Mecklenburg County to give Red Ventures $170K for Charlotte expansion

The Red Ventures campus in Indian Land
The Red Ventures campus in Indian Land jsimmons@charlotteobserver.com

Mecklenburg County will give $170,000 to Red Ventures, the Internet sales and marketing firm, over the next five years to help the company fortify plans to bring 500 new jobs to Charlotte.

Commissioners on Tuesday voted 6-3 to approve the county’s portion of a tax incentives package the company, headquartered south of Ballantyne in Indian Land, S.C., wanted in return for growing its operations here. Red Ventures plans to lease new space in University Research Park and invest more than $5 million in building improvements and equipment.

The board’s three Republicans – frequent critics of the county luring companies with incentives – cast the dissenting votes.

Founded in 2000, Red Ventures employs over 2,800 people, including about 500 at an information technology and customer service center in the research park. It now wants to move into a bigger space. Officials say the new jobs, which include software development, data analysis and sales positions, will pay an average $48,000 a year.

The county’s grant is a joint investment with Charlotte City Council, which voted last week to give the company $100,000 over five years. The state is offering at least $2.5 million in tax rebates over 12 years.

The deal has a clawback provision, requiring Red Ventures to repay the incentives if it leaves Charlotte. The firm considered expansions in South Carolina and Massachusetts. Red Ventures moved its headquarters to South Carolina from Charlotte in 2009.

Commissioners voted 6-2 to approve the grant during a closed-door meeting in November. Tuesday’s public vote did not yield much discussion.

“There are some of us around this dais that don’t want jobs in Mecklenburg County,” commissioner Ella Scarborough said, referring to commissioners who opposed the grant.

Commissioner Bill James told the Observer the grants are so commonplace, they lose their intended value to recruit good companies.

“We give money to most companies as long as the Chamber says so,” he said. “I think the system is not working as intended and needs to be fixed before I commit tax dollars.”

Added commissioner Matthew Ridenhour, who also voted against the grant: “I felt that they were likely to expand here regardless of our incentive grant.”

Jonathan McFadden: 704-358-6045, @JmcfaddenObsGov