Around the State
Chase Manhattan's Tampa expansion may reflect a step-up in financial services jobs coming to town.
By Stacie Kress Booker
Tampa business leaders are crowing about a new class of financial services jobs that may help the city outgrow a reputation as a haven for low-paying, dead-end call center jobs.
In October, Chase Manhattan Corp. announced the largest single company job commitment to Tampa/Hillsborough County. By 2003, the company plans to add 2,140 financial services and research jobs paying average annual salaries ranging from $32,000 to more than $42,000. The expansion more than doubles the jobs Chase has in the area, making it the fifth-largest private sector employer.
Bob Anderson, business school dean at the University of South Florida, calls these "front-line" positions because -- in addition to paying more than most back office jobs -- they support worldwide operations and require high-tech skills.
Prior to the Chase announcement, Citigroup had been the area's largest expansion and relocation project. In 1998, the company relocated its global financial services division headquarters here, adding 1,500 jobs, and also built the 127-acre Citibank Center Tampa, which houses worldwide support functions. Citigroup employs about 2,400 locally. Around the same time, another company, Capital One, also upgraded Tampa jobs, adding 1,250 new positions. All three firms are now among the county's top 10 employers. With at least 54 service and data-processing centers in Hillsborough, Tampa had gained a reputation for generating jobs that provided employment, but not much more. The Citigroup, Capital One and Chase jobs have given considerable comfort to economic development officials who say the earlier call centers provided a basis for growth into a better class of job.
Robin Ronne, director of the Committee of 100, the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce's economic development arm, points out that both Chase and Citigroup started out with call centers here, Citigroup in 1983 and Chase in 1987. The success of these banking giants' "entry level" call centers, says Ronne, "helped Tampa secure new business units that perform higher value functions."
Not every financial services firm that has left the Big Apple for Florida has stayed. Salomon Brothers established a worldwide operations center in Tampa in 1991. Six years later, it handed out 650 pink slips and closed operations following a merger with Smith Barney.
But business and financial services account for half of the county's private sector employment. In 1992 there were about 27,000 financial services jobs in Hillsborough; by 1997 there were more than 43,000, a 60% increase.
In the News
Bonita Springs -- The Urban Land Institute named Bonita Bay the outstanding large-scale residential community of the year in the U.S. and Canada. Judges for the prestigious award evaluate land use, integrity of master plan, environmental preservation, water management, recreational amenities and a community's contributions to the area.
Charlotte County -- Manasota Key hosts the largest sea turtle population along the Gulf Coast, and local environmentalists want to keep it that way. But bright lights from the resorts illuminate the beach and interfere with the hatchlings' critical trek from nest to sea. The county plans to strengthen its protection ordinances for the endangered species and FP&L is experimenting with more effective light shields.
Clearwater -- Non-profit PC manufacturer Axon Computers will soon roll its 20,000th PC off the assembly line, marking nearly a decade of business and annual sales closing in on $10 million. The enterprise unit of Abilities Inc. of Florida, a vocational rehabilitation organization with 120 employees at its headquarters, Axon hires individuals with disabilities. Its PCs all include Intel processors and motherboards and Intel engineers provide assistance and mentoring on-site. Axon's customers include Lockheed Martin and state government agencies.
Kansas City, Mo.-based movie theater chain AMC Entertainment is closing its regional office in Clearwater, eliminating 30 positions, as part of a company-wide restructuring.
Hendry County -- Hendry has been designated a Federal Rural Enterprise Community, which makes it eligible for $2.5 million in grant money over the next 10 years. The money will be used for education and housing improvements, job training and economic development. The region struggles with an unemployment rate of 20.3%, the highest in the state. In the past year, two major plants closed, Cargill Foods and Dole Hancock.
Hendry's economic development council recently celebrated its first anniversary with the announcement that Airglades Industrial Park signed its first tenant. Food manufacturer Custard Apple Products is expected to move into its new building early next year. Ground-breaking on the industrial park, located in Clewiston adjacent to Airglades Airport, took place last month.
Largo -- Constellation Technology Corp. will hire 55 additional employees to handle a $7.6-million defense contract to develop radiation detectors. The company currently employs seven.
Manatee County -- Provident Bank is making its first foray into Manatee County. The Ohio-based bank will open five branches, with as many as two in fast-growing East Manatee, in the next year. Provident already operates branches in neighboring Sarasota and Hillsborough counties.
Naples -- Local developer 725 Development Corp. recently spent $4.2 million on the 16,000-sq.-ft. Ad Miller Building at the intersection of two of Naples' trendiest streets, Fifth Avenue South and Third Street South. Renovations and the addition of residential units will begin early next year.
Coconut Grove on Naples Bay Ltd., the owner of Old Naples Seaport, wants to tear down the struggling waterfront retail and entertainment center and build 16 three-story condominiums. But the Naples Planning Advisory Board rejected the proposal on the grounds it did not fit with long-range plans for mixed-use development at the site. The Naples City Council will review the matter.
Pinellas County -- County economic development officials hosted a Mexican trade mission in the fall that resulted in business contracts worth $8 million. Among the deals: Clearwater-based Pemco Nacelle Services contracted with a Mexican agent to promote its aircraft components repair service in Mexico; International Appliances of St. Petersburg signed a deal to set up three sites in Mexico for its refurbished appliances; and PRIDE Enterprises, a St. Petersburg company that runs manufacturing operations using prison labor, will export its concept to Mexico via two joint ventures. A similar mission, focusing on medical manufacturers, may take place next year. Florida accounts for only 1% of U.S. trade with Mexico.
Tampa -- When the NFL comes to town January 2001 for Super Bowl XXXV, they'll be staying at the Tampa Marriott Waterside, one of several new buildings under construction in Tampa's Channelside District. The NFL will set up its headquarters at the hotel for about 3-1/2 weeks, booking at least 85% of the rooms at a total cost of nearly $2 million. The hotel will open February 2000.
Bookings for the Tampa Convention Center have tripled over the past year-and-a-half, due to coordinated sales activities between the convention center and downtown hoteliers.
Information technology services company Sykes Enterprises (Nasdaq-SYKE) purchased a 350-person technical support call center in Costa Rica. The acquisition of Acer Information Services, a subsidiary of computer-manufacturer Acer America Corp., is Sykes' first venture in Latin America and part of a strategic alliance between Sykes and Acer.
The Bear Stearns Information Technology Research Center at USF's College of Business opened in October. Bear Stearns donated $205,000 to establish the center, which funds research focusing on practical applications of computer technology to solve community problems. Tampa/Hillsborough County Crisis Center and Metropolitan Ministries are currently participating in the research.
Celebrated and controversial, architect Andres Duany and members of his Miami-based architecture firm Duany Plater-Zyberk came to Sarasota recently to lead an intensive eight-day design workshop at USF's New College. His opening lecture drew nervous laughter from an audience of city officials and Sarasota society when he discussed "(building) codes in Florida which were designed for suburban sprawl." He singled out Florida's west coast cities, calling them a "collection of pearls connected by junk." Duany is a founder and leading proponent of New Urbanism, an architecture/quality-of-life movement that condemns sprawl and promotes the restoration of urban and town centers. The focus of his Sarasota visit: to devise a mixed-used development plan for 80 acres of former orange groves just north of Sarasota County. The proposed community would be called Orangewood. Local developer W.G. Mills Inc. is part of the development team.