Another month brings another big tech announcement for Charlotte. Financial software company AvidXchange says it’s planning to build a second headquarters at the Music Factory just outside uptown and increase its workforce by 1,200.
That followed last month’s announcement from Lowe’s that it plans to build a tech center in South End and add 1,600 positions. For more, WFAE's "Morning Edition" host Marshall Terry turns to Tony Mecia of the Charlotte Ledger Business Newsletter for this week's BizWorthy.
Marshall Terry: Charlotte's tech sector really seems to be on a roll right now.
Tony Mecia: It's pretty amazing if you look at all the announcements in the last few months. I mean, If you just look at the last three or four months, the number of big tech-related announcements that we've had in Charlotte: As you mentioned, the Lowe's tech hub in South End, you have Lending Tree moving from Ballantyne to South End building a new building, and now you have AvidXchange confirming that they are building a second headquarters building at the Music Factory.
They had previously announced several hundred jobs. So, this is just where those jobs are going to be — a hot topic, a lot of jobs in tech, certainly, in Charlotte.
Terry: Talking about all these jobs: Where are all these workers going to come from?
Mecia: That, I think, is the big question. I mean, if you talk to people in the tech sector, they say, "Well, you know, we're developing these pipelines and we have training programs." The Carolina Fintech Hub, some of the universities, they look at those as promising.
Obviously they're going to have to poach people from some of the existing companies. A lot of the banks have a whole lot of tech workers. Now the banks are basically becoming technology companies, in a sense. If you talk to some of these tech companies privately, I mean, they will say that they are going to have some problems hiring all these workers. I mean, a lot of them have open positions now for engineers, software engineers, analytics-type of jobs. It's going to be a real challenge, I think, in this kind of an environment with unemployment as low as it is.
There's going to be a lot of competition. And so it's going to be really tricky for these companies, I think, to hire all the people that they want.
Terry: Let's shift now to the Ballantyne area. On Monday, a new 14-story hotel office project in Ballantyne Village was announced. A couple months ago, an 11-story apartment office project nearby was announced. Is Ballantyne becoming the new hot spot in Charlotte for high-rise projects?
Mecia: Well, it certainly is a hot spot. It's hard to compete with, you know, the biggest hot spot — you know South End and uptown... You announce a 14-story building in in South End and everybody says, "Well, we sort of expected that." A 14-story tower in Ballantyne on the other hand, Marshall, is a much bigger deal.
Ballantyne is sort of the place that people in Charlotte have always thought of that you moved to when you're looking for a little more space, you're looking for a single-family house — you have some kids, you're maybe not the fun out-all-night person that you used to be. But the character of Ballantyne, I think, is really changing with some of these high-rise projects.
As you pointed out, you've got two projects of 10 stories or more in Ballantyne in just the last three months. So, I think if you look at other cities and how they develop, you do see that it's a typical development pattern in which you have the center city, which is thriving, but then you have these satellites really around the ring. You know, you think of Atlanta and you think of Buckhead — you know, separate identity from Atlanta's downtown.
Now nobody's saying that Ballantyne right now is like Buckhead, certainly. But, you know, down down the road, maybe it could be. You're seeing a lot of development down there.
Terry: When talking about the planned merger of BB&T and SunTrust in a recent earnings call, BB&T CEO Kelly King said something that caught your ear. Here it is:
Kelly King (recording): We did announce our new headquarters building in Charlotte, which is one of the tallest buildings in Charlotte. If you're familiar with Charlotte, it's the old Hearst building.
Terry: And it's that last bit there: "the old Hearst building." So, are we about to see a name change?
Mecia:I think we probably are. Nothing has been announced yet. BB&T and SunTrust are merging. They're calling the new bank Truist bank. They're moving the headquarters to Charlotte. They're putting it into the Hearst Tower. That is the name of that building: This is the Hearst Tower.
They're taking over a majority of the space of that tower, so it's not unreasonable to think that they would want to put their name on that. But, you know, I think that's a little bit of a tell, Marshall, and you say, "Oh, we're moving into the old Hearst building." I mean, if David Tepper were to come and say, "Well, the Panthers are going to play in the old Bank of America Stadium." People say, "What? Why is he calling it 'the old Bank of America? It's called Bank of America Stadium." So, I think we are going to see — it would make sense that they would have a name change.