MetLife's arrival could put $90 million into Cary

akenney@newsobserver.comMarch 28, 2013 

— Cary and Wake County each could pay MetLife about $1.9 million in cash incentives, according to staff projections. In exchange, the company could put more than $85 million into a Cary campus by 2017.

Under a rough-draft deal approved unanimously by the Cary Town Council on Thursday night, Cary and the county would make annual payouts based upon the insurance company’s investment in local buildings and equipment. Ultimately, the company could get back 77 percent of its local taxes and 53 percent off its county bills over an eight-year period.

In all, the company projects it will employ at least 1,200 jobs in Cary at salaries exceeding $90,000, according to its contract with the local government. That would put the lion’s share of its investment in the state here, considering the company expects to spend $125 million between its new Cary and Charlotte campuses.

Still, government staff aren’t ready to put a firm number on how much they’ll pay out, because they’re unsure how much MetLife will invest.

“It’s very vague at this point, very preliminary. We really don’t have a whole lot of details,” said Marcus Kinrade, Wake County’s revenue director. Rather than voting on a specific amount, the elected officials are approving the formula, said Scott Fogleman, Cary’s budget director.

The county and town incentives packages also set some ground rules. MetLife won’t get cash until it puts at least $50 million into its local campus, which may happen by 2016. The company also must hire at least 250 people in Cary at salaries exceeding $90,000.

Wake County’s Board of Commissioners could vote on the matter April 1.

The cash grant model is typical for Wake County but unusual for Cary, which generally has paid development fees or other in-kind expenses for developers. The grants also would be the town’s largest incentive ever, topping a $500,000 incentive for Siemens Medical Group’s 300-job move in 2008.

In all, MetLife could get almost $100 million in state, county and local incentives.

“What you’d like to see is the whole concept go away,” said Councilman Jack Smith. “But I’m locked into it, because I want to remain competitive, and I’m not going to – on a principal – lose out on a great opportunity like this.”

MetLife’s arrival would mark the largest single movement of jobs into Cary in recent history.

The company is looking at property owned by Raleigh-based Highwoods Properties off Weston Parkway in Cary, according to earlier comments by town staff. A Highwoods spokeswoman declined to comment.

If the company’s interested in Weston Parkway, there are only so many options: the road is only 3.5 miles long, running mostly along the southern side of Lake Crabtree.

No matter where it goes, MetLife’s set to be a presence here: It could become the town’s third-largest employer, behind SAS Institute and Verizon, according to town statistics.

Kenney: 919-460-2608

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