Microsoft will invest nearly $24 million and add hundreds of high-paying jobs in an expansion of its Charlotte campus, a signal that Charlotte’s technology sector is poised for additional growth.
The 430 jobs, announced by Gov. Roy Cooper and local officials Friday will pay an average of about $98,000 a year. The average wage in Mecklenburg County is $66,709, according to the state. The N.C. Commerce Department said Microsoft was also looking at Irving, Texas and Fargo, N.D., for the expansion.
The Washington-based tech company, which has offices off of West Arrowood Road in southwest Charlotte, could receive up to $7.9 million in state incentives if it meets the goals for job creation and investment, according to a release from Cooper’s office.
The city said its incentives plan would include around $664,000 to be paid out over seven years, and a similar county proposal would give Microsoft up to $816,117. The plans will need to be voted on by the City Council and County Commission respectively.
That brings the total taxpayer commitment for incentives to $9.4 million.
Microsoft’s expansion is the latest in a string of high-profile economic development wins for the city, particularly in the tech sector.
Council member Tariq Bokhari, who is also executive director of the Carolina Fintech Hub, said that momentum is making it easier to recruit companies. “The more examples we can point to ... the less of a lift it is to convince the next person,” he said.
Microsoft will be expanding its 408,000-square-foot campus that spans two buildings on 22 acres, Microsoft Charlotte Campus director Reggie Isaac said.
Some Charlotte area jobs are already posted on Microsoft’s careers website, including engineering and management positions, and more will be added, he said.
Isaac wouldn’t say how many people Microsoft already employs in the Charlotte region.
“When people see that a brand like Microsoft is investing in Charlotte, they take note of that,” he said. “We know the talent is here already. And I think this just amplifies that Charlotte is a great city and great area to hire high tech jobs.”
George Dunlap, chairman of the Mecklenburg County Commissioners, said Microsoft’s growth will also help create hundreds of secondary jobs. “The ripple effect is going to be felt throughout this entire community,” he said.
Learning from failure
The Microsoft announcement comes nearly two years after local leaders first tried, and ultimately failed, to bring Amazon’s second headquarters to Charlotte.
Charlotte didn’t make the cut for the technology giant’s finalists. But city officials have said the unsuccessful bid led them to change the way they do economic development in the city.
In Amazon’s feedback to the city, it said Charlotte’s pool of tech workers was “lacking” compared to others.
That answer never sat well with Bokhari. “It’’s a perception,” he said, “Not reality.”
A report this year from the Charlotte Regional Business Alliance found that the total number of tech jobs in the region rose by 30% over the past five years, an increase of 117,694 jobs.
Other recent announcements also add to the burgeoning industry.
Lowe’s is building a 23-story, 2,000-employee global tech hub in South End. And as part of the proposed merger of BB&T and SunTrust banks to form Truist, the new bank plans to create an innovation and technology center as part of its headquarters operation in Charlotte.
In September, online mortgage lender Better.com announced it has opened a Charlotte office and planned to hire 1,000 people.
While Amazon didn’t choose Charlotte for it’s next headquarters, hundreds of Charlotte employees started work in early September at the company’s first robotics fulfillment center in North Carolina. The company said it plans to have 1,500 full-time employees at the facility by the holiday shopping season.
Bokhari said the city has had a “surgical” focus on bringing technology companies to the area, which gives them a competitive advantage.
“We’re able to understand what they want and need,” he said, “and better pitch them on what Charlotte can provide than any of our other competitor cities.”