North Carolina Economic Development Guide

2014

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Charlotte business leaders for the mystery executives. "The visits were tailored to the type of people they had coming to town," Hynes says. Human-resources executives, for example, explored the labor pool and practices, and site-search teams looked for benefts that many companies have found here. Confdential feedback from peers is the best guidance for companies considering a large move. "It's not every day that companies do a large relocation. There's not really a handbook or instructional manual for that because every company is unique." Liking what they saw and heard, the visitors revealed themselves in March 2013. New York-based MetLife Inc. announced that it was investing $125.5 million and moving 2,600 jobs from New York, California and elsewhere to North Carolina. The insurer is splitting the workers between two locations to take advantage of established fnancial and technology clusters. Its U.S. retail business will be based in Ballantyne Corporate Park in Charlotte, while Cary will be home to its Global Technology and Operations division. The move will improve collaboration among MetLife employees, boosting productivity and speed-to-market, says Marty Lippert, executive vice president for Ken Atkins global technology and operations. "We are excited to be expanding MetLife's presence in North Carolina, a strategic decision we made based on the vibrant business environment, the strength of the local communities and the thriving talent base. Other domestic locations were considered, but North Carolina repeatedly rose to the top of the list." Lippert calls municipal, county and state economic developers "great partners in welcoming us into their state." He and fellow MetLife executives relayed those sentiments to N.C. Commerce Secretary Sharon Decker. "They talked about the site-search teams go to schools A large part of business success is having an educated, well-motivated workforce that can be fne-tuned to new trends and technologies, so many site-search teams include stops at North Carolina universities during scouting missions. N.C. State University in Raleigh and UNC Charlotte leaders briefed MetLife Inc.'s site hunters, reassuring them that a steady fow of business-savvy, Tar Heel-prepared brainpower was available. "UNC Charlotte's Belk College of Business provides the region with highly employable professionals in business management, accounting, marketing and insurance," says Betty Doster, special assistant to the chancellor for constituent relations. In welcoming the team to campus, UNCC Chancellor Phil Dubois discussed the Data Science and Business Analytics Initiative, a research and instructional 20 consortium that includes the Belk College of Business and UNCC College of Computing and Informatics. "The initiative is key to positioning Charlotte as a leader in big data, in which the fnancial-services industry is a key player," Doster says. The university helps with economic-development projects in 16 counties around Charlotte. While considering Wake County for its Global Technology and Operations Division, MetLife tallied graduates of N.C. State's computer-science programs. In the 2013-14 academic year, the university expects to graduate 421 computer scientists across its bachelor's, master's and doctoral curricula, says Ken Tate, director of development and external relations for the Department of Computer Science. Tate and others from N.C. State met with the MetLife team. "Because of the strong interest No rt h C arol i Na E CoNo mi C DE v Elo p mE N t Gu iDE in computer-science talent, our department is frequently asked by the N.C. Department of Commerce to meet with companies considering a move or expansion in the state, particularly the Research Triangle Park area." Knowledge-driven companies such as MetLife see universities as more than job pipelines. "While it may start with talent, partnerships can expand and grow to include student projects, scholarships and fellowships, research support and awards, involvement in shaping the curriculum and faculty sabbatical experiences," Tate says. Just the presence of a university is a lure. "If you're someone like MetLife and you're trying to recruit executives to work here," Doster says, "you know they will want quality educational opportunities for their families." greater raleigh chaMBer of coMMerce Kati Hynes Michael loBiondo PhotograPhy inc. charlotte regional PartnershiP David Swenson

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