CARY — With an autumnal panorama in the background, MetLife executives and North Carolina leaders slid shovels into the dirt off Lake Crabtree, signifying the beginning of what is being hailed as a mutually beneficial relationship.
In March, New York-based MetLife announced plans to move workers from more than 30 locations in the northeast to a campus in Cary and another one in Charlotte.
The Cary site will be a hub for MetLife’s global technology and operations and will employ about 1,200 people.
On Friday, company and state officials held a groundbreaking ceremony on the flattened dirt at 9000 Weston Parkway. There was an abundance of food, balloons, and smiles.
“There are 3,069 other counties in America that would have loved to do this announcement today,” Joe Bryan, Wake County Commissioners chairman, said after a photo shoot with MetLife CEO Steve Kandarian, Gov. Pat McCrory, Sen. Richard Burr and others.
The state offered MetLife an incentives package worth up to $94 million, and Cary and Wake County each offered packages worth up to $1.9 million to lure the insurance giant.
Cary was one of 11 locations under consideration, Marty Lippert, head of MetLife’s global technology and operations, said after Friday’s ceremony. He did not disclose the other cities, but he said the 40 acres on Lake Crabtree were aesthetically and logistically appealing.
Lippert said the lot size and proximity to a lake will make it easier than other locations to build three state-of-the-art facilities that meet the government’s highest standards for efficiency and environmental friendliness.
“If you were building a house, you’d hope to find a location this nice,” he said.
Highwoods Properties, a Raleigh-based real estate investment trust, is putting about $110 million into the property. MetLife may spend $85 million on the Cary campus by 2017.
The first two seven-story, 213,000-square-foot buildings are expected to open by mid-2015. A third building of similar size is included in future phases.
MetLife has already hired about 200 of the 1,200 workers it plans to house in Cary, “and many of those were local hires,” Lippert said.
Most of the jobs will come with salaries that exceed $90,000.
The site opening will mark the largest single influx of jobs into Cary in recent history.
Howard Johnson, president of the Cary Chamber of Commerce, said landing a company like MetLife, which has 90 million customers, only happens “once in a lifetime.”
Specht: 919-460-2608; Twitter: @AndySpecht