RALEIGH N.C. Commerce Secretary Sharon Decker Tuesday sought to allay concerns about the timing of Mecklenburg County incentives for insurance giant MetLife, calling the incentives crucial.
Some Mecklenburg commissioners have suggested that the company knew it was coming to Charlotte before the board voted to approve $2 million in local incentives.
The process was ongoing until the end, Decker told a Senate committee.
Last week, New York-based MetLife announced it was moving 2,600 jobs to Charlotte and Cary. State officials called it one of the biggest jobs announcements in state history.
The company will get $94 million in state incentives as well as the local grant. The city of Charlotte is also considering about $1 million in incentives for the company, councilman Andy Dulin said.
Sen. Jeff Tarte, a Cornelius Republican, asked Decker about the incentives at a meeting of the Senate Commerce Committee.
Later, Decker, a former chair of the Charlotte Chamber, told reporters the local incentives were important.
It was crucial, she said. The deal isnt done until all the pieces fit together. If any of the pieces drag out, Im finding you hold your breath at the state.
Decker also said she agreed with Gov. Pat McCrory that theres no state money to help the Carolina Panthers renovate Bank of America Stadium. The team has sought $62 million from the state as well as $144 million from the city of Charlotte.
A bipartisan group of lawmakers has essentially rejected a city request to double Charlottes prepared food tax, instead proposing a measure that would allow the city to use existing taxes now earmarked for the Charlotte Convention Center for the stadium upgrade.
Decker said she believes that will be enough.
To screen future projects
Mecklenburg County Commissioners Chairwoman Pat Cotham is pushing for the countys economic development committee, revived this year after being defunct since 2011, to play a role in vetting company requests for county incentives from now on.
On Tuesday, John Allen, the countys economic development director, told the Observer that if the economic development committee would have been in place sooner, it would have prevented the type of concerns raised by Cotham and other commissioners over the MetLife deal.
I think it would have helped to eliminate a lot of what (weve) seen happened, he said. There would have been greater opportunity for the commissioners to be comfortable with the project in advance of voting on it.
The committee was eliminated under former commissioner Harold Cogdell, Allen said.
Allen called reviving the committee a great idea. I wish they had never done away with it.