The first three quarters of 2016 showed more mixed signals for Mecklenburg County’s private sector. During the first nine months of 2016, 755 businesses invested $760 million to create 6,517 new jobs and expand or improve 7.5 million square feet of real estate. That’s up slightly from the same period in 2015. Meantime, in the third quarter of 2016, hiring slowed to 1,577 jobs, compared with 3,011 jobs in the third quarter of 2015. Capital investments dropped to $230.2 million during the third quarter 2016 from $267.5 million in the same period of 2015, according to a report from the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce.
Despite the decline in hiring, two large announcements signal strength in some of the area’s key target industries. Logistics carrier Red Classic, a subsidiary of Coca-Cola Bottling Consolidated, announced plans to expand its warehouse facility in southwestern Mecklenburg County by 10,000 square feet, adding 300 jobs.
Payments and financial consulting firm Vizant announced it will add 325 people to its Charlotte workforce over the next two years, growing from 75 to 400 employees. The company has also leased 20,000 square feet of office space in Ballantyne. The announcement provides another boost for Charlotte’s burgeoning Financial Technology, or “FinTech,” industry. Mecklenburg County is home to at least 70 established FinTech companies as well as several new startups. A combination of existing tech talent, access to financial institutions and lower cost of doing business can be attributed to FinTech’s rise in Charlotte. In fact, Charlotte was ranked the least expensive market for technology startups in a study by commercial real estate firm CBRE, featured in Bloomberg Technology.
Other expansions show confidence in the local construction industry. Commercial construction firm Batson Cook expanded its South End Office, adding 30 jobs. Architecture firm aiDesign added 20 jobs and expanded its uptown Charlotte offices as well. Traditional economic indicators remained strong. Unemployment stayed at pre-recession lows – 4.7 percent as of August. Home sales are up 4.1 percent over the first nine months of 2015, and third quarter 2016 retail sales were up nearly $300 million compared to 2015.