Saturday, October 1, 2022

Live Oak Bank’s $25M expansion will infuse $1.1B into the state’s economy over 12 years

Live Oak Bank, founded in 2012, will invest $25 million to expand its campus and add another 200 jobs to payroll. (Port City Daily/Amy Passaretti)

WILMINGTON — With $2 million worth of state and local incentives, Live Oak Bank announced Wednesday the Wilmington-based company will be expanding its local campus, with construction to begin later this year.

The reveal is known as “Project Buckeye,” one of four anonymous companies the county and city approved economic development packages for in February.

The entrepreneurial company, founded in 2012, will invest $25 million to build a fourth building on its Tiburon Drive campus to accommodate at least 204 new jobs. Live Oak’s growth has skyrocketed since its inception, increasing from 95 employees to 925 as of today.

“We have a habit when we build a building, we fill it up,” CEO and chair Chip Mahan said to a room of local leaders and Gov. Roy Cooper on Wednesday. 

Live Oak Bank is a digital, cloud-based bank serving small business owners across the nation. It utilizes fintech — shorthand for financial technology — and innovative banking products to help business owners “buy, build and expand.”

Wilmington Business Development director Scott Satterfield said Live Oak’s focus on the fintech industry has pushed Wilmington into the “winner’s circle of this fast-changing industry.”

“Fintech is an awakening giant in the greater Wilmington area,” Satterfield said, “fueled by tech savvy talent, a ready inventory of high-quality corporate real estate, business savvy local leaders and quality of life second to none.”

The company started a decade ago with one building slated to fit 100 employees, added a second one in 2015 to hold 300, and a third in 2019 with a 400-employee capacity. Its latest announcement will add space for 320 more.

The additional creation will push it over the 1,000-hires mark and infuse $20 million worth of payroll into the economy. New positions will include analysts, underwriters, lending staff, technology managers, information security professionals and other personnel and have an average salary of $101,000 — nearly double the average wage in New Hanover County.

“We take numbers very seriously here at Live Oak Bank, so I want to be sure we do what we’re committed to do,” Mahan said, “and substantially exceed.”

The N.C. Job Development Investment Grant awarded Live Oak Bank $1.5 million over the next 12 years. Locally, New Hanover County is chipping in $300,000 and the City of Wilmington approved $200,000 over five years in performance-based incentives, specifically targeted at bringing jobs to the area.

“New jobs are really positioning New Hanover County as the place for businesses to invest and grow and thrive,” county commissioner vice chair Deb Hays said to the crowd. “Live Oak Bank, we are certain, is one of those businesses, embodying the Wilmington entrepreneurial spirit.”

Based on an economic analysis done by his office, Cooper said Live Oak Bank’s investment will bring $1.1 billion in positive economic impact to the state over the next 12 years.

He called the business a “homegrown banking institution” that will likely be a driving influence for other companies to set up locally.

“We know Live Oak started here because they believed in this area and the kind of workforce they could get,” Cooper told media post press conference. “This signals to other companies, you can find highly qualified, talented, educated people right here.”

Mahan told media his company contributes $2 million annually to the local community. His staff sits on 28 nonprofit boards and invests 55 hours each year to service.

Creating additional jobs will guide in a more positive direction staffing problems endured statewide.

“If you ask any industry, the top three issues right now are workforce, workforce, workforce,” Cooper said. “And making sure these companies have access to a talented, well-trained, diverse workforce.”

The governor said continued investment in public education, including what he called the “best” community colleges and public institutions in the country, are key to achieving that success and preparing local talent for the area’s job market.

“We will continue to work to hold up our end of the bargain,” Cooper said.

Live Oak plans to break ground later this year on its expansion and has hired LS3P architects to design the building, along with Monteith Construction and Swinerton to head up the construction.

Also in the works near the Live Oak Bank campus is a 6,500-square-foot “New American” restaurant that has plans to open by next year. Deemed a neighborhood bar, the dining spot would be built at 1610 Tiburon Dr., a 3.29-acre lot between Shipyard and Independence boulevards. According to PCD reporting, Mahan is involved with the venture as well, supporting the development team Covey Property LLC.

Gov. Roy Cooper made the big announcement to a group of local leaders Wednesday at Live Oak Bank’s conference room. (Port City Daily/Amy Passaretti)

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