LendingTree to add hundreds of high-paying jobs in Charlotte

LendingTree, the online service that matches borrowers with lenders, announced Thursday plans to nearly double its local footprint after receiving state incentives in exchange for keeping its headquarters in Charlotte.

The fast-growing company will add 436 high-paying jobs that pay an average wage of over $100,000 over the next five years, under a deal approved Thursday by the North Carolina Economic Investment Committee. That package includes $8.37 million in state incentives for the Ballantyne-based company.

CEO Doug Lebda, who launched the company in Charlotte in 1996, said the firm considered more than 20 locations in several states, which he did not name.

“Ultimately we came to the conclusion that we’re keeping and growing our presence right here,” he said at the announcement in uptown Charlotte. He praised North Carolina’s and Charlotte’s business climate, infrastructure, schools and quality of life. In addition, LendingTree has found it increasingly easier to recruit top talent to the area, he said.

The company is expected to also receive incentives worth about $1.4 million over seven years from Mecklenburg County and the city of Charlotte.

“When you consider all of this and add in the city and state’s support, we’re thrilled to announce that we’ll be expanding our headquarters” in Charlotte, Lebda said.

LendingTree currently employs about 488 in Charlotte. The hundreds of new jobs will be in a Charlotte location the company has not yet disclosed. Ballantyne Corporate Park, where LendingTree is headquartered, is among sites being considered, Lebda said.

The new jobs will include positions in engineering, finance and data analytics, he said.

It’s the latest growth spurt at LendingTree, which lets consumers comparison-shop online for a range of financial products, such as mortgages, personal loans and credit cards. The company has posted multiple quarters of record results in recent years as it’s expanded into new products and services.

Last year, it placed No. 3 on Fortune’s fastest-growing companies list.

In announcing LendingTree’s package, the Economic Investment Committee also approved $2.79 million for the state’s utility account, which helps rural counties fund infrastructure projects. That brings the total incentives package from the state to more than $11 million, when combined with the $8.3 million the company will receive.

Incentives given in 2016

For LendingTree, it’s the second time in as many years that the company is receiving state incentives in exchange for creating jobs.

In November 2016, it announced plans to add 314 workers in its hometown—more than doubling its workforce—for receiving a $4.9 million incentives package from the state. Those jobs were expected to pay an average of nearly $82,000 per year.

As part of LendingTree’s latest agreement with the state, the company will be required to retain the jobs it already has in Charlotte to remain in compliance with the 2016 incentives deal.

At the time of the 2016 deal, LendingTree said it would relocate its headquarters from Ballantyne to two buildings in SouthPark.

But the company said last year that it was evaluating alternatives after its headcount projections increased significantly, and that it was instead considering moving its headquarters to a former mill in Pineville.

In responding to questions Thursday about possibly moving LendingTree’s headquarters out of state, Lebda said: “My heart is always in Charlotte. At the same time, for shareholders, you have to do what’s right and considerate.”

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The LendingTree news is the second major jobs announcement for Charlotte in less than a week.

On Friday, manufacturing tech giant and Fortune 100 company Honeywell announced that it will relocate its headquarters from New Jersey to Charlotte.

Honeywell’s move is being made possible in large part by more than $80 million in incentives from the state, county and city combined. Included in that total is the largest-ever incentives gift by the county and a $42.5 million state package that was approved Monday.

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In exchange for the incentives, Honeywell has said it will employ up to 750 people in jobs paying a median of $85,000 per year. The company is considering locations in either Ballantyne or SouthPark for its corporate offices, the Observer has reported.

Thursday’s announcement adds to other taxpayer-funded incentives packages that North Carolina has offered to companies as it competes with other states for business.

According to records released by the state last week, North Carolina was prepared to offer Amazon at least $2.2 billion for its coveted second headquarters.

The Raleigh-Durham area was one of 20 finalists for the project. But last month Amazon chose Washington, D.C., and New York and said it will invest $5 billion and hire up to 50,000 people combined in those areas.

As the retail and sports business reporter for the Observer, Katie Peralta covers everything from grocery-store competition in Charlotte to tax breaks for pro sports teams. She is a Chicago native and graduate of the University of Notre Dame.
Deon Roberts has covered Charlotte’s financial services industry for The Charlotte Observer since 2013. His beat includes Bank of America and Wells Fargo. He attended Loyola University in New Orleans and is a native of Lafitte, La.