Charlotte is poised to become home to a Fortune 100 corporate headquarters that could bring 750 jobs that pay median salaries of $85,000 to the city, under incentives approved by the General Assembly on Thursday.
The company is Honeywell, a major manufacturer of electronics, aerospace and electronic equipment, according to four sources with direct knowledge of the deal. Honeywell is considering locations in Ballantyne or SouthPark, according to Charlotte sources.
Honeywell is based in Morris Plains, N.J. Spokesman Scott Sayres said in a statement that Honeywell doesn’t comment on “rumors or speculation.”
The deal is expected to be announced Friday. Late Thursday, the Charlotte Regional Business Alliance, North Carolina Department of Commerce, city of Charlotte, Mecklenburg County and the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina scheduled a “significant jobs announcement” in uptown Charlotte on Friday morning.
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Information about the deal — without the company’s name attached — initially surfaced during a disagreement between Republican legislators who are split between reluctantly luring businesses with financial incentives and those who oppose the practice.
Senate Bill 820 would allow the N.C. Department of Commerce to offer companies up to $16,000 for every job created. Currently, the limit is $6,500 per job. The Senate unanimously approved the bill on Wednesday.
But it ran into a buzz saw of opposition from Republican Rep. Jonathan Jordan, who said the bill appeared “out of thin air” this week.
“I just can’t believe we are increasing this amount and going for more money to give to our corporate welfare programs and crony capitalism,” Jordan said during a committee meeting.
Jordan said the pending corporate announcement entails bringing 750 jobs. The average pay — which is higher than the median because top earners like CEOs distort the figure — would be $348,000.
Jordan fought over the bill with Rep. Bill Brawley, a Republican from Matthews who was one of the bill’s sponsors, and disclosed details of a project that had not previously been made public.
Jordan said he understood the project would be announced on Friday. Jordan also said he understood that a corporation’s board of directors will announce a relocation to Charlotte if the bill passed.
After the meeting, Brawley would only say that the project would be announced soon. But he confirmed the job and salary numbers that Jordan cited in the meeting.
Brawley said during the committee that Charlotte had lost headquarters and other businesses in recent years, and this legislation would lure an important company.
“This is a chance to get back in the headquarters game,” Brawley said.
Honeywell would add to the list of Fortune 500 companies headquartered in the Charlotte region. That group is currently at six companies: Bank of America (No. 24), Lowe’s Cos. (No. 40), Duke Energy (No. 125), Nucor (No. 151), Sonic Automotive (No. 298) and Sealed Air (No. 456).
Sealed Air, which makes Bubble Wrap, was the last Fortune 500 firm to relocate to Charlotte, also from New Jersey.
In 2014, the company announced plans to relocate its headquarters from Elmwood Park, N.J., bringing 1,262 jobs. Snagging Honeywell could also help Charlotte reverse a trend in which the number of Fortune 500 companies in the area has been falling for a decade. Nine companies made the list in 2007.
The decline has mostly been due to acquisitions and spinoffs. Family Dollar was acquired and is moving its headquarters out of Matthews, and local firms such as Belk and Harris Teeter have also been bought by outside firms.
Growing incentives program
The incentives bill passed the committee on a vote of 17-7, with seven Republicans opposing, before going to the full House for a vote.
Earlier in the week, Sen. Jerry Tillman, a Republican who represents Moore and Randolph counties and co-sponsored the bill, said one or two companies were considering adding 1,000 to 2,000 jobs in Wake and Mecklenburg counties, and the bill was aimed at landing those companies.
The N.C. Department of Commerce declined to comment on the Charlotte project on Thursday. Earlier in the day, the department issued a statement from Secretary Tony Copeland.
“We worked with the legislative leadership to develop SB 820 and support its passing,” Copeland said. “This is a much-needed change to one of our economic development and recruitment tools that hasn’t been updated since 2003. This update will enable the state to be more competitive and relevant in our global recruitment efforts. It will create more jobs and build North Carolina’s tax base. “
The increased incentives come from the state’s Job Development Investment Grant program, known as JDIG. It bases its awards to companies on a percentage of their personal income tax withholdings for eligible positions. Businesses have to create a minimum number of full-time positions for a minimum time frame in order to quality.
The state contends it makes more revenue off JDIG projects than it spends in grants.
House Democrats lined up in support of the bill, which passed the full House 78-23 and now goes to the governor.
Who is Honeywell?
Honeywell makes everything from airplane cockpit systems and aviation recorders and radars to air flow controls and security systems for hospitals. The company had $32 billion in sales for the first nine months of 2018, with $5 billion in profits.
Honeywell already has a presence in the Charlotte area. Just this month, the company announced it completed its acquisition of Fort Mill-based Transnorm, a warehouse automation solutions company, in a roughly $484 million deal. At the time, Honeywell said Transnorm will be part of its Honeywell Safety and Productivity Solutions unit.
The company has been going through a significant reorganization in the past year, spinning off its engine turbocharger and home systems businesses into two new, publicly traded companies.
This isn’t the first time Honeywell has contemplated a move out of New Jersey. In 2010, Gov. Chris Christie learned that Honeywell was considering leaving the state along with 1,100 jobs, according to news reports, and began working with the company to keep it in place.
“The Governor listened and promised to come back to me immediately with a plan that would keep Honeywell in New Jersey,” then-Honeywell CEO Dave Cote said, in a statement. The company had been exploring an out-of-state move.
The company ended up staying in New Jersey, but moved its headquarters a few miles from Morris Township to Morris Plains. Honeywell received a $40 million incentives package from New Jersey in connection with that move, NJ.com reported.