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Bristol-Myers chooses north Hillsborough site for 579-worker operation

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Published:   |   Updated: September 4, 2013 at 07:02 PM

TAMPA — One of the Tampa area’s biggest corporate relocations in years, drugmaker Bristol-Myers Squibb, has signed a lease for a building near Tampa International Airport and will hire its first 250 workers by year’s end.

Local leaders are hailing the company’s new office, at 5104 Eisenhower Blvd. South, as a major boost to the Tampa Bay area’s life sciences industry. Eventually, the company is expected to employ 579 workers there by 2017.

To be sure, the initial jobs here will be in fields such as marketing, finance and information technology, and it’s unclear if Bristol-Myers Squibb will ever locate laboratory jobs here. However, the hope is that the company will appreciate Tampa enough that it will select the city for future expansions or relocations.

“All I know is this a global leader in what they do, and this facility will play a key role on a number of different fronts and has a very good opportunity to grow in the years to come,” said Rick Homans, chief executive of the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corp.

The New York-based company announced in July that it has chosen Tampa for a new North America Capability Center, where business-side employees would support its pharmaceutical development side up North. The company shared more of its plans on Wednesday with news that it has signed a lease for 70,000 square feet on Eisenhower Boulevard. A merchandising and design school currently leases space there, but will be moving out by month’s end, a representative of property owner TIER REIT said Wednesday.

Bristol-Myers Squibb has an option to lease another 60,000 square feet inside the building, which should provide it more room to grow.

Hillsborough County and Florida taxpayers have a significant investment in Bristol-Myers Squibb’s new operation. Hillsborough County commissioners have approved up to $2.1 million in tax incentives for the company through two separate incentive programs, and the state may kick in about $4.8 million more. In return, the company has pledged to create 579 jobs at an average wage of $65,000.

Companies are allowed to hire a limited number of contract workers to fulfill their job-creation promises. Bristol-Myers Squibb expects the vast majority of the Tampa jobs to be direct company employees and to have just a small percentage of contract workers, company spokesman Frederick Egenolf said. Jobs will be listed on its Web site, at www.bms.com/careers.

Bristol-Myers Squibb will be hiring a range of business, marketing and IT professionals for its first 250 hires, in fields such as financial analysis, accounting, credit monitoring, application development, marketing and medical editing. The company doesn’t know yet what the remaining 325 employees will do in coming years, Egenolf said.

Tax incentive documents that Bristol-Myers Squibb signed indicate it eventually will hire at least 151 people for a “scientific and technical management operation,” but Egenolf wouldn’t be more specific about these jobs. It wasn’t clear this week if those jobs will include prestigious research and lab-oriented jobs, but the EDC’s Homans said all of the jobs will strengthen the Tampa area’s growing pharmaceutical and life sciences industry.

“There’s a lot more to pharmaceuticals than laboratory jobs,” he said. “There’s highly technical research, data mining, all sorts of different positions that feed into the pharmaceutical industry.”

To a large extent, the Tampa area is benefiting from the misfortune of New Jersey. The initial 250 jobs in Tampa will be replacing about 200 jobs that are relocating from one of Bristol-Myers Squibb’s offices in a suburb of Princeton, N.J. It’s expected that only 10 percent or so of the initial jobs will be filled by people relocating from New Jersey, Egenolf said.

The company also is expected to relocate another 325 or so jobs to Tampa from other offices. The cheaper cost of labor in Florida is one factor in its decision to relocate some jobs here.

“The high cost of staffing and operating our facilities in New Jersey has made it difficult to control our expenses, especially as we grow,” Egenolf said in an email. “Moving these positions to Tampa will help us realize significant cost savings for labor and facilities over time, while also reducing demand on our existing facilities in New Jersey by providing additional room for growth.”

msasso@tampatrib.com

(813) 259-7865

Twitter: @msasso

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