Centene pulls out of Charlotte HQ move, city loses thousands of promised jobs, left with massive tenantless property

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) – Centene has confirmed that the health care company will no longer be moving its headquarters to Charlotte, even after construction of the massive complex in University City is complete.

Charlotte city sources told WBTV that the massive public-private partnership that would have generated 3,200 jobs and $1 billion in investment is off.

A statement from Centene indicates that the main reason for the change in plans is due to the remote work environment.

“Since we announced 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, nearly 90% of our workforce works fully remotely or in a hybrid work environment, and workplace flexibility is essential to attracting and retaining our best talent.”

Construction is still underway on Centene’s now-former headquarters in University City, and WBTV’s sources say the company will complete that process. What the future of that property will be and whether other corporations see it as an attraction to come to Charlotte remains unknown.

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

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

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

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

This is just the latest in a series 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 carmaker Arrival was laying off 35 employees in Charlotte.

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

Statement from the City of Charlotte:

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

Centene Statement:

“Since we announced 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, nearly 90% of our workforce works fully remotely or in a hybrid work environment, and workplace flexibility is essential to attracting and retaining our best talent. As a result of this change, we have decided not to open an East Coast location in Charlotte, and many of our 1,700 employees statewide will be working remotely or in a hybrid work 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, serving 642,000 members statewide. These decisions will not affect the quality, comprehensive health care 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 health care company creating thousands of jobs in Charlotte

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