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Why Did Shutterfly Choose S.C. Over N.C.?

The Internet company Shutterfly is moving its Charlotte operations to Fort Mill, South Carolina. The firm plans to create more than 400 full-time jobs there.

Shutterfly is only moving about 10 miles from its facility in Charlotte, where it employs about 200 people. But that short drive goes over the South Carolina border to Fort Mill, which creates some winners and losers depending on who you ask. 

Mark Farris is the director of economic development in York County.

"I think it’s a win not only for us but for the entire region," Farris said.

He said Shutterfly reached out to him, and then his office went to work on incentives for the firm.

"The county provides reductions in property taxes and allows us to negotiate property taxes, and that’s often tied to new job creation and to capital investment," Farris said.

He said it essentially played out like this: OK Shutterfly, you move down to Fort Mill, create 416 new full-time jobs and invest 60 million dollars, and York County will give you 43 percent off your property taxes at your new facility. 

Farris’ counterpart in Mecklenburg County is John Allen. Allen says his economic development team came up with its own deal to keep the firm.

"We actually talked to them about an incentive package that went above and beyond our standard incentive package that we would normally do," Allen said.

But he said Shutterfly’s decision may have come down to brick-and-mortar.

"The South Carolina site is an existing building that they can just move right into, and their business is highly seasonal," Allen said. "They didn’t want to have to undertake building an expansion project at their Charlotte site during their busy season."

That’s coming soon because Shutterfly gears up for the holidays. Its main line of business is helping people create photo albums and greeting cards.

Allen said, sure, it feels like a loss. The North Carolina Chamber of Commerce agreed. Gary Salamido is the chamber’s vice president for government affairs.

"Anytime the state of North Carolina has a company that has a presence, and they move jobs to another state, it’s a loss," Salamido said.

That’s the state and Mecklenburg County take. But how about the Charlotte region?

"Without a doubt, from a regional perspective, it is not a loss," said Ronnie Bryant, president of the Charlotte Regional Partnership. "It’s a net gain because we have new employees that this company will be hiring."

Bryant pointed out that the firm is planning to move its roughly 200 Charlotte employees to the new facility, so he’s happy they’ll keep their jobs. And as Shutterfly hires hundreds more to meet its financial incentives, Bryant said some of those hires may still come from North Carolina.