Business

PayPal eyed incentives in Florida, Arizona before picking Charlotte

Charlotte competed with Tampa, Fla., and Chandler, Ariz., for a PayPal operations center that is now leaving the city over a new state law that limits LGBT protections, according to minutes of a closed-session county commission meeting. In this photo, PayPal’s John McCabe and Gov. Pat McCrory celebrate the company’s earlier plans to expand in Charlotte.
Charlotte competed with Tampa, Fla., and Chandler, Ariz., for a PayPal operations center that is now leaving the city over a new state law that limits LGBT protections, according to minutes of a closed-session county commission meeting. In this photo, PayPal’s John McCabe and Gov. Pat McCrory celebrate the company’s earlier plans to expand in Charlotte. dlaird@charlotteobserver.com

Charlotte competed with Tampa, Fla., and Chandler, Ariz., for a PayPal operations center that is no longer coming to the city because of a new state law that limits LGBT protections, according to minutes of a closed-session county commissioners meeting.

In picking Charlotte, the San Jose. Calif.-based payments company was eligible for $2.9 million in state and local tax incentives – more than it could have received in Tampa but less than what Chandler offered, according to the minutes from the March 1 meeting.

Bill James, a Republican on the Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners, made the minutes public Tuesday evening in a tweet. He said the public deserved to see the numbers, especially if the company ends up going to Tampa for less money.

“If I was a shareholder, I would be miffed,” James said in an interview.

PayPal on Tuesday scrapped plans for a new Charlotte operations center in the most dramatic corporate response yet to the new North Carolina law, known as House Bill 2. The decision, which cost 400 jobs, renewed calls for the law to be overturned, but supporters have shown no signs of retreating.

James said he backs the law, which overturned a Charlotte ordinance that would have allowed transgender people to use the bathroom that corresponds to the gender with which they identify. He said he isn’t concerned that PayPal is leaving, echoing other backers of the law.

“I don’t want companies in North Carolina trying to undermine North Carolina laws,” he said.

To land the project, North Carolina promised $2.8 million in tax incentives in return for the creation of 400 jobs. The city of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County also approved a combined $100,427 in incentives over three years, according to the minutes.

That $2.9 million package was in the middle of the $1.2 million PayPal could have received in Florida and the $4.4 million on the table in Arizona, according to the minutes.

The Mecklenburg commissioners approved the county’s portion of the incentives 6-3, with James and two other Republicans, Jim Puckett and Matthew Ridenhour, dissenting. James said he opposes “bribes” for relocating companies. The city of Charlotte declined to release minutes from its closed-session meeting on the incentives.

A PayPal spokesperson on Wednesday declined to say whether the company is looking at Tampa or Chandler but said the company will “immediately begin a search for a new location for our operations facility.” The company will consider “what is best for PayPal, its customers and its employees,” the spokesperson said.

In an interview Tuesday with the Observer, PayPal CEO Dan Schulman said he hopes Gov. Pat McCrory considers repealing HB2, seemingly leaving open the possibility of ultimately moving forward in Charlotte if that happens.

Meanwhile, at Tuesday’s county commissioners meeting, the board approved local incentives for another company that has previously announced plans to expand in Charlotte, Phoenix-based waste removal and recycling company Republic Services. In closed session, the board also discussed grants for three other companies looking to expand in Mecklenburg County, James said, declining to identify the companies. He said they did not express any concerns about HB2.

At the meeting, Dumont Clarke, a Democratic commissioner, also proposed a motion calling on the board to support business community efforts to repeal HB2, noting the loss of PayPal. But other commissioners argued the county should stay out of the fray, and the issue did not come to a vote.

Staff writer Steve Harrison contributed.

Rick Rothacker: 704-358-5170, @rickrothacker

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