Charlotte started the day celebrating a new headquarters and ended it relieved that its biggest headquarters was staying put.
“It's an important day in Charlotte's history and for Charlotte's future,” said Charlotte Chamber President Bob Morgan.
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The chamber was the site of an 11 a.m. welcome of a Swedish appliance maker's headquarters. About 8 p.m. Bank of America announced that 50-year-old Brian Moynihan would be its new chief executive, succeeding Ken Lewis.
Shortly afterward, Moynihan told the Observer he would be working from Charlotte, and it would remain the headquarters location.
Charlotte's new mayor, Anthony Foxx, said Moynihan told him Wednesday evening “very emphatically that Charlotte is and will remain the headquarters.”
The two agreed to meet soon, Foxx said.
“I'm really excited for our community to move forward and welcome this new leadership, embrace it and continue to grow together,” Foxx said.
The city, which lost Wachovia's headquarters in last fall's financial implosion, has fretted about the potential for losing Bank of America since Lewis unexpectedly announced Sept. 30 that he would retire at the end of this year.
Moynihan's name arising as a front-runner to succeed Lewis raised questions about moving the headquarters to Boston because he's based there.
The nation's largest bank has about 15,000 employees in town and has long been a major civic player as well as a selling point for wooing newcomers and economic development to the Charlotte region.
“There will be a sense of relief in the Charlotte region given Mr. Moynihan's statement,” said Steve Luquire, of Luquire George Andrews, a Charlotte marketing communications firm.
“This has been a long process, and there have been a lot of forces outside of the bank that have created a great deal of angst.”
Other city leaders also expressed comfort upon hearing the news and said they looked forward to working with Moynihan.
“We are very grateful that the uncertainty … has been resolved,” said Michael Smith, chief executive of Charlotte Center City Partners. “Honestly, this kind of uncertainty is such an enemy for commerce.”
Morgan said he talked with bank executives, including chamber Chairman David Darnell, and “all have underscored that Brian will move into Ken Lewis's office, and the headquarters will remain in Charlotte.”
“The board is making a statement that is not about transitional leadership,” Morgan said. “They've identified the person they want to lead the bank for the next decade or more. He's a young man.”
Luquire, long active in economic development issues and a former chairman of the Charlotte Regional Partnership, said “it just would not have seemed to be reasonable” to move the headquarters to New York or other cities with higher operating costs than Charlotte.
The bank is part of a triumvirate, including Duke Energy and Wachovia's new owner Wells Fargo, that has donated about $10 million in recent weeks to local nonprofits.
Banking jobs and their paychecks have long been important drivers of the Charlotte-area economy, but they took a record hit this year as the financial crisis battered the region.
Finance and insurance sector wages make up 20 percent of Mecklenburg's private-sector wages, and the sector accounts for 10 percent of jobs, according to the N.C. Employment Security Commission.
Mecklenburg financial wages dropped by a third, or $650 million, in the first quarter, compared to the same period in 2008, government data show. That drop – the biggest on record and more dramatic than the 15 percent decline in overall private-sector wages – was the result of slashed bonuses and lost financial-services jobs.
The financial sector has lost 5,200 jobs over the last year, ESC data show.
Kenny McDonald, senior vice president of the regional partnership, was out to dinner Wednesday night with people who worked on the Electrolux headquarters deal. He called the news fantastic.
“You have a resolution, you know who the top person is now,” he said.
Pat McCrory, who just ended a 14-year tenure as the city's mayor, said Charlotte has adapted many times and will continue to evolve.
“I always said Charlotte will remain standing tall through all this change and turmoil,” he said.
He called the headquarters announcements “a sign that Charlotte continues to be a competitive city for major corporations.”