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 Housing help turns the key to 1,014 new Charlotte jobs

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March Mellow



Join date : 2009-04-26
Posts : 209
Location : Char-Meck

PostSubject: Housing help turns the key to 1,014 new Charlotte jobs   Fri Jun 12, 2009 2:40 pm

Housing help turns the key to 1,014 new Charlotte jobs
Boston-based nonprofit that assists with home financing is expanding into Charlotte.
By Rick Rothacker
rrothacker@charlotteobserver.com
Posted: Friday, Jun. 12, 2009
Big job announcement for Charlotte

Update: NACA is holding a job fair today and Saturday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. both days at its location at 5855 Executive Center Drive. Job seekers can also find information at www.naca.com. Hundreds of job seekers have lined up at the site for today's job fair.

In the unfolding economic crisis, helping borrowers with troubled mortgages has become a growth business, leading to a dose of good news on Thursday for Charlotte's beleaguered financial sector.

At an office park in east Charlotte, Gov. Bev Perdue and other officials gathered to announce an expansion by a nonprofit organization that aims to add 1,014 jobs here over the next five years. Boston-based Neighborhood Assistance Corp. of America, a community advocacy and homeownership organization, plans to hire customer service specialists, mortgage counselors, negotiators and others to help low-income and minority borrowers.

NACA, as the group is known, said it plans to hire 550 of those workers in the next two to four weeks. It will hold a job fair today and Saturday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. both days at its location at 5855 Executive Center Drive. Job seekers can also find information at www.naca.com.

The bolt of new jobs comes as Charlotte wrestles with layoffs at Wachovia, Bank of America and other financial firms. The metro area had 55,200 finance and insurance jobs in April, down 100 from March and 3,900 from December, according to preliminary data from the U.S. Labor Department.

NACA plans to invest $4 million in Charlotte as part of the expansion, although NACA chief executive Bruce Marks said the total is really much higher when the salaries that will be paid in coming years are tallied. The jobs will have an average annual salary of $35,982, but some will pay as high as $80,000, he said.

The nonprofit is receiving a $1 million grant from the One North Carolina Fund, which provides financial assistance though local governments to create new jobs. The companies receive no money up front and must meet job creation requirements, the governor's office said. NACA could also be in line to receive job training assistance from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Workforce Development Consortium, said Justin Hunt, the Charlotte Chamber's vice president of economic and European development.

Marks said the incentives, which came after wooing by the governor, the chamber and other officials, sealed the expansion in Charlotte. Other locations also were interested in the new jobs, he said.

NACA has two main thrusts: helping borrowers get affordable home loans and, increasingly, helping people who can't afford loans they received from other lenders. The group is holding “Save the Dream” events around the country where counselors aim to provide same-day loan modifications, reducing interest rates to as low as 2 percent and in some cases trimming the principal owed.

The next event is July 10-14 in Atlanta. Some of the new hires at the Charlotte office will be part of the team that travels from city to city running these gatherings, which can draw 25,000 or more homeowners, Marks said. In three earlier stops, NACA has helped 30,000 homeowners, and Marks said he expects to aid hundreds of thousands more in the coming tour. As part of the expansion in Charlotte, Marks has agreed to hold an event in North Carolina at a yet to be determined time.

NACA has reached agreements with major mortgage servicers allowing them to make these immediate modifications, said Marks, wearing his trademark black shirt emblazoned with the slogan: “Financial Predators Beware!”

“We are doing a mobile servicing operation,” he said. “We're doing their job for them.”

Marks said he hopes his organization will set an example for how to modify loans and eventually not be needed for the task. But if the foreclosure crisis subsides, he expects to still have plenty of work helping home buyers with home-purchase loans that feature no down payments and below market interest rates. Those loans have carried low foreclosure rates, now around 0.68 percent, because borrowers are counseled about the loans and helped if they get into trouble, Marks said.

For years, Marks has cultivated a reputation as a “bank terrorist” known for holding protests against banks – and bank CEOs – that the group deems to have poor lending records in minority and poor communities. The fear of his wrath has led many lenders to collaborate rather than fight.

Retired Bank of America chief executive Hugh McColl Jr. was the first major banker to team up with Marks after a famously rocky meeting in 1995. Marks told McColl that all bankers were evil. McColl retorted that nonprofits just want a handout. But the two came to an understanding, and Bank of America continues to be a major partner with the organization, agreeing in 2004 to commit $6 billion to NACA's lending program.

McColl was on hand for the announcement Thursday, and Perdue praised the retired banker for his role in landing NACA's expansion in Charlotte. In an interview, the self-deprecating McColl said he was on the “periphery” of the deal, while praising Marks' plans for Charlotte.

“The jobs are important but what the jobs do are equally important,” McColl said. “They help people own homes in the United States.”

McColl declined to comment on recent events at Bank of America, including CEO Ken Lewis' Capitol Hill appearance Thursday, saying he has been retired from the bank since 2001.

NACA for years has had an office in Charlotte, but it has recently added more space for counselors and other workers. With the latest expansion, it plans to use four floors in the Executive Center Drive building where it held Thursday's news conference. New cubicles are already under way.

At the end of the announcement, Marks had three homeowners say how much their rates have dropped with NACA's help. In the case of Charlotte homeowner Linda Moten, her rate got chopped to 4.5 percent from 9.5 percent and her payment is now about $1,200 per month, down from about $2,200 per month.

“That's a blessing in a heartbeat,” said Moten, who now volunteers for the group.
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