Go back to Peachtree Street, ” a drunk fan screamed as the Carolina Panthers thrashed the woeful Atlanta Falcons at Bank of America Stadium on Dec. 13. No matter that the few Falcon fans attending the game had long since departed rather than endure the 38-0 rout. Such confidence is in vogue in Charlotte, where a robust economy and newfound attractiveness makes the city — and not just the Panthers — an “it girl” as the new year dawns.
The city’s reputation as a financial hub is strengthening, with mutual fund giant Dimensional Fund Advisors picking an inner-city neighborhood for its East Coast headquarters, promising 316 jobs paying an average $147,000 annually. DFA’s move shows how Charlotte has become more than a Bank of America/Wells Fargo company town, with Vanguard, MetLife, TIAA-Cref and other big financial firms also establishing major offices. The Queen City regularly competes with Atlanta and Nashville as a favored Southeast site for corporate relocations, reflected in Sealed Air’s plan to move its headquarters from New Jersey. The Bubble Wrap producer will employ 1,300 as Charlotte’s economy adds jobs at more than twice the pace of the U.S. overall, according to federal data. While wage gains generally remain meager, workers in the Charlotte metropolitan now earn about 2% more than national averages. In some categories, such as the bank credit analysts in their 20s and 30s who populate the city’s many craft-beer pubs and $12 burger joints, Charlotte pay is 20% higher than average because of the demand for financial skills.
Charlotte trailed only Dallas and Austin, Texas as the most attractive real-estate market in the U.S. in 2016, based on potential for investment, development and homebuilding, according to a study by Pricewaterhouse-Coopers and the Urban Land Institute. (Atlanta was fifth, and Raleigh, 11th). A similar study in 2010 rated Charlotte 21st. With population growing faster than any U.S. metro area except Austin and New Orleans between 2010 and 2014, the city’s appeal has driven real-estate values to levels exceeding the housing boom of 2005-06, when Bank of America and Wachovia were expanding like wildfire. The average sales price in Mecklenburg County topped $265,000 in 2015, a 25% gain from four years earlier. More than 240 homes sold for more than $1 million last year, while two-bedroom inner-city apartments routinely lease for more than $2,000 a month. More than 12,000 apartment units were under construction as of mid-December, and with a vacancy rate of less than 6%, another 13,000 are planned, according to Charlotte-based researcher Real Data.
Charlotte’s widely acknowledged Achilles heel is the city’s racially divided housing patterns, resulting in too many segregated, poorly performing public schools, and a corresponding inability to improve the economic prospects of its lower-income children. Prompted by a Harvard/University of California Berkeley study showing the Charlotte region ranks last among the 50 largest metro areas for economic advancement of children, city and business officials started a 20-person task force aimed at fixing the problem. Members include former Springs Industries CEO Crandall Bowles and Bank of America’s top social responsibility executive Andrew Plepler, along with ministers, small-business owners and a school social worker. They are supposed to offer solutions this year.
To help solve the city’s serious problems and some less important ones — the economic boom is causing constant rush-hour traffic jams — organizers hope they can siphon a fraction of the energy that people like Walter Broome show as they cheer on the Panthers. The general manager of the iconic Price’s Chicken Coop restaurant, Broome starts his Sunday tailgating at 7 a.m. for the 1 p.m. games, a practice dating back to the team’s first season. “I was here when we went 1-15, and I’m here when it’s raining, and I’m here now that we’re headed for the Super Bowl. When you win, you see a lot more people show up, but that’s OK.” And a lot more people are showing up in Charlotte these days.
Charlotte — Corning Optical Communications will move its headquarters here from Hickory, adding 150 jobs and investing $38.7 million by the end of 2018. The new jobs will pay an average annual salary of $80,000, higher than Mecklenburg’s $52,611. The company also will move 400 jobs from Hickory. The parent company, based in Corning, N.Y., employs more than 3,000 people in the state. Corning will receive up to
$2.35 million in state grants if it meets job-creation and investment goals.
CHARLOTTE — Coral Gables, Fla.-based Capital Bank Financial will acquire CommunityOne Bancorp for about $350 million in cash and stock. The deal is expected to close in the first quarter. Capital Bank was started in 2009 by Bank of America executives Gene Taylor and Chris Marshall. It has 153 branches in five states and $7.3 billion in assets. Founded in 1907 as First National Bank of Asheboro, CommunityOne has 45 branches in central and western North Carolina and assets of $2.4 billion.
CHARLOTTE — Red Ventures will invest $5 million and add 500 jobs here over five years. The new jobs include software developers, analysts and sales agents with an average annual salary of $49,000. The Indian Land, S.C.-based marketing company could get up to $2.65 million in state grants.
CONOVER — GKN Sinter Metals, a part of United Kingdom-based GKN, will invest $19.8 million and create 55 jobs at its local aluminum manufacturing plant. GKN employs 2,500 in the state. Average annual wage for the new jobs will be $46,078, higher than Catawba County’s $38,240.
SHELBY — Ivar’s Cabinet Shop will invest $2.8 million and create 27 jobs over three years in its first East Coast location. The Ontario, Calif.-based company makes display fixtures and shelving for retailers and manufacturers. The new jobs will pay an average annual wage of $40,000, compared with Cleveland County’s $37,759.
HUNTERSVILLE — Stuart Schuette becomes chief executive officer of American Tire Distributors this month. He replaces Bill Berry, CEO since 2009, who retired. American Tire, which reported net sales of more than $5 billion in 2014, topped Business North Carolina’s 2015 list of largest private companies in the state (“Upwardly mobile,” October).
Charlotte — Campus Crest Communities will close its headquarters office next month and 70 people will lose their jobs. The real-estate investment trust, which builds student apartment complexes, is being sold to Chicago-based Harrison Street Real Estate Capital in a $1.9 billion deal (Statewide, November).
Charlotte – Premara Financial, holding company for Carolina Premier Bank, raised $8.5 million in a private stock offering. Carolina Premier has seven branches in the Carolinas.