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MetLife surpasses first-year hiring goal

MetLife’s new retail hub in Charlotte now employs 640 people, surpassing the company’s intent to create 500 jobs by the end of this year, the company said Thursday.

Eric Steigerwalt, head of the New York-based insurance company’s U.S. retail operation, said that if the pace continues, the company might reach its goal of 1,300 new jobs for the hub before a 2015 target.

“We’re ahead of schedule,” he said. “Being ahead of schedule could continue.”

The company announced plans in March to consolidate its U.S. retail operation to Charlotte in a deal that came with millions of dollars in state and local incentives. The company also is building a global technology and operations hub in Cary and intends to create at least 1,200 jobs there.

The city of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County have approved roughly $3 million in incentives for the company. Under its state incentives, the company could receive benefits of up to $87.2 million over 12 years. The state incentives require the company to create at least 2,098 jobs in North Carolina by Dec. 31, 2015.

MetLife is moving into two new buildings in Ballantyne Corporate Park, where the 1,300 employees will work for an average salary of $58,000. The company will occupy the entire Gragg Building and part of the Woodward Building, both built by the Bissell Cos.

Some employees are already in the Gragg building, which is being filled in phases. By March, employees now in incubator spaces in SouthPark and Ballantyne will move into the two buildings.

Steigerwalt said MetLife has received roughly 50,000 applications from across the country for the Charlotte positions.

“The amount of resumes we’ve seen is astronomical,” he said.

In a hiring update in July, Steigerwalt said roughly 75 percent of the jobs being added in Charlotte were filled by people already living in the area. The remainder were MetLife employees relocating from across the U.S. On Thursday, he said that breakdown remains about the same. The quality of candidates from the Charlotte area has exceeded MetLife’s expectations, he said.

The roughly 30 percent of employees relocated to Charlotte include those in senior-level positions, subject matter experts and managers, Steigerwalt said. Many of those employees have found housing within a 20-minute drive of Ballantyne, and some are living in Union County, he said.

MetLife, the largest U.S. life insurer, has been restructuring its U.S. retail business and plans to cut about $600 million in expenses by 2015. MetLife earned $1.4 billion last year, down 79 percent from 2011. Low interest rates have been a drag on the insurer’s profits.

The company also said putting its retail business in one location would create more collaboration within the operation, which was less likely with employees spread across the country.

Steigerwalt said MetLife has been active in the community. Among other things, the company is sponsoring an exhibit of the photos of Sonia Handelman Meyer at Mint Museum Randolph.

Roberts: 704-358-5248; Twitter: @DeonERoberts
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