for lodging, said Tim Newman, CEO of the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority.

“If you need a hotel room,” Newman said he told Stumpf, “I can guarantee that.”

A former vice president with Wachovia Securities, Newman said he was familiar with bank mergers and efforts to retain and retrain employees – something to which Wells is committed, Stumpf said.

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