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Incentives lure Time Warner to create 500 jobs in new Tampa-area center

Time Warner has pledged to create 500 jobs in Hillsborough County over the next five years, promising average salaries of $57,200.

The company's new shared resource center should open in late 2012, starting with about 100 employees mostly in human resources and information technology. An additional 150 jobs will be created by the end of 2014, another 125 in 2015 and the last 125 in 2016.

The company, which has 50 employees in Tampa now, plans to spend $5 million on new facilities. The center is projected to have an annual payroll of at least $25 million.

"We only need 1,400 of these announcements," Gov. Rick Scott joked as he joined Time Warner chief financial officer John Martin on Tuesday at a Tallahassee news conference to announce the incentive-sweetened deal. Scott campaigned last year on a promise to create 700,000 jobs within seven years.

About $3 million in state and local tax incentives were a big part of the company's decision to move to Hillsborough, Martin said. The incentive package includes $1.2 million from the state's qualified target industry program, $900,000 from the state's Quick Action Closing Fund, $500,00 in state workforce training funds and $450,000 approved on Sept. 8 by elected Tampa and Hillsborough County officials.

"The exciting thing is the county and the two cities worked collaboratively to pass the incentive awards even though the (exact) location has not been finalized," said Keith Norden, president and chief executive officer of the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corp.

Norden, contacted while on a trade mission with Enterprise Florida in London, said there are few corporate relocations these days that include 500 or more jobs. Also encouraging, Tampa Bay beat out Atlanta, the runner-up location where Time Warner already has a sizable presence with Turner Broadcasting.

"And that's hard competition," Norden said.

Atlanta ranked third in the Tampa Bay Partnership's latest "scorecard" comparing economic competitiveness among six metros in the Southeast. Tampa Bay ranked fifth.

County Commission Chairman Al Higginbotham, who attended the news conference in Tallahassee, said afterward that the company is looking at potential sites in Tampa, Temple Terrace and unincorporated Hillsborough County.

"My attitude is it doesn't matter where they land, we just want them here," he said.

The company has told local officials that it expects to sign a lease by mid December and begin substantial operations by July 1, 2012.

Under terms of the local incentive package, if Time Warner picks a site inside Tampa city limits, the city would pay between $225,000 to $345,000, depending on whether it went to one of Tampa's seven community redevelopment areas. If Time Warner were to locate in an unincorporated area, Hillsborough County would pay the local incentives. Incentives will be paid between 2015 and 2023, and only after the promised jobs are created, officials say.

Temple Terrace officials likewise have committed to providing $225,000 in incentives if Time Warner moves there. "We're very excited about it because it could be a tremendous boon not only to Temple Terrace but this whole area," Mayor Joe Affronti Sr. said.

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn described the deal as "quality investment" considering the property taxes and sales taxes the new employees will pay. "I think it's worth every penny," he said.

The higher-than-average paycheck is a boost to the bay area, which suffers from an unemployment rate of 11 percent. Along with the rest of Florida, this region has lost a higher number of high-paying jobs (such as construction, manufacturing and finance) while gaining lower-paying jobs (tourism, service and home health care) as it maneuvers through the recession.

At full capacity, its operations could require 100,000 square feet of space and would house human resources, payroll, finance, accounting and information technology employees.

The shared resource center will reduce jobs that have repeated functions throughout the company. About 50 or so current Time Warner employees will move to the Hillsborough County center, which is not included in the company's commitment of 500 new jobs in five years, Scott spokesman Lane Wright said.

Time Warner, had looked at 59 cities before narrowing its search to Hillsborough County and Atlanta. In addition to Atlanta, the Tampa area beat out Rochester, N.Y., Phoenix, Nashville and Charlotte, N.C., to name a few, Martin said. Most of the tax incentives offered in those cities were comparable to Florida's, he said.

The state's labor force, which is moderately cheaper than Atlanta's, was probably the biggest reason Florida won out, Martin said.

Incentives lure Time Warner to create 500 jobs in new Tampa-area center 09/20/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, September 20, 2011 10:31pm]

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