Quest Diagnostics plans to hire 350 at new Tampa hub

Quest Diagnostics on Wednesday pledged to create up to 350 jobs by 2015 at a newly opened national logistics hub in Tampa.

The project — roughly double the number of jobs that state officials initially expected — marks a major coup in an ongoing drive to make the bay area, in particular Hillsborough County, a cluster for higher-paying jobs in life sciences.

Quest, a major provider of medical testing services, is investing $9.3 million in the new Tampa operation.

The company will use the 48,000-square-foot Tampa facility, at 3011 University Center Drive, to monitor both air and ground operations for its transportation fleet 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Using 18 control stations and a 250-square-foot digital display, workers in Tampa will be able to track the shipment of patient specimens from one of Quest's 2,200 patient service centers and other patient locations in the United States to one of its clinical laboratories for testing.

The site will also include a human resources hub to support the Madison, N.J., company's 45,000 employees.

"With this new center, Quest deepens our commitment to physicians, patients and the local community in Tampa and all of Florida," James E. Davis, Quest Diagnostics senior vice president, operations, said in a statement. "This new center will elevate Quest's customer services to the next level of responsiveness and quality."

In Florida, Quest already operates full-service clinical laboratories in Tampa, Miramar and Orlando, along with several dermatological pathology-focused labs and offices, and dozens of patient service centers across the state.

Through its U.S. operations, Quest services about half of the physicians and hospitals nationwide.

The Tampa facility is just one of two national operations centers for the company; the second is in Lenexa, Kan. Both centers were designed to promote fast customer response, Quest officials said.

"Quest Diagnostics is investing in the Tampa Bay region, and that is great news for Florida families," Florida Gov. Rick Scott said. "We've worked hard to create opportunities for those in need of a job."

Quest will receive $675,000 in state and local tax incentives if it creates 175 high-wage jobs. Most of the jobs at the new center will be in logistics, customer service and human resources.

Last year, the Hillsborough County Commission and the Tampa City Council approved a combined local incentive package of $135,000 for a then-unidentified project in tandem with a commitment of $540,000 from the state of Florida through the Qualified Target Industry program.

The incentives, which are to be distributed over six years, are performance-based, meaning funds are paid only after the jobs are created at the promised wages.

The 175 jobs will pay a minimum average wage of $47,581.

Origins of the deal stretch back more than a year to January 2013, when economic development officials were contacted by a consultant examining options for a North American operations center for Quest. Florida was in competition with nine other states.

Four months later, Florida was approached again as a prospective site for the human resources hub, vying with two other states.

"The two projects were going somewhat in parallel with one another," said Rick Homans, president and CEO of the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corp.

Though still considered separate on paper, the projects merged into one tidy announcement for Tampa on Wednesday.

Quest is the latest in a growing roster of life sciences companies that have recently decided to invest or expand in Hillsborough County. Among others: Bristol-Myers Squibb, Covidien HealthPlan Services, Synergy Health, Smart Science Labs, LifeLink, Biologics Development Services and Xcelience.

"Tampa has an impressive roster of life sciences companies, and Quest will add even more to the region," said Gray Swoope, president and CEO of Enterprise Florida.

For more information or to apply, jobs seekers are urged to visit Quest's career website at www.QuestDiagnostics.com/Careers.

Jeff Harrington can be reached at (813) 226-3434 or jharrington@tampabay.com.

Quest Diagnostics plans to hire 350 at new Tampa hub 06/18/14 [Last modified: Wednesday, June 18, 2014 11:04pm]

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