Family Dollar job losses are among the largest in recent Charlotte history

In this July 2014 photo, customers enter a Family Dollar store on Plaza Boulevard, in Kinston, N.C.
In this July 2014 photo, customers enter a Family Dollar store on Plaza Boulevard, in Kinston, N.C. AP

The closure of Family Dollar’s Matthews headquarters marks one of the largest job losses in the Charlotte metro area in about a decade, according to filings with the North Carolina Commerce Department.

On Tuesday, Virginia-based Dollar Tree, which owns the Family Dollar brand, announced it is offering about 700 workers the chance to to relocate to Virginia, while about 200 positions will be eliminated. For Charlotte, it means about 900 local jobs are disappearing.

Though 900 people are not technically being laid off, the effect on Charlotte is basically the same. Commerce department records indicate it amounts to the biggest loss of jobs since 2009. That year, manufacturer Freightliner permanently laid off more than 1,600 workers at plants in Gastonia, Mount Holly and Rowan County, according to layoff notices filed with the department.

Mark Vitner, senior economist for Wells Fargo Securities in Charlotte, called the Family Dollar loss significant.

“It always hurts to lose a headquarters or a divisions headquarters,” Vitner said, “because those types of jobs are not easy to replace.”

Dollar Tree bought Family Dollar in 2015 but left the company’s headquarters in Matthews.

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Tuesday’s development also means yet another headquarters or hub loss for Mecklenburg County.

In one of the most high-profile losses, banana company Chiquita announced in 2015 it was pulling out of Charlotte after it was acquired by two Brazilian firms. Chiquita had relocated its headquarters to Charlotte from Cincinnati about three years earlier, a move viewed by local economic development officials as a coup.

More recently, Mecklenburg has seen companies hop across the border to South Carolina — often lured by state incentives packages.

This year, RoundPoint Mortgage Servicing Corp. announced plans to move its headquarters near Charlotte Douglas International Airport to Fort Mill, S.C. Other companies that have shifted operations from Charlotte to South Carolina include Movement Mortgage, LPL Financial and Diversey, a cleaning products company that was spun off from Bubble Wrap maker Sealed Air.

Charlotte Chamber President Bob Morgan was out of the office Tuesday and unavailable for comment.

Another economic development agency, the Charlotte Regional Partnership, said in a statement that Family Dollar and the Levine family that founded it “have made a powerfully positive impact on our region for almost six decades, bringing economic opportunities and value across Charlotte USA.

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“We wish all the best for a successful future for the employees impacted by this transition.”

Among the biggest layoffs affecting the metro area over the past decade, Philip Morris USA in 2009 announced more than 1,110 layoffs in Concord, according to the state notices. Other large announcements include a Mesa Airlines notice in 2014 of 631 Charlotte layoffs; a 2014 Bank of America notice of 540 layoffs; and a notice last year by home-improvement retailer Lowe’s of 431 layoffs in Mooresville.

Further back, in July 2003, century-old Kannapolis textile giant Pillowtex abruptly closed, throwing more than 7,600 people out of work, a total that included more than 4,000 near Charlotte in Cabarrus and Rowan counties.

At the time, it was the worst single-day mass layoff in state history, as well as the biggest ever for the textile industry, according to Observer archives. While the company, formerly named Cannon Mills, blamed competition from low-cost imports for its demise, an Observer investigation found that management mistakes also played a significant role.

Still looked at

A 2017 Observer analysis found that Charlotte has fewer Fortune 500 companies after reaching its peak of nine in 2007. Six area companies are on the latest list.

Charlotte has also gained headquarters, hubs and large expansions in recent years.

Included on that list is Allstate Insurance Co., which last year said it would create 2,250 jobs in a Charlotte expansion project. In 2014, Sealed Air announced plans to move its headquarters to Charlotte from New Jersey. And in 2013, insurer MetLife picked Charlotte as the hub for its consolidated U.S. retail operations.

Vitner, the economist, said many young people are relocating to Charlotte and that companies want to be where workers go. Charlotte’s economy remains diverse and is among the fastest growing in the U.S., he added.

“We still are among the cities that companies look at, at least initially, when they’re looking at relocating or expanding.”

Observer staff writer Adam Bell contributed