Six years after a high-profile opening that triggered millions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies for creating hundreds of jobs, the massive Coca-Cola accounting center in Brandon is considering outsourcing jobs to India.
The complex on Lake Kathy Drive east of Interstate 75 employs about 1,100 in fields such as accounting, payroll and check processing. As part of an efficiency push this month, Coke invited in two "business process outsourcing" companies to study offshoring an undisclosed number of jobs.
A decision on the types and number of jobs that could go away awaits a final report in June or July, said Norman Ross, a Coke spokesman based in South Florida. Outsourcing could also affect Coke's back-office operations in Dallas and Toronto, as well as those in Paris, Brussels and outside London.
"It could be potential outsourcing, consolidation or reorganization. But it's premature to say what we're going to do," Ross told the Times on Tuesday.
The Brandon operation, called a "shared service center," was touted as the latest in corporate streamlining when it opened in February 2002, consolidating much of Coke's North American accounting under one roof. Business recruiters often single it out as one of the region's top success stories.
"We are proud this icon of a company has established such a strong presence in Florida," then-Gov. Jeb Bush said as the center opened. The state and localities agreed to award Coke $3,000 in tax credits for each of the 570 jobs the center pledged to create initially.
Coke surpassed its quota of jobs, and was promised another $600,000 in tax credits to cover an additional 200 hires. As of this month, the company has collected about $1.7-million of $2.3-million in promised incentives.
Gene Gray, who helped arrange the deals as director of Hillsborough County's economic development department, said a company is required to retain the jobs only for the four- to six-year life of the incentives contract.
"What is realistic and fair to ask of companies in exchange for the incentive program?" Gray asked. "It's certainly not a science. You have to balance the benefits of the jobs and the risk they could go away."
The Coke spokesman declined to speculate about jobs going to India. But the two outsourcing companies that visited Brandon, Genpact and Capgemini, have strong ties to the South Asian nation. India's educated work force and low labor costs make it a favorite of corporations seeking to offshore back-office functions.
Regardless of the decision, Ross said, Coke is "committed to transparent and open dialogue" with its employees.
"We're meeting with employees to find better ways to service our customers," he said.