Saturday, May 26, 2018
Business

Time Warner closing services center in Tampa

Time Warner Inc. is closing its shared services center in Tampa, an operation unveiled in 2011 with promises of swelling into a 500-employee national hub.

That surge, fueled by pledges of state and local incentives, never happened. Instead the facility grew to fewer than 100 employees, before Time Warner told workers of its plan to pull out.

The New York-based media conglomerate said the closing is prompted in part by its spinoff of Time Inc., which greatly reduced its growth projections and need for a large, one-stop human resources and payroll shop for all of Time Warner.

"The decision to discontinue our operations in Tampa and Hillsborough County was a difficult one and does not reflect in any way the exceptional talent base in the area," Time Warner said in a statement responding to media inquiries.

"We have greatly appreciated the openness and support of the local leadership. We are always open to growth opportunities in Florida should our business needs change again."

The timing for the closing was unclear.

In September 2011 — when Tampa Bay was mired in double-digit unemployment and deeply in need of economic rejuvenation — Time Warner's announcement of an expansion here was touted as a major coup. Gov. Rick Scott joined Time Warner's chief financial officer at a Tallahassee news conference, outlining the plan to create 500 jobs in Hillsborough County over five years with average salaries of $57,200.

Time Warner, which looked at 59 cities before selecting Tampa, pledged to spend $5 million on new facilities and support the local economy with an annual payroll of at least $25 million.

For their part, economic development officials lined up about $3 million in state and local tax incentives, funds contingent on Time Warner creating the promised jobs. No funds have been paid out yet.

Rick Homans, head of the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corp., said his biggest concern rests with those losing their jobs. But given their skill set, he was confident of helping them find work.

The silver lining, he said, is that this is but one jobs project among many that have recently surfaced in Hillsborough.

"Our needle continues to move and point in the right direction," he said. "We can work through this."

The center, which opened its doors in 2012, is in Tampa Bay Park just north of Raymond James Stadium. Time Warner officials indicated the company would have a negligible presence in Tampa Bay after the center closes, even as they held out hope of future growth here.

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