Corning Optical Communications to move HQ to Mecklenburg from Hickory

Corning Optical Communications is moving its global headquarters from Hickory to Mecklenburg County, where the diverse manufacturer will employ about 650 people at a yet-to-be named location in exchange for state and local incentives, state and company officials announced Tuesday.

North Carolina says it has agreed to provide up to $2.35 million in grants to keep the company in the state, which competed with South Carolina for the headquarters. The Mecklenburg headquarters employment includes about 508 positions that will shift from Hickory, in addition to 150 jobs the incentives require the company to create.

“Today’s announcement builds on the solid foundation this innovative company has in our state, and I am proud we emerged as the top choice for this important headquarters and the new jobs that come with it,” Gov. Pat McCrory said in a statement.

The 150 new jobs will pay more than $80,000 on average, higher than Mecklenburg County’s average annual wage of $59,882, according to the state.

South Carolina commerce department officials declined to comment.

Corning spokeswoman Isolde Karro told the Observer the company also plans to seek an undetermined amount of incentives from Mecklenburg County, as well as from the town or city the company picks for the headquarters location.

Incentives will be finalized once a site is selected, Karro said. Locations being considered are along the Interstate 485 corridor between Interstate 77 north and Interstate 85 south, she said. Site negotiations are ongoing, and a location is expected to be announced in the first quarter of 2016.

Corning Optical is one of five business segments for New York-based Corning Inc., which has facilities worldwide. Its wide-ranging products range from emissions-control components for cars to cover glass used in smartphones and tablet devices.

In North Carolina, the company employs roughly 3,000 across the Hickory headquarters and manufacturing operations in Hickory, Midland, Wilmington and Winston-Salem.

Tuesday’s announcement will not impact the company’s Hickory operation where it makes fiber optic cabling, Karro said.

Corning has outgrown the Hickory headquarters building, where it houses employees in various non-manufacturing roles, such as sales and marketing, Karro said. The building has also become costly to repair, she said.

She said the company picked Mecklenburg County as it sought sites that allowed centralized access to its other North Carolina operations, access to global transportation and access to specialized talent the company needs to support future growth in technology.

“We feel like the area that we’ve chosen will enhance our long-term growth and strengthen our competitive position of the company globally,” she said.

Across Hickory, the company employs about 1,300, including in the headquarters operation, Karro said. Two-thirds of those are remaining in Hickory, while the remaining roughly one-third are affected by Tuesday’s decision, she said.

Karro said the company is considering a variety of forms of assistance in an effort to retain affected employees. No decisions have been made, but those include a possible shuttle service, a relocation package and potentially reimbursements for commuting costs.

Deon Roberts: 704-358-5248, @DeonERoberts