Wake County amends policy to sweeten pot for MetLife relocation

mquillin@newsobserver.comApril 1, 2013 

  • MetLife deal basics

    Under the agreement with Wake County, MetLife is expected to pay $3,563,916 in Wake County taxes during the first eight years, and the county will give the company back slightly more than half that amount, or $1,893,500.

  • School bonds get approval

    Wake commissioners Monday approved $51.2 million in school bonds to help build a new high school that will teach students job skills, and to jumpstart work on other school construction projects.

    The county will issue “two-thirds bonds,” a form of public borrowing that doesn’t require voter approval. Under state law, local governments can issue bonds for as much as two-thirds of the amount of bond debt it paid off the previous year.

    Commissioners plan to use $19 million to build the career-technical education high school at the former Coca-Cola bottling facility in South Raleigh. Students would learn skills in areas such as plumbing, automobile collision repair, refrigeration, cosmetology and biopharmaceuticals.

    The remaining $32 million would provide initial capital for projects that school leaders want to be funded in a school construction bond referendum that could be put on the ballot as soon as Oct. 8. The school board and commissioners are working out the details, which could approach $1 billion and would require voter approval.

    The board also approved the sale of $104 million in bonds for the Wake Technical Community College building program, and $21 million in open space bonds. The Wake Tech bonds are the first to be offered from a $200 million package approved by voters last fall. The open space bonds are the last of a $50 million package approved by voters in 2007.

    The bonds go on sale April 9.

    T. Keung Hui

Wake County commissioners approved nearly $1.9 million in incentive grants Monday for MetLife Inc. after amending board policy on how much companies are required to invest to account for the much-higher-than-average wages MetLife has promised to pay.

The deal won unanimous approval among the six commissioners who voted; insurance broker Paul Coble recused himself, saying he knew people involved in the negotiations.

New York-based MetLife announced its plans last month to move workers from more than 30 sites in the Northeast to two campuses to be built in North Carolina, one in Charlotte and one in Cary. The state awarded the company an incentives package worth more than $94 million, and local governments are adding their own. Cary has approved $1.9 million in incentives, Charlotte $1 million, and Mecklenburg County is expected to put in up to $2 million more.

MetLife, the largest U.S. insurer, has said the relocation will come with 2,622 new jobs to be split between the two locations, with retail sales in Charlotte and a hub for its global technology and operations unit in Cary.

The company plans to invest $85 million in the Cary campus, a lower amount than the $100 million threshold county commissioners set in 2005 for offering financial incentives. In the past, the county has turned down requests for incentives by companies that could not meet the investment threshold.

Monday, commissioners voted to amend the policy to allow incentives for companies that plan at least a $50 million investment and also hire at least 250 people in full-time jobs paying 200 percent or more of the county’s current average wage.

County Manager David Cooke said the average Wake County salary is between $45,000 and $46,000, and the MetLife jobs in Cary are expected to pay an average of $112,000 per year.

“It’s about jobs,” commission Chairman Joe Bryan said after the vote, adding that 1,300 people making $112,000 a year will stimulate the local economy by buying houses and other goods and services and paying local taxes. After eight years, he noted, the incentives will stop but the company will continue paying county taxes.

In Wake County, incentives are not paid until the promised facility has been built and property taxes paid.

Bryan said he hopes to see many more such deals.

The county has paid incentives to several companies under the 2005 policy, including Credit Suisse First Boston, which built a global business center in Research Triangle Park; NetApp, which expanded its RTP campus; and Novartis, which built a vaccine manufacturing plant in Holly Springs.

The grants are calculated as a percentage of the assessed value of the company’s property in the county. MetLife has said it may build the Cary campus by 2016.

The county also has made deals with a few companies that didn’t fulfill their promises, and were not able to collect the incentives. GlaxoSmithKline, Lenovo and Fidelity Investments all forfeited incentives when they were unable to meet their goals.

Quillin: 919-829-8989

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