Suzuki Marine USA, a division of Suzuki Motor of America that makes outboard motors, is moving its headquarters to Hillsborough County.
The company has started moving some employees to town and is hiring others to work at its new headquarters at 13521 Prestige Place in Westchase, in northwest Hillsborough County.
“We wanted to move to the heart of the marine business,” said George “Gus” Blakely, a vice president of Suzuki Motor of America and head of its marine sales division. “We really felt that Tampa would offer us all the things we were looking for. It was a great place to attract future workers and just had a lot to offer.”
Blakely said the company considered other cities for the headquarters, including Orlando, St. Augustine and Atlanta. It also looked at locations in downtown Tampa and Pinellas County.
For local economic leaders, the chance to attract a division of a worldwide corporation was a huge win.
“Anytime you get a headquarters with a national name brand — actually a global name brand — it just gives that much more credibility to the Tampa Bay area as a business destination and a headquarters destination,” said Craig Richard, president and CEO of the Tampa Bay Economic Development Corporation. “Because this is a foreign-owned company, and Tampa Bay is a very diverse and internationally diverse community, it lends that much more credibility to Tampa Bay’s international profile.”
The company began scouting locations last summer, Richard said, and was one of the few to make an in-person site visit during the coronavirus pandemic.
One benefit to being on the Gulf Coast, Blakely said, was proximity to Panama City, where the company has a new technical and testing facility. Also factoring in were the nearby presence of Tampa International Airport and a number of Suzuki Marine partners.
“Being based in Tampa, we’re within five hours of 100 of our dealers, going five hours north and five hours south, and probably 25 to 40 boat builders, too,” Blakely said. “There’s just a lot of opportunity that way.”
About 50 employees will work in Suzuki Marine’s Tampa office, from executive management to workers in marketing, sales, service and logistics. Some will relocate from California, but at least a dozen of the company’s job openings are based in Tampa. Blakely expects operations to be in full swing by April.
Blakely said the company was offered incentives to move, but declined them. Richard said those incentives would have included job training and workforce development tools. Ultimately, the city itself is what sold them.
“If you get people on the ground, you have a good chance of landing the deal once they get to see this community,” Richard said.