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Fintech company promises in-person Uptown jobs. Is this the start of a comeback?

Robinhood Markets, Inc. will bring 400 new jobs to Charlotte. It signals a company poised to bring in-person work sometime soon in a city that's been a ghost town.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Robinhood Markets, Inc., a California-based financial services firm, will create nearly 400 jobs in Mecklenburg County, Governor Roy Cooper announced Tuesday.

The company will invest $11.7 million to establish an office in Charlotte focused on customer experience roles.

"With the second-largest financial center in the nation, North Carolina is one of the fastest-growing tech hubs where companies like this know they can flourish," Governor Cooper said. 

Robinhood is a mobile-first investing platform known for commission-free trading with no account minimums, lowering the barriers for millions of investors to participate in the financial markets.

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The Charlotte operations office will hire for analysts, operations personnel, and customer experience and account operations professionals who will assist Robinhood customers with financial advice. The average salary for these new positions exceeds the City of Charlotte’s overall average annual wage.

Founded in 2013, Robinhood offers investing in stocks, options, exchange-traded funds and cash management products through its brokerage, Robinhood Financial, crypto trading through Robinhood Crypto, and a suite of educational resources for first-time investors interested in building long-term, generational wealth.

The announcement comes after a year-plus of Uptown being virtually empty compared to thriving business city that it was before the pandemic.

"We're still in a bit of survive-mode, but we're also looking for thrive," said Charlotte City Council Member Tariq Bokhari, noting Uptown is nowhere near what it was before the pandemic. 

People are getting out more than they did during the middle of the pandemic and countless restrictions, and cars are traveling down the roads. 

It's still not the same. There's no traffic unless there's a COVID vaccine clinic being held in Uptown, and the hustle and bustle of one of the largest banking cities in the world is still muted. 

"It became a ghost town," said Sonny Rodriguez, who works inside the Halal Food Cart, a popular spot to pick up lunch, dinner or late-night food. 

He saw business initially drop during the pandemic, but it's slowly coming back. 

"Business dropped a little bit," he added. 

Bokhari is concerned but optimistic, especially with announcements like the one made by Robinhood. 

"I think our community as a whole just got a shot in the arm. A shot we very much needed," Bokhari said. "Companies are really starting to analyze the path to get back to physical work."

Bokhari said he believes companies will likely use a mix of virtual/remote and in-person work, forever changed by the pandemic that forces businesses to pivot. 

“Charlotte is known for its talented and diverse workforce, making it an easy choice as we looked to expand our operations,” said Alex Mesa, Head of Customer Experience for Robinhood. “We’re confident that Charlotte’s workforce will further contribute to our mission and lower the barriers to investing for all. We’re thrilled to join the Charlotte community.”

Bokhari knows Uptown won't be the same post-pandemic, but he does believe it will come alive again as soon as the fall. 

"Uptown is going to be fine," he said. "I'm more concerned about the inner fabric that makes up our culture in this community." 

"These things that make uptown what is it. Are those things going to survive," Bokhari said. "How many of the things that made us what we are today, make it through all of this? I don't know the answer to that and that's why we have to keep working."

For one of those small businesses, Halal Food Cart, the news of more workers is promising for more customers. 

"400 new customers? Come on down and try our food," Rodriguez said smiling through his mask. 

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Because Robinhood is opening an office in Mecklenburg County, classified by the state’s economic tier system as Tier 3, the company’s JDIG agreement will result in the allocation in as much as $1 million into the state’s Industrial Development Fund – Utility Account. The Utility Account helps rural communities finance necessary infrastructure upgrades to attract future business and new jobs. When new jobs are created in a Tier 3 county such as Mecklenburg, the new tax revenue generated through JDIG grants helps more economically distressed communities elsewhere in the state. More information on the state’s economic tier designations is available here.

“With this announcement by Robinhood, Charlotte further cements itself as a leading city for the ever-growing fintech industry. Our city’s strong concentration of talent creates an ideal pool for companies who are looking for innovative and skilled workers,” said Tracy Dodson, Assistant City Manager and Economic Development Director. “We’re excited for the new career opportunities that Robinhood’s jobs will provide for our community.”