Swedish appliance maker Electrolux said Wednesday it will move its North American headquarters to Charlotte, bringing 738 jobs in what the Charlotte Chamber says is the city's largest headquarters announcement in 25 years.
"This is a big day," Gov. Bev Perdue said. "This is a big company."
The average headquarters wage is expected to be $94,264, said Deborah Barnes, a spokeswoman for the N.C. Commerce Department. Salaries for top executives skew the average to the high side.
The company also considered moving to South Carolina's Lancaster, Atlanta, Dallas and Jacksonville, according to documents filed with the state, Barnes said.
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Kevin Scott, chief executive of the company's North American unit, said the decision to move the headquarters from Augusta, Ga., was difficult. However, he said, "I am convinced we have made a fantastic choice."
It was unclear how many new jobs would be created locally versus how many would be filled by employees moving from other sites. The job total is expected to be achieved within five years.
Scott said the first wave of workers would arrive next summer as the company consolidates operations from seven sites, including sales and finance for major appliances in Huntersville.
A design center in Anderson also is among the operations moving to Charlotte.
Others are in Cleveland, Columbus, Pittsburgh and Springfield, Tenn. Other undisclosed office operations will move to Charlotte as needed.
The jobs will be in general management, including finance, marketing, sales and logistics, not manufacturing. Electrolux has about 650 N.C. workers now, most of them at a dishwasher making plant in Kinston.
Scott said he was impressed with the Charlotte area's transportation network and the professionalism of economic development efforts by the city, county and state. He also said he was impressed by the quality of the local work force.
"We are planning to utilize some of the talent," he said when asked to be specific about the number of people to be hired locally.
Scott noted the $5 billion in revenue for the North American unit represents about one-third of total sales for the Stockholm-based company. He drew laughter from the audience when he challenged US Airways to start daily direct flights between Charlotte and Stockholm.
Electrolux is buying the former University area headquarters of First Charter Corp., the Charlotte-based bank that was bought in 2008 by Cincinnati-based Fifth Third Bancorp. First Charter moved into the $40 million University Research Park complex in 2001 but announced in 2006 that it was looking to sell the building because it was too big.
Perdue said Electrolux plans to invest $8.3 million in its new headquarters.
State incentives for the relocation include up to $1.2 million from the One North Carolina Fund, which requires a local match. City and county officials have to vote on the local grant dollars, which are tied to the company's property taxes.
Electrolux also is in line for additional incentives worth nearly $25 million if it meets job and wage creation targets and sustains them for 12 years.
Talks with Electrolux began in 2006, were shelved and then resumed this year, said Justin Hunt, an economic development vice president with the Chamber.
Scott said the company's setup was "not the most efficient."
"It's never a good time to move, to have hundreds of people you're displacing, but at some point, as we want to grow globally and share global strengths in more effective ways, we had to come together under one roof," he said.
Scott called the incentives "an enormous factor" in the decision.
"You look at the economy, and you think about the costs we'll incur to make this move," he said. "For us that incentive really goes a long way to help offset some of those one-time expenses."
The Electrolux announcement comes as Charlotte struggles to recover from the recession and devastation of the financial sector, which has drained income from the city and helped spike area unemployment to 12 percent.