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T. Rowe Price examines move to Land O'Lakes

Investment giant T. Rowe Price has asked state regulators for an environmental permit to build a 95-acre office campus in Land O'Lakes, pushing closer to relocating from Tampa and expanding its regional office.

The Southwest Florida Water Management District and the Baltimore-based company have traded questions over drainage issues on the site east of the Suncoast Parkway off State Road 54. The company's vice president for real estate, Mark Ruhe, filed for the permit Dec. 18.

The proposed relocation would move 435 jobs to Pasco by 2012, and the complex would ultimately employ 1,650 people. It would replace the company's financial services center in Tampa with three 150,000-square foot buildings in Land O'Lakes.

To do the move, the company, state and Pasco County have to agree on a package of grants and other incentives worth $14.5-million. The County Commission has signed off, but state officials have not announced a deal yet.

In its October request for state money, T. Rowe Price indicated it would decide where to move by the end of 2008. The company reported considering four other places — Houston, St. Louis, Tulsa and Omaha — though specifics on their possible offers have not emerged. Out-of-state competition is essentially required to receive state incentives.

"I think where we are heading into 2009 is we're still working on our due diligence," said T. Rowe Price spokesman Brian Lewbart. "We're pleased with the progress to date, but we can't give a specific date when we'll make a final decision."

Asked about any role the financial downturn is playing, he suggested the timeline was being driven more by talks with the state and county, and dealing with the issues at the site.

"From a common sense perspective, would they be proceeding with Swiftmud if they weren't still considering Pasco?" said Michele Baker, chief assistant county administrator.

Mary Jane Stanley, president of the Pasco Economic Development Council, was out of the office this past week and unavailable for comment. However, board chairman Stewart Gibbons, a developer, said the project remained on track this month.

The Swiftmud review will focus on drainage patterns and effects on the area floodplain at the location, which is currently cattle land. The company would disturb a quarter-acre of wetland it says does not support any threatened species. Its engineering proposal said gopher tortoise burrows were found, and the company will follow appropriate laws as construction moves forward.

The agency asked for more details of the plans Monday, but spokesman Michael Molligan said Swiftmud seldom receives applications that don't lead to more questions. The company has 30 days to respond.

David DeCamp can be reached at ddecamp@sptimes.com or (800) 333-7505, ext. 6232.

T. Rowe Price examines move to Land O'Lakes 12/26/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 30, 2008 3:30pm]
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