by Melissa Wells
I-75 Corridor and Brandon attract
hundreds of jobs.
corridor in Hillsborough County has been such a draw to corporations
and their employers that Brandon in recent years has become
a developer's mecca. Developers such as Highwood Properties,
Crescent Resources Inc. and Duke-Weeks Realty Corp. are a few
of the key players that have invested millions of dollars delivering
the corporate campuses for such firms as JPMorgan Chase, Citicorp,
Progressive Insurance and Uniroyal Optoelectronics.
year alone residential developers built more than 5,000 multifamily
units in the greater Brandon area to accommodate this growth.
And the trend continues this year in spite of the slowing
national economy, especially in residential development.
still exploding with new growth," says Eric Eicher at Commercial
Brokerage Co., the commercial real estate broker for Crescent
Resources at the Parkway Center at the Oak Creek mixed-use
project in Riverview. "There are still quite a few apartment
projects under way and they're filling up with people."
can cite off the top of his head another 1,200 units in development,
and "that's on top of the 5,000 built last year," he says.
homes are mushrooming throughout the area as well. "I saw
a report last year that shows six of the top 10 permitted
areas for development were in the greater Brandon area," says
Mike Fencel, Brandon Regional Hospital's CEO and board member
at the Greater Brandon Chamber of Commerce. "As I drive around
it seems that every day a new subdivision or multifamily project
is going up. I sometimes wonder where all these people are
coming from. With the population growth we're experiencing
and the potential for business coming in developers are confident
they'll sell or fill what they're putting in place today."
to the magnetism of this home-building frenzy comes Home Depot
Inc., not just to provide building materials for the do-it-yourselfers
living in Brandon but bringing as many as 1,000 new jobs for
its regional call center that will locate in a 100,000-square-foot
building in the area. Other corporations opening new operations
in the area include Graybar Electric Co. Inc., Black & Decker
Corp. and Diamond Products, Inc.
businesses decide to locate into our community because of
the quality of life, availability of schools and housing,
easy access to and from Tampa and Orlando with the I-75 and
I-4 corridors," Fencel says. "The opportunity for an available
labor force is also attractive."
thought of as a bedroom community to downtown Tampa, Brandon
has accumulated a bevy of corporations that are located conveniently
to the population mass along the I-75 corridor.
people fairly easily," agrees Alan Ord, Black & Decker's manager
of its new $4-million, 112,000-square-foot facility in Parkway
Center at Oak Creek in Riverview. "In 1995 we employed 50
people and now we're at 160."
manufacturer of power tools, hardware and home improvement
products produces reciprocated saw blades, jigsaw blades and
hole saws in its new Brandon facility. The firm previously
operated in a 48,000-square-foot facility in Tampa. Crescent
Resources Inc. developed Black & Decker's new facility at
Falkenburg Road near I-75. "We have the option for an additional
40,000 square feet for future expansion," says Ord. "We're
investing a lot in automation. At the turn of 2000 we had
a $9 million investment in capital equipment. In the next
three years we'll invest another $14 million."
While Ord does acknowledge that the low rate of unemployment
in the Tampa Bay area "is a disadvantage," he says that the
area's average rate of pay helped to justify the division's
capital expenditure in its new facility. "A lot of manufacturers
are moving to low-wage economies like Mexico and China," he
able to justify keeping the facility here based on the bottom
line of dollars. We can compete directly with the Far East.
We've squeezed labor costs down, which means we can compete
with low-wage economies."
Black & Decker is moving into its new facility, Crescent Resources
is starting a new build-to-suit at Parkway Center.
broken ground on a 208,000-square-foot building for Graybar,"
says Joe Taggart, Crescent's vice president. "We've had a
lot of activity at Parkway over the last 24 months. We're
high on Brandon. It's a great market."
Graybar Electric Co. Inc. is an international distributor
of more than 4,500 electrical, communications and data products
with sales exceeding $5 billion last year. The firm distributes,
for example, General Electric lighting products, Square D
electrical products and Lucent Technologies communications
and data products.
companies that have already set up operations in Oak Creek
include the 220,000-square-foot distribution center for Premier
Beverage Co. and a 43,000-square-foot pump manufacturing facility
for Canariis Corp.
Inc.'s large Citibank complex just west of I-75 handles
more than $450 billion in financial transactions every
home for Home Depot
At Legacy Park, another business park along the I-75 corridor
south of Brandon, a speculative 100,000-square-foot building
appears to have been spoken for by Home Depot. Although no
one connected with the deal will disclose details, experts
in the commercial real estate community are speculating that
is the new location for the home improvement center's new
customer service center.
Depot is in final stages of negotiation at Legacy Park," says
Doug Bartley at Jones Lang LaSalle, the commercial real estate
firm in charge of leasing at the neighboring Interchange Center
business park. "If you look at the I-75 corridor and the growth
it's experienced to the north, the next growth has got to
come south. Companies like Graybar and Black and Decker are
coming here. That lends credibility to the south county area."
have a signed letter of intent," says Gary Bauler at CB Richard
Ellis, the firm handling leasing at Legacy Park, but he's
not acknowledging the tenant.
"another 100,000-square-foot building will be built at Legacy
new call center will handle customer calls for the stores
in its southern division, including Florida and southern Alabama.
about 75 percent of the calls to our stores are transferred
to the sales floor," says Ramon Gregory, the firm's senior
vice president of customer service operations. "By taking
those calls off the floor, our associates will be able to
spend more time with their in-store customers."
will staff the new center with sales associates from its 100
stores in the southern division, which is gearing up to add
another 100 stores. "Our customer contact center is aimed
at reducing tasks in our stores," says Tony Brown, the firm's
president of the Southern Division in Tampa. "Associates will
be recruited for the center from our Florida stores as well
as from outside the company, which is good news for the Tampa
Bay economy, as well."
in the local economy have also brought good news to Brandon
from Household International (NYSE:HI), a consumer finance
company headquartered in Chicago. Household outgrew its previous
facility at Harbour Island, where it employed 700 people,
and last year moved into its new 120,000-square-foot office
building along the I-75 corridor.
collections for the branch office portfolio," says John O'Brien,
the firm's vice president. "We've added 100 people since the
move. It's a great location, readily accessible. Our employees
live within easy driving distance to the facility. It's near
major highways, restaurants and the mall (Brandon Town Center).
And we have a good supply of people who are great employees."
relocated from Chicago last year. "My family and I are happy
with this area," he says. "My commute has dropped from an
hour to 15 minutes with the same mileage and the weather obviously
The company has also relocated another operation from Chicago
to the Brandon facility. The wholesale mortgage servicing
business has 700 employees. "We moved 150 people from Chicago,"
says Greg Gibson, Household's chief operating officer. "The
attraction of a move to Florida was a driving factor. This
is a great place to attract people."
the transfer of positions within the company, Household "last
year hired over 900 people in this facility locally," Gibson
says. "We looked at the area and felt the availability of
the talent pool here and proximity to several universities
was important in terms of drawing talent."
handled by Gibson's division include customer service, cash
processing, tax escrow funds management, collections and underwriting.
goes to great lengths to retain its staff and has received
awards from industry magazines for its excellence in pay and
benefits. Working Mother and Computerworld have placed it
on their lists of top 100 companies for work.
comes to having an edge to recruit employees, "the job market
is very competitive," acknowledges Barton Bridges, chairman
at Diamond Products Inc., which just occupied its new 140,000-square-foot
corporate headquarters adjacent to the I-75 corridor near
Sabal Park. The company, with 200 employees locally and a
total of 600, manufactures private-label and store brand personal
care products, first aid supplies and baby products. "We do
contract manufacturing for national brand personal care companies,"
says Bridges. Products include mouthwash and body lotions.
"We also distribute the White Rain brand of shampoos, conditioners
and hair sprays along with Tony home permanents, Adorn hairspray
and Dippity Do."
offices have doubled in size with this expansion, which "was
necessary to support our current and continuing growth of
business," says Bridges. "We had two office locations (Seffner
and Sabal Park) and are now consolidated into one. We felt
that to be able to centralize our offices would be much more
effective for our business operation. Then we decided to combine
our office and distribution center."
sales at Diamond Products are $50 million. "Our company is
international," Bridges says. "From this facility we cover
distribution nationwide. Access to I-75 is important to us
from a distribution standpoint. That was the driving force
for the selection of our location."
neighboring Tampa Park of Commerce, Southern Wine & Spirits
has recently purchased 10 acres for an expansion. And Tampa
G, a manufacturer of canvas covers for golf carts, has purchased
three acres. The company, currently located in Ybor City,
plans to build a 50,000-square-foot facility on that property
for future expansion.
follows on the heels of the expansions by Key West Lamps and
Inframetals, a multinational company," says Ed Miller, a commercial
real estate broker at Colliers Arnold."This
is indicative of an industrial stealth market. Overall there
is an economic slowdown but we refuse to participate. There
is a certain degree of momentum.
past two quarters there has been a slowdown, but it's gone
from robust growth of 5 percent plus to less than 2 percent,"
Miller says. "There have been many highly publicized layoffs
but employment remains high and interest rates have fallen.
Companies are positioning to take advantage of a buyer-friendly
Meanwhile speculative development of commercial real estate
has slowed considerably along the I-75 corridor. "The technology
portion of the market has vaporized," says Chuck Sullivan
at ProLogis Trust. "Our portfolio in Sabal Park is 100-percent
occupied but we're tabling a proposed new building. There
are other comparable options in the market, which gives us
cause for pause. Some people are building and for the first
time in five years are delivering buildings completely vacant.
But we haven't seen concessions enter the market place. Tenants
are sitting tight right now."
adds, "light industrial and distribution not associated with
technology is holding its own. We had a huge bubble pushing
through over the past few years and to take it away so quickly
and dramatically, we're bound to feel the aftershock."
impacted by such aftershock, Duke-Weeks Realty Corp. is putting
the finishing touches on 250,000 square feet of industrial
space in Fairfield Distribution Center. "We have two tenants
totaling 72,000 square feet," says Moses Salcido, the firm's
vice president. "Central Power Systems distributes Briggs
& Stratton motors and Southeastern Food Supply is a food distributor."
the slowdown in the economy has certainly impacted many technology
firms, several high-tech companies have recently relocated
or expanded in Brandon. Boca Raton-based TelePlace paid $12
million and is investing another $38 million in the former
Citicorp building in Brandon to create a data center so that
high-tech firms can hook directly to a fiberoptic network.
The company will provide Web-hosting services.
Uniroyal Opto- electronics (Nasdaq:UTCI) continues to pump
capital investments into its high-brightness light-emitting
diode (LED) facility in Brandon. "We're targeted to spend
an additional $30 million, adding multiple reactors every
three to four months," says Bob Soran, the firm's president.
"We started with three reactors originally and have infrastructure
in place to handle 16 to 20 reactors."
dollars into research
Along with increasing capacity for production of LEDs, the
firm has added an impressive team of researchers in Brandon.
"Jeff Nelson and two other people have joined us from Sandia
(National Laboratories in New Mexico)," Soran says. "We hired
Dr. Christian Wetzel, a German scientist who came from Meijo
University in Japan and has worked with Dr. Agosaki, the acknowledged
founder of the process for producing blue and green high-brightness
LEDs. We've also hired other people out of the University
of California in Santa Barbara. One of our competitors in
the market place has made a statement that this is the best
research and development team in the world today for high-brightness
is a tribute to the Tampa Bay area," adds Soran. "What brought
these researchers here is our commitment to this facility
but also somewhere in there are the quality-of-life issues
in the Tampa Bay area. Florida was a significant plus in the
facility is one of four in the world that produce high-brightness
LEDS in blues and greens. "The industry continues to grow
in excess of 50 percent in dollars per year," Soran says.
"Traffic lights are using the technology now but it will be
a while before it's in people's homes."
team now in place in Brandon is "working on brightness improvement,"
says Soran. "Since last year we've introduced three generations
of product and now have some of the brightest LEDs in the
worldwide market place. Last year they were at 1 milliwatt
in blues and we're now reaching up to 4 milliwatts in brightness.
When you consider that the competitors in our industry have
been in business 10 or 15 years and we've been here 18 months,
that's an enormous accomplishment and we're putting that product
in the market place."
a place to store the products of its customers, Iron Mountain
Records Management (NYSE:IRM) - a provider of storage for
paper, computer disks and tapes, microfilm and microfiche,
master audio and video tapes, film and optical disks, X-rays
and blueprints - has expanded by 58,870 square feet. The Boston-based
firm also provides such services as filing, retrieval and
destruction of records, database management and disaster recovery
Park at Brandon MF Lightwave is a fiberoptics firm that has
occupied 12,150 square feet in one of two new buildings totaling
134,260 square feet, developed by First Industrial Realty
Trust. "Brandon is a very active community," says Bob Krueger,
First Industrial's regional development officer. "There's
a lot going on."
Inc. has 1,186 employees handling back office operations
for the Chicago-based consumer finance firm at its new
facility in Brandon.
with clients such as Verizon, Lucent Technologies and Time
Warner, has relocated from a 3,000-square-foot building in
Ybor City. "Last year we were three people and today we're
almost 40," says Tony Medeiros, the firm's president. "We're
projected to be at 85 by the end of the year. We needed space
and First Park at Brandon constructed this building in a timely
fashion. We were under a tight deadline to move. We'd outgrown
our facility and couldn't expand our products and services
company has not been tremendously impacted by the slowing
economy. "The downturn had a slight impact for one quarter
but we're back on the upswing," Medeiros says. "We're a specialized
niche market. We provide assemblies no one else provides."
In addition to its fiberoptic cable assemblies, the firm manufactures
"high-end video inspection cameras," says Medeiros. "The miniaturized
camera is able to magnify images up to 400 times. We use it
to troubleshoot fiberoptic equipment."
the bomb squad
Medeiros has found another application for this technology.
"We've been called by the Tampa police department and the
bomb squad to produce special equipment for dangerous situations,"
he says. "We're developing a wireless video system that officers
in a remote location can see what the officers on site are
doing. It transmits live images in real time, full motion
and provides an extra set of eyes to protect them. The officers
wear a camera no larger than a pen."
is gaining recognition elsewhere. "Now the Tampa fire department
wants it for rescue operations," says Medeiros. "If someone
is trapped under debris in a collapsed building, they can
snake the camera in and get images. We have the potential
to deploy this nationwide."
River North EastGroup Property recently completed a 96,000-square-foot
building. "We're seeing local expansions," says Nancy Phaneuf,
the firm's vice president of marketing. "When we get this
building 50-percent leased we're going to build at Palm River
South. It will be a different type of building that will have
a shallower bay depth at 140 feet and two and a half times
the parking. Tenants like that. We're building to the lowest
common denominator and there are a lot of requests for that."
Inc. (NYSE:MTZ) has occupied 16,000 square feet at Palm River
North. The Miami-based telecommunications company has located
its wireless operation and technology division in this, one
of 240 offices the company has nationwide. Clients in its
wireless division include Sprint, AT&T and Verizon. In addition,
MasTec has consolidated its Direct TV installation crew into
its new South Brandon location. "Our technology division provides
services to companies that own vertical real estate," says
Cliff Padgett, the firm's vice president of operations.
provides real estate site acquisition services for some of
those clients that lease space for cell sites. And several
trucks are dispatched out of that office for Direct TV installations."
Palm River North for this office boiled down to several key
factors. "We enjoy the area for accessibility to Tampa, Lakeland
and Orlando," says Bill Able, the firm's real estate manager.
"We like the access to I-4 and I-75. Our employees live nearby
and we didn't want to disrupt the drive times."
also played largely into MasTec's choice of locations. "EastGroup
Properties has a history and track record of building quality
properties on time," Able says. "They got us in 15 days earlier
technology player has added a 12-employee office in Brandon.
Gaithersburg, Md.-based Netcom Technologies Inc. provides
infrastructure services, cable plant services, engineering
and corporate certification. The firm has sales of $15 million.
Center, the newest business park to offer companies options
in the South Brandon area, developers Triad Investors Inc.
and Alex. Brown Realty Inc. are planning five buildings totaling
850,000 square feet. "The infrastructure is in and we'll start
on the first 133,000-square-foot building in the next 30 days,"
says Doug Bartley at Jones Lang LaSalle, the real estate firm
that handles leasing. "The parking ratios are higher than
average, providing the maximum amount of flexibility for an
Robert E. Woolley Corp. is creating a section at Oak Creek
business park that will contain industrial condominiums, with
units ranging from 5,500 square feet to at least 90,000 square
feet. In the northeast section, the developer has moved forward
with residential units. "More than 40 homes sold prior to
opening our first model," says Eric Eicher at Commercial Brokerage
Co. "People are showing up at the site wanting to buy houses.
It's such an easy commute from Oak Creek to downtown (Tampa).
We're 12 minutes from downtown. But this is also due to a
combination of job growth in the corridor between Chase, Citibank,
Household Finance and Ford Motor Credit. And there are numerous
other companies coming to the corridor."
City-based JPMorgan Chase & Co. has started operating JPMorgan
Treasury Technologies Corp. in three buildings totaling 450,000
square feet at its Highland Oaks campus. Developer Duke-Weeks
Realty Corp. delivered the buildings in less than a year.
our first employee January 22nd and recently broke the 500
barrier," says Irv Cohen, president at JPMorgan Treasury Technologies
and the senior executive for the Highland operation. "The
buildings are fully operational as well as our state-of-the-art
childcare facility, health club and cafeteria."
JPMorgan Treasury Services is a global provider of treasury
and cash management operations for corporations, financial
institutions and governments. "We're number one in high-speed
automatic processing of transfers in the world," Cohen says.
"We process over 225,000 transactions averaging $1.4 trillion
daily. These transactions will be located at this facility.
You can imagine how important this (operation) is."
the jobs that JPMorgan has brought to the area are technology
related. "We've been doing quite well staffing the high-tech
positions," says Cohen. "We're getting a good response from
the local community and have met with the president of the
University of South Florida and the deans of the schools of
business and IT (information technology). We've told them
we're here, we're open and want to be a good partner in the
community. We'll work together on research projects and job
placement. We've seen applicants through that source."
JPMorgan has made attractive offers to its New York staff
to transfer to this area. "We're getting a nice response at
the management level," Cohen says. "Currently 30 percent are
relocating from New York. The ambiance of the Tampa Bay area
combined with this beautiful facility has led to increased
participation of people moving from New York. In total we
should have 1,400 employees at this facility next summer (2002)."
tremendous population growth that follows on the heels of
the jobs that companies such as JPMorgan Chase have brought
to Brandon, its local hospital has felt the pressure to accommodate
the citizens' increasing needs for health care. Brandon Regional
Hospital is doubling the size of its facility. "The growth
in the community as a whole is reflected in the business generated
at the hospital," says Mike Fencel, the hospital's chief executive
officer. "Our admission rates, emergency department visits,
obstetrical deliveries and surgical procedures are exceeding
the overall population growth rate of 1.5 to 2 percent. HCA
Health Care Corp. has approved a $50-million construction
project to expand services we offer."
of this expansion, the hospital is developing a new cardiac
unit. "For the first time ever we'll provide cardiac surgery
services for eastern Hillsborough County residents," Fencel
says. "Today they have to go to Tampa or Lakeland. Along with
this will come other cardiac interventions now that we'll
have the back up of cardiac surgery."
expansion follows on the heels of a "$7-million emergency
department expansion," adds Fencel. "We had annual visits
(to the emergency department) of 43,000 prior to that expansion.
This year we're projecting 68,000."
the hospital responds to the demands of an increasing population,
Brandon Town Center continues to enjoy high rates of traffic.
"We're at 96 percent occupancy and our traffic numbers are
up," says Carrie Crawford, marketing manager at Urban Retail
regional mall was acquired by Dutch-based Rodamco North America
N.V. as part of its $3.4-billion purchase of Urban Shopping
Town Center attracts more than 10-million people a year,"
more retail has come to Brandon. "Costco and JoAnn's Fabrics
have just opened at the Lakes of Brandon," says Eicher. "Brandon
is still positioned to be one of the fastest-growing areas
of Hillsborough County and the I-75 corridor."