Charlotte just got a huge jobs announcement. St. Louis-based insurance giant Centene Corp. says it will open an East Coast headquarters in the University City area and add at least 3,200 jobs. The state has approved $439 million in incentives for the project, making it the largest such grant in state history.
For more, we turn now to Tony Mecia of the Charlotte Ledger Business Newsletter for our segment BizWorthy.
Marshall Terry: Tony, 3,200 jobs is massive. Has Charlotte ever seen something like this before?
Tony Mecia: I don't think so, Marshall. That's a pretty big number. Thirty-two hundred is a lot of jobs. Usually when you see business expansions, it's more in the realm of, you know, a few hundred maybe the high hundreds. I don't think we've seen anything quite like this. I mean, you'll recall when BB&T and SunTrust merged, the number they used was about 2,000 -- that they'll eventually have about 2,000 jobs in Charlotte.
They didn't seek incentives. Thirty-two hundred is a lot of jobs and it's going to be over a number of years. It's not like they're all coming at once. You know, these things usually string out, play out over a number of years. So we don't know exactly where they're going to get to either. Do they get the 3,200 or do they get more? The CEO said he'd like to get to 6,000 eventually. They've got an option to get some more, but you never really know because these things play out and business conditions change. So, you know, we'll sort of have to see.
Terry: What can you tell us about this company, Centene Corp.? And also what kind of jobs are these going to be?
Mecia: Yeah, it's really sort of interesting when the word came out that there is going to be a big jobs announcement, I was talking to some friends. "Oh, who is it going to be? Could it be Amazon? What about Wells Fargo? Are they moving the headquarters here?" And then it comes out Centene, and everyone said, "Centene, what is Centene?" Nobody had really heard of it. It's actually sort of a quiet giant.
It's No. 42 on the Fortune 500 list with about $75 billion in annual revenue. It's a health insurance company. It operates in all 50 states, but it doesn't usually operate under that name. So it has a bunch of different companies that it owns. So you might not know that name because it's sort of a parent company, but it's a fast-growing company.
They're expected to grow revenue by about 50% this year, up to around $120 billion. So, you know, they're growing pretty quickly. Managed care, health care is kind of, I guess, a good place to be right now. They're talking about setting up a campus in (University City) — 1 million square feet of office. And it's going to be technology jobs, finance jobs, you know, back-office type of jobs. And they're going to pay pretty well. They said the average pay will be about $100,000 a year.
Terry: Tony, it's been almost a week now since Gov. Roy Cooper's mask requirement went into effect. Now the onus is on businesses to enforce it when customers come in their stores. So are they doing that?
Mecia: Well, you know, as we talked about last week, I think, Marshall, you know, a lot of the stores are kind of reluctant to enforce it, although there are some stores that are happy to kind of have the cover to be able say, "Hey, look, you know, we don't want to enforce it, but it's the state forcing us to." So I think it kind of cuts both ways.
Anecdotally, around town I think you do see more people wearing masks in stores. I've observed that. I've talked to some people who have observed that. I haven't heard of any problems or any big enforcement actions or anything like that. It seems like most people are doing their best to try to comply.
Terry: You report that Charlotte companies are pushing back when they plan on having employees return to the office because of the coronavirus. So when can workers expect to return who are still working at home?
Mecia: Yeah, I think it's going to be a few more months for a lot of them, Marshall. Now, some people are back to work, maybe on flexible schedules or maybe some are kind of getting called in. But Wells Fargo last week came out and said that it is pushing back the date that its workers are going to return to the office until at least Sep. 7. It had earlier said July. Before that, it said maybe June.
You'll recall that when the pandemic first started, there was hope that maybe people could start getting back into the office in June or July. But now with the number of cases going up and some of the signals of how the spread is going in the wrong direction, companies are kind of pulling back on that and saying, "Well, let's just leave people out of the office until the thing is a little bit better under control."
Terry: Now, are there some situations where workers will never go back to the office, at least not permanently?
Mecia: Well, I think you are going to see a lot of companies asking that question about do they need to recall all of their workers? Do they need to have all of their people back? And, you know, it's just going to vary by company. I think some companies are going to say, "Wow, we really miss the collaboration and creativity and the face time. And people are more effective when they know when they get together and collaborate. But there are others, I think, that are seeing productivity gains.
There been some studies on this recently that have shown that a lot of companies are seeing some gains that they didn't expect they would see. They expected that people would be loafing around the house and not doing very much, but they're seeing actually people are, in many cases, more productive. So it's just going to come down to each individual business and sort of what works best for the individual business.
Terry: Finally, Tony, Bojangles has announced it's dropping that apostrophe after the "s." What was it there for, anyway?
Mecia: Yeah. Really good question. You know, a lot of people look at that name -- Bojangles -- and they see the old logo that we're all familiar with. That apostrophe actually looked like it was above the "s." Well, did it go before the "s" or after the "s?" But when was spelled out, the apostrophe definitely went after the "s."
The company is named for the 1960s song "Mr. Bojangles." But then they changed it, apparently when the company was started in the late '70s to a possessive "Bojangles' Famous Chicken And Biscuits." And then, of course, that opens the question: If you have a word ending with "s" and you make it possessive, do you just add an apostrophe or do you add an apostrophe (plus an) "s." So, you know, there's all kinds of crazy debate over this, Marshall, but they're putting an end to it. They're getting rid of the apostrophe altogether. Bojangles says it wants a little bit of a fresher look, and they have a new logo that has no apostrophe.
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