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Ashley Global Retail shows off e-commerce facility in Ybor City

Florida Gov. Rick Scott speaks to a capacity crowd during Tuesday's ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Ashley Global Retail and e-Commerce Offices on Eighth Avenue in Tampa's Ybor City. [JAMES BORCHUCK | Times]
Published Feb. 24, 2016

YBOR CITY

Two movie theaters. An outdoor patio with couches and lounge chairs. A big cafe with flat-screen TVs and exposed brick walls.

Those are some of the features of Ashley Global Retail's three-story, 78,000-square-foot "first class millennial office" space in Ybor City.

Gov. Rick Scott, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik were among the hundreds of people who gathered at Centro Ybor on Tuesday to celebrate the grand opening of the furniture retailer's new e-commerce center and corporate offices.

The office currently employs 200 people, nearly all new jobs for the expanding firm that owns and operates Ashley Furniture Homestores across the country, said Mark Dufresne, CEO of Ashley Global Retail. The retailer expects to hire up to 150 more workers as it continues to expand in Tampa, Dufresne added.

"Ashley sees the potential of this great city," said Vinik, who, through a partnership with Cascade Investment, the capital fund created by Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates, is investing $2 billion to transform downtown Tampa. "Tampa will boom in the next five, 10, 20 years. Ashley sees it. More people will continue to come here because of it for decades to come."

Ashcomm LLC, as the company is registered for business in Florida, will receive $320,000 over the next four years in state and local incentives for adding 40 new jobs with an average annual salary of $49,000, according to documents filed with the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. That includes $64,000 from Tampa Bay area incentive programs.

"Florida is not an easy state to develop in elsewhere outside of Tampa," said Ron Wanek, founder of Ashley Furniture. "We're so thankful to be here in Tampa for that reason."

In addition to housing e-commerce workers and corporate team members, the facility will become a nationwide training center for other employees. The Ashley space took over half of the Muvico Centro Ybor 20, which now has 10 theaters. Two of the original theaters remain inside the renovated Ashley space, which will be used for presentations, training sessions and the occasional movie on a Friday night.

Executives billed the new center as a state-of-the-art office building meant for attracting and retaining millennial workers. Ybor City provides a "live-play-work" atmosphere in a historic part of Tampa Bay, said Ken Jones, CEO of Third Lake Capital, a private investment firm created by the Ashley Furniture family.

"We're the only company with a private movie theater," Jones said. "And Ybor City is now where our brain trust is."

Contact Justine Griffin at jgriffin@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8467. Follow @SunBizGriffin.

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