Nielsen gives up incentives from Oldsmar, county

OLDSMAR — The Nielsen Co. notified Oldsmar and Pinellas County officials this week that it will forgo up to $3.1-million in future Oldsmar and county incentives for creating high-wage jobs.

After several meetings with Oldsmar's mayor and other officials, Nielsen opted to end its participation in the county's Job Creation Incentive program and won't file another claim.

The company has already received $3.1-million in incentives and is scheduled to receive an additional $463,372 for 2007.

"We believe it has become a distraction for our employees, an unnecessary source of conflict with the city and an impediment to our ability to manage our business and workforce globally," Nielsen spokesman Gary Holmes wrote in an e-mail Friday.

If the number of new jobs claimed at Nielsen's Oldsmar location were to continue at the 2007 level, the company could have claimed up to $3.1-million more in incentive grants over the next 11 years.

The incentives created friction earlier this year among Oldsmar officials. They voiced concerns that Nielsen could be receiving government money for creating jobs filled with contractors from India-based Tata Consultancy Services.

Tuesday, Mayor Jim Ronecker had said he was close to an agreement with Nielsen regarding the incentives.

He said he was pleased with Nielsen's willingness to talk to city officials.

"I look forward to a new beginning with the new management," Ronecker said Friday.

His hope is that as Nielsen consolidates its global workload, it will bring more jobs to Oldsmar — whether they are filled by contractors or not. "At the end of the day, in a couple of short years, we're going to have a lot more workers than we could ever have envisioned in Oldsmar," he said.

Other Oldsmar council members were less optimistic about Nielsen's reasons for forgoing incentives.

"You have to ask yourself why they are doing it," said council member Greg Rublee, who teaches global issues at the University of Tampa.

He said the motivation is probably rooted in the company's long-term financial outlook.

"Bad publicity equals loss in profitability," he said, especially if the company is only interested in streamlining costs to make it more attractive for a potential buyer.

"They are going to flip it, just like somebody flips their home," Rublee predicted. "This is a way of cutting the strings so nobody can be peeking over their shoulders and questioning their practices."

Nielsen's Holmes said Friday that the government incentives have "become an impediment to our ability to manage our contractors and our employees on a global basis.

"We figured it would be better to just terminate (the incentives) so we could proceed without having to discuss and explain every time we wanted to reallocate our resources with TCS."

And the media coverage, Holmes said, had brought comments from the public that distracted employees.

Does the relinquishing of incentives portend more layoffs?

"We continue to evaluate the best way to get the work done and maximize our resources," said Holmes. "When we have something to announce, we will make it known publicly."

In the meantime, Holmes said Nielsen will be working to increase its profile in the Oldsmar community "in a way that establishes us as good neighbors."

Incentives given to Nielsen so far has been money well spent, Mike Meidel, director of the county's economic development department, said Friday.

"It kept Nielsen's operation in Pinellas County and encouraged over $100-million in new capital investment and supported the creation of 342 jobs with wages above 150 percent of the local average," he said.

The company needs the flexibility to make changes, Meidel said, if it is to survive and employ anyone.

Theresa Blackwell can be reached at tblackwell@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4170.

Fast fact

$3.1-million

Incentives Nielsen Co. is forgoing through the next 11 years.

Nielsen gives up incentives from Oldsmar, county 06/20/08 [Last modified: Monday, June 23, 2008 11:10am]

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