IT firm Spectra Group announces 250 jobs for Charlotte

A New Jersey company said Tuesday it plans 250 jobs in a new Charlotte office designed to help financial services companies comply with a growing number of regulations emerging from the financial crisis.

Princeton, N.J.-based Spectra Group said it will open a 12,864-square-foot office in BB&T Center, 200 S. College St. The new jobs are expected to pay $84,996 on average.

Aditya Narra, president of the 5-year-old company, said he considered Austin, Texas, and Tampa, Fla., before picking Charlotte. Among other factors, he cited Charlotte’s proximity to the company’s New York-area operations and its existing financial services workforce.

“We looked at some of the most up-and-coming markets in the country before choosing Charlotte,” he said during a news conference at the Charlotte Chamber’s uptown offices.

In exchange for the jobs, the state has awarded a Job Development Investment Grant expected to be worth as much as $2.9 million over 12 years. The annual grants will be worth 32 percent of the state personal income tax withholdings stemming from the jobs.

The announcement comes a month after Charlotte learned it will lose two companies to South Carolina. The companies, Lash Group and LPL Financial, were lured with millions of dollars in incentives from South Carolina.

Gov. Pat McCrory, who attended Tuesday’s announcement, said the news proves that North Carolina remains an attractive place for companies to relocate.

“This announcement shows we’re competing very effectively,” he told reporters afterward.

The new jobs will pay more than the average salary in Mecklenburg County, which was $58,347 last year, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

Spectra’s Charlotte “delivery center” will offer audit and compliance services for the financial sector. It comes as banks are increasing their own staffing to ensure they don’t run afoul of post-crisis regulations. Narra said regulations stemming from the Dodd-Frank financial overhaul law are among those that the center will specialize in helping banks obey.

Most of the 250 jobs will be based in BB&T Center, he said, although he didn’t rule out that some employees might work from home. He said the new jobs will be technology positions.

Spectra, which has about 500 employees, will relocate about 50 from Princeton starting around Aug. 1 to fill some of the Charlotte positions, he said. Under terms of its state grant, Spectra must create at least 225 jobs by the end of 2018 to avoid defaulting on its agreement.

At a time when companies have moved jobs offshore to cut costs, Narra said the company wants its Charlotte office to buck the trend. He said being in “mid-cost” areas such as Charlotte allows Spectra to provide clients savings of 20 percent.

“We see Charlotte as a near shore,” he said. “It’s in the same time zone, it’s on the same coast as New York, which is obviously the financial capital of the world. So we are trying to do something different.”

Narra said the company will seek to do business with lenders in Charlotte, including Bank of America and Wells Fargo, which are currently not clients.

Austin and Tampa offered the company comparable incentives, he said. He said the incentives alone did not sway the company toward Charlotte.

“It’s a mix of everything” Charlotte has to offer, he said.

Narra, a 42-year-old immigrant who founded the information technology and financial services firm, said he might move to Charlotte from Princeton but has not made a final decision.

In recent months, other state grants have been awarded to companies for job creation in the Charlotte region.

In April, the state announced a $3.2 million award for Indian Land, S.C.-based Red Ventures to expand its operations in Mecklenburg County. Last year, the state announced a grant of $87 million for MetLife to open a retail hub in Charlotte.

Tuesday’s announcement comes as Charlotte continues to recover the jobs it lost in the financial crisis.

Mecklenburg County had about 52,116 finance and insurance jobs last year, down roughly 3,100 from 2006. Finance and insurance employment hit a financial crisis low point of 48,145 in 2009.