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Venture

Robert Trigaux

Is RadioShack unidentified Fortune 500 firm eyeing Tampa for headquarters relocation?

13

November

RadioshackhqAP Wake up and good morning. Is RadioShack Corp. really the Fortune 500 company that's allegedly in relocation play and looking at Tampa? Word is it may be a competition among Tampa, Charlotte, N.C., Nashville, Tenn., and Albuquerque, N.M. (AP photo: RadioShack headquarters in Fort Worth, Texas.)

Buzz about a potentially big corporate relocation — we're talking a 1,700-employee headquarters move here, folks, not some division or back-office operation — began a few weeks ago.

As these Corporate Kabuki Theater events unfold, an "unidentified" company comes calling to a metro area, in this case Tampa Bay, where economic development groups and commercial real estate experts pitch the visitors on the merits of the area, the available real estate options, the relative costs of being here versus some other metro area, the quality of life offerings and ... of course ... what economic incentive package the state-county-city might be able to toss their way.

Tampa's economic development chiefs assign the "unidentified" company a project name and then everybody waits. And waits. To see if Tampa Bay makes the cut for another round of more serious negotiations.

Perspective: Fortune 500 headquarter relocations are quite rare and extremely so when it comes to a company moving into Florida. The only one I can recall in recent years is the 2003 decision by Fidelity National Financial to relocate from Santa Barbara, Calif., to Jacksonville, citing lower costs and more expansion potential. 

Here's a peek at RadioShack:

It's got 35,000 employees, about 4,470 company-operated stores, 1,300 dealer outlets, nearly 450 wireless phone kiosks throughout the U.S. and a footprint of approximately 2,500 square feet in an average store. A majority of its stores are located in strip shopping centers in suburban markets that exceed 500,000 people and it has about 200 company-operated stores in Mexico.

Here in Tampa Bay, tight-lipped county and economic development folks are not talking, but we do know this much. The project name is apparently Project Prince and the Tampa Bay Business Journal did float the name of RadioShack in its print edition last week. It buried the story inside the paper, perhaps as a wise acknowledgment that, while publishing the RadioShack name, there was no confirmation beyond commercial real estate street chatter.

Now the media momentum begins. The Dallas Morning NewsRadioShack is based (for now) in Fort Worth, Texas — published this story today, for the first time raising a cowboy alarm that one of their own companies may be movin' on. The story explains RadioShack needs to find a new headquarters because its five-building, 900,000-square-foot campus along the Trinity River in downtown Fort Worth was sold to Tarrant County College in 2008, and RadioShack was given a rent-free lease until 2011. Says the Morning News:

"Now that RadioShack is beginning an active search, there are published reports of the company's possible interest in Tampa, Fla., Charlotte, N.C., Nashville, Tenn., and Albuquerque, N.M.

Florida's Tampa Bay Business Journal reported that developers there pitched proposals in late October to an unidentified Fortune 500 company looking for as much as 350,000 square feet for a corporate headquarters. It said the city's commercial real estate sector was abuzz with speculation identifying the company as RadioShack."

Of course, RadioShack says it does not comment on rumors or speculation. The consumer electronics chain has two years left on its lease, with an option to extend through June 2013.

What if RadioShack actually leaves Forth Worth? "It would be a big blow for the Dallas-Fort Worth area, which touts its success in attracting corporate relocations. And Texas regularly places at the top of rankings for friendliest business climates," the Morning News states.

In this NBC Dallas-Fort Worth affiliate TV report, Daniel Short, a professor at Texas Christian University's Neeley School of Business, says the rumor of a RadioShack relocation started in Tampa Bay (meaning the TBBJ story) but called it "plausible." He added companies typically begin to explore their options about 18 months out, and said that local Texas chambers of commerce predictably are doing all they can to ensure RadioShack stays in the area. (The TV report offers good views of RadioShack's headquarters.)

If this entire scenario is true, well — good luck, Tampa Bay. This is a regional economy that could truly use an injection of good business news of such magnitude. It would be a remarkable feather in the cap of the entire region. RadioShack generates just under $1 billion in quarterly revenues lately and boasts a market value of about $2.4 billion.

-- Robert Trigaux, Times Business Columnist

[Last modified: Tuesday, June 1, 2010 12:26pm]

    

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