Sunday, November 18, 2018
Business

New York firm iQor moving its international headquarters to St. Petersburg

ST. PETERSBURG — A New York company with more than 32,000 employees worldwide is moving its international headquarters to downtown St. Petersburg.

More than 100 employees of iQor U.S. are expected to move into three floors at the Tower at One Progress Plaza, 200 Central Ave., in January, the global outsourcing company said Tuesday.

The news is a major score on several levels for economic development efforts: Not only does it retain and create high-wage jobs topping $84,000 on average in St. Petersburg, but it makes the city home to another multinational company, one that boasts more than $1.5 billion in annual revenues with locations in 17 countries.

IQor first made its mark on Tampa Bay earlier this year when it bought the aftermarket repair business of St. Petersburg electronics manufacturer Jabil Circuit for $725 million. But Tuesday's announcement, which comes after months of negotiations and a hefty tax incentive package, ratchets its presence to another level.

"We are thrilled to be moving iQor's corporate headquarters to St. Petersburg and to bring jobs and opportunity to a growing and thriving downtown," Hartmut Liebel, CEO of iQor, said in a statement. "Given the roots of our aftermarket services business in the region, St. Petersburg is a natural fit for iQor. The region's large pool of highly skilled talent, strong business climate and outstanding infrastructure will support iQor's increasing scale and culture of innovation."

Commercial real estate firm Avison Young completed the lease for 37,340 square feet in the Central Avenue tower on behalf of iQor.

Local officials praised the move. Pinellas Commissioner Karen Seel said it shows the county is "rich in talent" to support expanding global industries "at the crossroads of technology and professional client services."

Mayor Rick Kriseman said iQor picked St. Petersburg for its strategic location, airport and overall quality of life. "Great company, high-paying jobs," he said. "(It's) the exact kind of business that we need to attract to downtown near the innovation district."

Rick Homans, CEO of the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corp., said the cross-bay lure of an international headquarters like this doesn't come along very often.

"These are rare animals," he said. "It's a big win. … I'm thrilled to see a global headquarters like this moving into downtown St. Pete. It helps all of our efforts in Tampa Bay to grow jobs."

Founded in 1998, iQor recently received a major business boost from Jabil, one of Tampa Bay's biggest public companies.

In April, iQor closed on the acquisition of Jabil's aftermarket services unit, a business that provides repair work for electronic products that are under warranty. As part of a multiyear partnership, Jabil retained a financial stake in the combined company, called iQor Aftermarket Services.

Last spring, when economic development officials said a then-unidentified "business process outsourcing and product support" firm was considering St. Petersburg for a new international headquarters, the city was in competition with sites in North Carolina, New Jersey, Texas and Georgia.

In picking St. Petersburg, iQor is eligible for a pair of government incentives worth up to $1.275 million, which would be paid after promised high-wage jobs are created:

• Up to $250,0000 in tax refunds from the Qualified Target Industry, or QTI, program, with 80 percent of the cost covered by the state and 10 percent each by Pinellas County and the city of St. Petersburg. The figure is based on $5,000 per job for creating up to 50 jobs paying at least 200 percent of the average annual wage in Florida.

• Up to $1.025 million from the governor's Quick Action Closing Fund, which is based on retaining 60 jobs plus creating 50 jobs at an even higher range than the 200 percent of average wages under the QTI program. A portion of the money is awarded in phases with the state and county allowed to claw back money if goals are not met.

The new jobs are expected to pay an average annual wage of at least $84,892.

In June, the St. Petersburg City Council approved committing $182,500 toward an international corporate relocation project as its share of a state-and-local incentive package worth up to $1.4 million. The unidentified company promised to bring with it 65 new high-wage jobs, along with retaining up to 202 high-wage jobs already in St. Petersburg.

Stacey Swank, business development manager with Pinellas County Economic Development, said companies can be approved for a maximum incentive that can be adjusted downward if they scale back their plans.

Apart from the corporate headquarters decision, iQor in October said it was eliminating 107 primarily manufacturing jobs in the area.

Jabil, which has separately pondered moving its St. Petersburg headquarters downtown, still has strong ties with Tampa Bay's newest corporate citizen. Liebel, iQor's CEO, is a former Jabil executive, as are others in management roles.

Times staff writer Charlie Frago contributed to this report. Contact Jeff Harrington at [email protected]om or (813) 226-3434. Follow @JeffMHarrington.

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