Snagging highly coveted Time Warner in September 2011 to expand in Tampa with 500 jobs averaging more than $57,000 promised to be a blockbuster boost for the area's economy and image.
Now, after more than a year of working out of the spotlight, John Bauer wants to start delivering on that promise.
The top executive running Tampa's new Time Warner Business Services LLC, Bauer says the company is on track to honor the original deal, ramping up to 500 employees by 2016.
"Tampa was my favorite among the cities we considered," says Bauer, 53, who has become a quick fan of the area. "It's an amazing community."
After searching for office space from Temple Terrace to Tampa's Rocky Point, Time Warner set up shop in Highwoods Properties' Lakepointe Two building, part of Tampa Bay Park just north of Raymond James Stadium.
Time Warner wanted a central location to attract workers from the entire metro area. So far, 73 employees — all but three are local hires — work on Time Warner's second-floor office.
What Bauer is building here is a one-stop human resources and payroll shop for all of Time Warner. The company's many divisions previously handled their own HR and payroll needs on different systems.
Now tech specialists from consulting firm Accenture are camped out at Time Warner readying a cutting-edge, cloud-based HR system called Workday.
At Time Warner headquarters in New York, spokesman Keith Cocozza says the idea to consolidate all HR and payroll support services in Tampa means company divisions can now focus on what they do best: "create great entertainment content."
Time Warner not only ranks 142nd on the Fortune 500 list of largest U.S. companies with about $20 billion in annual revenues and 33,000 employees, but the company is also awash in high-profile household names.
Its Warner Bros. movie studios are behind hits like The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and Argo. CNN is a huge cable news provider. HBO produces the popular Game of Thrones, The Wire, Boardwalk Empire and many other premium cable TV series. And Time Inc. publishes more than 100 magazines beyond such icons as Time, Fortune and Sports Illustrated.
Tampa snagged Time Warner's expansion project last year over tough competition from places like Charlotte, N.C.; Rochester, N.Y.; and, finally, Atlanta, where Time Warner's Turner Broadcasting division already is a fixture.
Atlanta lost. Tampa won.
"It was a shot across the bow," bragged Florida Secretary of Commerce Gray Swoope, the state's front man for job creation. And Florida Gov. Rick Scott wished for "1,400 more" recruitments just like Time Warner to reach his goal of creating 700,000 jobs.
A package of $3 million in state and local tax incentives helped the company pick Tampa. Included are $1.2 million from the state's qualified target industry program, $900,000 from the state's Quick Action Closing Fund, $500,000 in state workforce training funds and $450,000 from Tampa and Hillsborough County.
Bauer worked for 13 years at Warner Bros. in Burbank, Calif., before heading last December to Tampa. Before that, he worked for the New York Times Co. setting up HR support services in Norfolk, Va. Earlier for Macy's, he ran service centers in Arizona, and opened stores in New Orleans and at the Mall of America in Minnesota.
Bauer says he's pleased with the ease of finding and hiring people here with specialized big-company HR and payroll experience. And he applauds the area's openness and "Midwestern feel." When Time Warner decided on Tampa for its new HR operation, Bauer says he called Mayor Bob Buckhorn's office and was put right through for a chat.
Last week, economic development executives at the Tampa/Hillsborough EDC invited Bauer to their leadership meeting and publicly saluted Time Warner's presence.
After so much time spent in sprawling Los Angeles, Bauer's not accustomed to such access and inclusion.
And while Bauer travels often to work with corporate divisions to ease the transition to one companywide HR system, the Time Warner vice president says more managers are starting to visit here. Especially this time of year.
Says Bauer: "We're certainly putting Tampa on the map from a Time Warner perspective."
Robert Trigaux can be reached at [email protected]