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MetLife to bring 2,600 jobs to Charlotte and Cary

By Jim Morrill
jmorrill@charlotteobserver.com

In one of the biggest jobs announcement in state history, Gov. Pat McCrory Thursday announced the arrival of 2,600 jobs with insurance giant MetLife, with half coming to Charlotte.

MetLife, America’s largest life insurer, would add jobs in Charlotte and Cary by the end of 2015 in what will be a $125.5 million investment.

“This is just fantastic news for our state, this is fantastic news for Cary and Wake County, this is fantastic news for Charlotte and Mecklenburg County,” McCrory told a news conference at Raleigh’s Marriott City Center.

The state is providing $94 million in tax incentives over 12 years. The city and Mecklenburg County have also proposed $2.9 million in tax rebates over eight years.

The state incentives are not the largest ever – steel company Nucor got $161 million in 1998 – but it is the largest under the Job Development Investment Grant program.

The MetLife news is a boon to a state whose 9.5 percent unemployment rate remains one of the nation’s highest.

McCrory joined two company ’s executives for the announcement. On Friday he and Commerce Secretary Sharon Decker will make a similar announcement in Charlotte.

The firm is represented by McCrory’s former employer, Charlotte’s Moore & Van Allen law firm. The firm also represented other companies that won state incentives including Nucor and Fidelity.

A MetLife spokeswoman said the company plans to establish hubs for its U.S. Retail Business in Charlotte and for its Global Technology & Operations organization in Cary, consolidating businesses now scattered around the country.

New positions would include product management, marketing, sales and customer support in Charlotte and information technology positions in Cary.

“This administration is committed to working with companies like MetLife to spur job creation and growth,” Decker said in a statement.

The company has 90 million customers in over 60 countries. It may be best known for its blimp as well as its use of Snoopy and other Peanuts characters in advertising. MetLife Stadium is home to the NFL’s New York Giants and Jets.

Charlotte location

A spokeswoman said no final decision has been made on a Charlotte location.

The company has been negotiating a lease on 250,000 square feet in Ballantyne Corporate Park’s new, 10-story Gragg building at the northwest corner of Ballantyne Commons Parkway and North Community House Road.

“North Carolina has much to offer our employees and the company,” Eric Steigerwalt, an executive vice president, said in a statement. “The strong sense of community in Cary and Charlotte, as well as the region’s robust infrastructure and sustainable talent pool were all compelling reasons for coming here.”

It follows another recent large Charlotte jobs announcement. In late February, Convergys said it would bring 1,600 jobs.

Before that, the largest jobs announcement for Charlotte was in 2009, when mortgage processor Zenta said it was expanding and would create about 1,000 jobs, according to the Charlotte Chamber.

MetLife has been looking at properties even as it tries to cut costs. Bloomberg News reported that CEO Steven Kandarian has been seeking to cut costs by $600 million.

Last month company spokesman John Calagna said, “We are currently undergoing a review of our real estate footprint, which includes strategies around consolidating and exiting certain locations.”

MetLife would be the latest coup for the Bissell Co., which, despite the down economy, has continued to build large amounts of speculative office space at its south Charlotte campus.

Bissell declined Thursday to comment.

Bissell executives have said they wanted to stay ahead of the competition and have the space to recruit new, large tenants.

Companies are requiring shorter lead times and don’t want to wait for a building to be developed before moving in.

Possible Ballantyne site

Large amounts of contiguous space are hard to come by in the Charlotte market. The park’s Gragg building and new, similarly sized Woodward building are the only local properties with 250,000 square feet of available, contiguous space.

New tenants and renewals the park has signed include: The Babcock & Wilcox Co., HVM, health care company Premier Inc., snack maker Lance Inc. and Mitsubishi Nuclear Energy.

SPX Corp. also recently moved into its new 240,000-square-foot headquarters at the park, where it expects to create 180 jobs during the next five years.

To help lure the MetLife jobs, city and county leaders have proposed more than $2.9 million in property tax rebates over eight years, said John Allen, Mecklenburg County’s economic development director. The company wouldn’t get any of the money until after they have started investments.

The county’s share of the investment grant would be about $1.9 million, Allen said. County commissioners have already considered the grant in closed session, but are expected to take a public vote in early April.

Thursday’s announcement was McCrory’s second this week. On Monday in Charlotte he touted the arrival of 130 jobs with the French energy company Areva. House Speaker Thom Tillis of Cornelius took note when he spoke to Thursday’s news conference.

“Governor,” he said, “I’d like to challenge you to make this a weekly event.”

Staff writers Andrew Dunn, Kerry Singe and April Bethea contributed.

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