Here’s how Char­lotte lost more than 1,000 jobs to SC

The Charlotte Observer (Sunday) - - Business - BY DEON ROBERTS der­[email protected]­lot­teob­server.com Deon Roberts: 704-358-5248, @DeonERoberts

North Carolina of­fered mil­lions of dol­lars in in­cen­tives to re­tain a Char­lotte mort­gage com­pany that even­tu­ally chose to re­lo­cate to South Carolina, ac­cord­ing to doc­u­ments ob­tained by the Ob­server through a pub­lic records re­quest.

North Carolina’s ne­go­ti­a­tions with RoundPoint Mort­gage Ser­vic­ing Corp. also turned testy last year, other doc­u­ments in­di­cate. The doc­u­ments pro­vide an in­side look at the state’s ul­ti­mately failed ef­forts.

In May, RoundPoint Mort­gage an­nounced a de­ci­sion to shift its head­quar­ters across the state line, where it plans to roughly dou­ble its em­ploy­ment to about 1,100. Had the com­pany stayed in Char­lotte, that ex­pan­sion would have hap­pened here.

The firm, launched in Char­lotte in 2007, is leav­ing its home near Char­lotte Dou­glas In­ter­na­tional Air­port to of­fices be­ing built at the for­mer Knights Sta­dium prop­erty in Fort Mill, S.C.

North Carolina of­fered an in­cen­tives pack­age worth about $4.3 mil­lion, in­clud­ing a $3.5 mil­lion grant and $835,500 in com­mu­nity col­lege train­ing for em­ploy­ees, ac­cord­ing to a Septem­ber 2017 pro­posal. In ex­change, RoundPoint would in­vest $34 mil­lion in its ex­pan­sion, the doc­u­ment shows.

The ex­pan­sion would have added 557 jobs in Meck­len­burg County over five years, at an av­er­age an­nual wage of $65,940, ac­cord­ing to the pro­posal. Records ob­tained by the Ob­server from the county show the county and city were will­ing to pro­vide as much as $1.9 mil­lion com­bined to re­tain the firm. RoundPoint has about 600 jobs in Char­lotte now.

RoundPoint’s CEO be­came frus­trated dur­ing ne­go­ti­a­tions over not hear­ing di­rectly from Com­merce Sec­re­tary An­thony Copeland, ac­cord­ing to the emails.

The emails de­tail com­mu­ni­ca­tions be­tween North Carolina eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment of­fi­cials who were faced around this time last year with the po­ten­tial loss of the com­pany. In those com­mu­ni­ca­tions, the project went by the code name Leia.

Eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment of­fi­cials were wor­ried about giv­ing fi­nan­cial in­cen­tives to a mort­gage firm, the emails also show.

In a Septem­ber 2017 email, Colin Kiser, busi­ness-re­cruit­ment man­ager for the Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment Part­ner­ship of North Carolina, said that dur­ing a meet­ing with RoundPoint ex­ec­u­tives he had ex­pressed “some con­cern over the po­ten­tial of an­other re­ces­sion and what that would (do) to their em­ploy­ment num­bers.”

The email was sent to Su­san Fleet­wood, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment for the North Carolina Depart­ment of Com­merce.

Af­ter such con­cerns were shared, RoundPoint CEO Kevin Brun­gardt in­di­cated a will­ing­ness to have a call with Copeland, ac­cord­ing to a Novem­ber email from Kiser to Fleet­wood.

Once Brun­gardt’s in­vi­ta­tion was ex­tended, “noth­ing came to fruition for a few weeks,” Kiser wrote in the email.

“When an in­cen­tive pro­posal was is­sued, it had an as­ter­isk at­tached, that this was the fi­nal of­fer, and there would be no in­crease,” Kiser wrote. “This was not re­ceived well by the com­pany, es­pe­cially that this mes­sage was not de­liv­ered from the Sec­re­tary, since there was an open in­vi­ta­tion from the CEO to con­verse.”

Copeland later agreed to have a call with the CEO, Kiser wrote in the same email.

The part­ner­ship is a pub­lic-pri­vate group that is tasked with re­cruit­ing new busi­nesses to the state. A spokes­woman for the part­ner­ship said it had no com­ment.

A spokes­woman for the com­merce depart­ment said Copeland was trav­el­ing and un­avail­able for com­ment.

‘ZERO COM­PLAINTS’

Speak­ing to the Ob­server this week, CEO Brun­gardt praised the ef­forts of North and South Carolina to woo his com­pany and said he had “zero com­plaints” about eco­nomic of­fi­cials in ei­ther state.

He said his com­pany had ne­go­ti­ated with the two states af­ter out­grow­ing its three build­ings in Park­way Plaza Busi­ness Park. RoundPoint has gone from ser­vic­ing roughly $2.5 bil­lion in mortgages in 2010 when Brun­gardt was named CEO to a pro­jected $90 bil­lion at the end of this year, he said.

The pri­vately held com­pany’s first choice was to re­main in Char­lotte where it was started, he said.

“North Carolina put their best foot for­ward,” Brun­gardt said. “It just couldn’t match South Carolina.”

RoundPoint plans to re­lo­cate its Char­lotte em­ploy­ees to its new lo­ca­tion, where it ex­pects to add the new jobs over the next 12 to 18 months, Brun­gardt said.

South Carolina of­fi­cials this year an­nounced that the state is pro­vid­ing a $500,000 grant to York County to help with site prepa­ra­tion and build­ing con­struc­tion. In the same press re­lease, the state also said it awarded an un­spe­cific amount of job de­vel­op­ment cred­its to lure RoundPoint.

A spokes­woman for the South Carolina Depart­ment of Com­merce said the cred­its are based on fac­tors in­clud­ing the com­pany’s hourly wage rate.

Once a com­pany be­gins col­lect­ing the cred­its, that fig­ure is not sub­ject to dis­clo­sure due to tax­payer con­fi­den­tial­ity, the spokes­woman said.

For Char­lotte, it’s an­other com­pany to cross the bor­der.

Oth­ers that have also re­lo­cated to South Carolina in re­cent years in­clude Move­ment Mort­gage, LPL Fi­nan­cial and Di­versey, a clean­ing prod­ucts com­pany that was spun off from Bub­ble Wrap maker Sealed Air.

A rendering shows what RoundPoint Mort­gage Ser­vic­ing Corp.’s new head­quar­ters in Fort Mill, S.C., could look like.

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