BizWorthy: Centene Chose Charlotte Over York County Despite A Much Higher Incentives Package

Jul 30, 2020

Insurance giant Centene passed up a much more lucrative offer to put its regional headquarters just over the border in South Carolina. The company, which announced this month it will build the facility in Charlotte's University City area, qualifies for up to $450 million in state and local incentives. Public records show South Carolina and York County offered twice that much in an attempt to get the development project.

For more, we turn to Tony Mecia of the Charlotte Ledger Business Newsletter for our segment, BizWorthy.

Marshall Terry: Tony, that's a lot of money that Centene passed on. What about Charlotte won them over?

Tony Mecia: Well, Marshall, it is a lot of money. Centene was looking at the old Knights baseball site in Fort Mill, the old stadium site down there. And, you know, South Carolina's offer was much more lucrative, but they ultimately landed on Charlotte up in the University area where they're going to build a big campus up there.

And we don't really know the specific thinking. But when they said that they were going to come to Charlotte and create all these jobs and all this investment, they did say they liked Charlotte as a city, they'd liked, I think, the proximity to UNC Charlotte. They liked to be near the Light Rail line. They felt like it was a pretty good location for them to grow. And so, yes, they did leave a lot of money on the table in not taking that offer from South Carolina. But I think they see a lot of advantages in Charlotte, in the University area.

Terry: Two large tech companies in the Charlotte area, Red Ventures and Lending Tree, have told their employees to expect to work from home for the rest of the year. Are other companies going to follow suit?

Mecia: Charlotte Agenda had this article this week that said that those two tech companies were sending their employees ... they're going to keep them at home for the rest of the year, reevaluate at the beginning of the year. Lending Tree, of course, is building a new building in South End, so the timing works out pretty well for them, that they could just go ahead and move right into that building when that opens -- I think that's expected next year.

But I think you're going to see more of this. This is something tech companies nationwide have been doing. A lot of the big tech companies on the West Coast have done this. There's a lot of competition for tech workers. And so this is sort of seen as a way to show workers and potential workers that you're providing a good quality place to work, as well as it makes some sense working from home. We're going to have schools closed for an unknown period of time. A lot of people are really going to need that flexibility if they're able to work from home. So, you know, it seems like it makes sense. And I think we're going to see more of this. The banks, the big banks in town, they have said they're looking at the timing of bringing people back. In the case of Wells Fargo and Bank of America, it's not going to be before Labor Day. I wouldn't be surprised to see that that they've pushed back even farther.

Terry: Several retail stores, including J.C. Penney, Neiman Marcus and Brooks Brothers have filed for bankruptcy amid the pandemic. Now, there's mentioned that Belk could be joining that list. What are you hearing?

Mecia: Marshall, you and I have talked before about the troubled retail sector we've had. Some big retailers have had problems even before COVID, and now it's becoming a real problem. Revenues are down. Sales are down. They still have a bunch of debt payments. Belk was on a list that The Wall Street Journal reported in the last week as being a company that might have some trouble making its debt payments sometime in the next year. Certainly that's something a lot of retailers are going through.

Terry: As you've mentioned, we've talked a lot the past few months about the challenges retail stores and also restaurants are facing because of the pandemic. And we have not talked about how museums are adapting to the new reality. And that's something actually that the Ledger dived into this week. So what are museums doing to stay afloat?

Mecia: It is kind of interesting, Marshall. If you look at museums, they are still closed in North Carolina. They're starting to reopen in other parts of the country, which might make some sense when you think about all the retail that is open. You could say, well, what's different between a museum and a retail establishment? But the museums are still closed in North Carolina under Gov. Roy Cooper's existing order. They're going to stay closed for at least the next few weeks. But some of the museums in Charlotte, they are trying to adapt to that. They're going to online events. They're holding online discussions, previews.

And there are also some of them are kind of coordinating their response. So I think you're going to see that several of the museums uptown, they've been coordinating they're reopening plans whenever that date is. They don't know exactly when that day is going to be. But they've been they've been working together to try to figure out solutions, having people maybe a little bit of revenue coming in, how they can how they can stay afloat.

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