Centene backs out of Charlotte HQ move, city loses thousands of promised jobs, left with massive property with no tenant

The massive public-private partnership would have brought 3,200 jobs and $1 billion in investments, City of Charlotte sources said.
Centene has confirmed that the healthcare company is no longer moving its headquarters to Charlotte.
Published: Aug. 18, 2022 at 8:09 PM EDT

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Centene has confirmed that the healthcare company is no longer moving its headquarters to Charlotte, even after construction of the massive complex in University City is completed.

City of Charlotte sources tell WBTV that the massive public-private partnership that would have brought 3,200 jobs and $1 billion in investment is off.

A statement from Centene indicates the main reason for the change in plans is because of the remote work environment.

“Since announcing our plans to establish an East Coast headquarters in Charlotte, North Carolina, there has been a fundamental shift in the way people want to work. Today, almost 90% of our workforce is working fully remote or in a hybrid work environment, and workplace flexibility is essential to attracting and retaining our top talent.”

Construction is still ongoing at the now former Centene Headquarters location in University City, and WBTV sources say that the company will complete that process. What the future of that property will be and whether it’s seen as an attraction by other corporations to come to Charlotte remains an unknown.

Tax incentives and grants that were directed at wooing the healthcare giant to Charlotte will now be clawed back. Charlotte City Council approved $31.6 million in grants that have never been paid, and Mecklenburg County Commissioners provided another $26 million that will no longer be available to Centene.

Centene says it will still keep a presence in North Carolina. There are currently 1,700 employees in the state and another 200 positions open in Charlotte.

“I was surprised to learn the news about Centene,” County Commissioner and Chair of Economic Development Committee Susan Rodriguez-McDowell said. “The fact that such a record-setting incentives package can be left on the table is fascinating. I am disappointed that a huge financial investment in the community has been lost, however, I feel optimistic that there will be another opportunity around the corner.”

“This is a smart and courageous decision, made by a leading organization. Many other organizations can learn from their flexibility and innovation,” Councilmember Renee Johnson, whose district includes the project, said.

This is only the latest in a string of public-private partnerships in Charlotte and Mecklenburg County that have fallen apart.

Earlier this month, Robinhood announced it was closing its Charlotte office after originally planning to create 389 jobs locally.

WBTV news partner Axios reported last week that British vehicle maker Arrival was laying off 35 employees in Charlotte.

Tepper Sports & Entertainment pulled out of the project to build the Charlotte FC headquarters and practice fields at Eastland. Instead, the local sports empire says it’s building a facility with only private investment near McAlpine Park off Old Monroe Rd.

Statement from the City of Charlotte:

“While we are disappointed that Centene will not be opening their East Coast headquarters, Centene has committed to complete the facility and listing it, which creates an opportunity for another organization to use an incredible site and we plan to work with their development team to market the property. Centene will maintain a significant presence in Charlotte, including 700 employees and its space at Camp North End near Uptown Charlotte.”

Centene Statement:

“Since announcing our plans to establish an East Coast headquarters in Charlotte, North Carolina, there has been a fundamental shift in the way people want to work. Today, almost 90% of our workforce is working fully remote or in a hybrid work environment, and workplace flexibility is essential to attracting and retaining our top talent. As a result of this shift, we have decided not to open an East Coast Headquarters in Charlotte, and many of our 1,700 employees across the state will work remotely or in a hybrid working model that suits their personal needs.”

“North Carolina is an important state for Centene, and we remain committed to our local health plans, WellCare of North Carolina and Carolina Complete Health, which serve 642,000 members throughout the state. These decisions will not impact the quality, comprehensive healthcare we provide to our members or the long-standing partnerships we have with the state, our providers, and our community partners. We appreciate the support and partnership provided by our city and state government partners as our operations continue to evolve and grow.”

The news was first reported by the Charlotte Business Journal.

Related: Major healthcare company bringing thousands of jobs to Charlotte