CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Gov. Pat McCrory said Monday he had no role in a deal partly brokered by his former employer that promised MetLife Inc. about $100 million in potential tax breaks and other incentives to move thousands of jobs to North Carolina.
The company announced plans Thursday to move 2,600 jobs from the Northeast and California to Charlotte, which will become the U.S. headquarters for MetLife's retail insurance business, and at a global technology and operations hub in the Raleigh suburb of Cary. The average salary will be around $80,000.
The New York-based insurance company began discussing a move to North Carolina about nine months ago, economic development officials said, while McCrory was still employed by Moore & Van Allen, a Charlotte-based law and lobbying firm. MetLife hired the company to help secure what is one of the largest packages in state history aimed at attracting one company.
McCrory addressed for the first time Monday whether he has any role in the incentives deal. He told WRAL (http://bit.ly/15IrUm5) it was not something he worked on while at Moore & Van Allen.
"Not at all, not at all. I was not aware of it," McCrory said.
McCrory said since taking office in January he left the job of recruiting MetLife to the state Commerce Department and Secretary Sharon Decker.
"So my first direct involvement with the company was a day or two before the announcement when I called the CEO when a basic agreement was agreed upon and we had probably a 15-minute, 10- to-15 minute conversation," McCrory said.
Some Mecklenburg County commissioners have had second thoughts about whether they were duped before approving about $2 million in local tax breaks.
Democratic County Commission Chairwoman Pat Cotham and Republican Commissioner Bill James said in emails last weekend they think MetLife already made its decision before a rapid-fire decision March 5 letting the insurance giant pay just 10 percent of its county property taxes for eight years, The Charlotte Observer reports (http://bit.ly/15IahTt).
Rules for local and state incentives require officials to agree that the jobs won't come without the incentives. The MetLife move was announced Thursday.
"In my opinion, the deal was done when we first learned of it and voted for incentives" last Tuesday, Cotham wrote in an email to commissioners on Saturday. Cotham said she learned that some MetLife executives had already been picking out schools and colleges for their children.
James said he had been thinking the same thing.
"I don't think we were told the whole truth. They were already planning on coming," James said.
Commissioners could vote as early as April 2 on final approval for the incentives. Cotham said despite her doubts, she will vote for the deal.
The state and local governments could provide nearly $100 million in incentives promised to get MetLife to pick North Carolina for its move.
MetLife spokesman John Calagna said without the local and state incentives, the company wouldn't have brought the jobs to North Carolina.
"The company seriously considered both North Carolina and St. Louis, Mo., and as part of that process, looked into everything these communities had to offer its employees, including potential office facilities, housing and schools," he said.