Adecco HQ move is deal of 'international magnitude'

  • By Mark Basch
  • | 12:00 p.m. March 24, 2014
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Adecco Group North America's headquarters move to Jacksonville will be bigger than it looks, says City Council President Bill Gulliford.

Gulliford said Sunday there were two significant points to the staffing company's move.

First, the fact that Adecco Group North America apparently didn't consult Melville, N.Y., economic-development leaders before deciding to move to Jacksonville means the relocation was an internal choice. Long Island Newsday reported leaders there were taken by surprise.

"I felt a little sorry for a brief moment reading the comments of the people at the chamber on Long Island, 'they didn't ever give us a chance,' which makes it very intriguing because that says, 'we were going to leave regardless,'" Guilliford said.

Second, Gulliford also said the significance is more than a corporate headquarters moving to town. Switzerland-based Adecco S.A. is the world's largest staffing agency.

"This is not just a new headquarters," Gulliford said.

"More important, it is a big deal because of the magnitude of their international presence. … A global national headquarters suggests you get more points than just a movement of a domestic corporate headquarters," he said.

Adecco globally provides temporary and permanent staffing services in more than 60 countries and territories employs more than 31,000 full-time workers. Its revenue was about $27 billion last year.

Its North American group is a significant part of the operations, producing about $5 billion in revenue.

The city announced Friday what Newsday reported March 12 – that Adecco Group North America intends to consolidate its North America headquarters in Jacksonville.

The city said Adecco Group would bring 185 corporate and professional jobs from New York that pay an average of almost $64,000. Adecco already has 354 employees here.

The city and state are formalizing an incentives package and proposed legislation. Ted Carter, CEO of the city Office of Economic Development, said this morning the legislation should be filed by midweek.

David DeCamp, spokesman for Mayor Alvin Brown, said Friday the incentives require the 185 full-time jobs be created by the end of 2016. They will be corporate leadership, professional and support jobs.

Adecco is expected to move the new jobs to its primary local offices 10151 Deerwood Park Blvd. in the Deerwood South office park. DeCamp said Adecco expects to make a $3.4 million capital investment there.

While Melville employees can apply to relocate, many of the jobs are expected to be filled locally.

Legislation expected within days

Carter said the city has been working with the JAX Chamber and Enterprise Florida, the public-private state group that recruits business, on the Adecco move for a couple of months.

Carter declined to detail the incentives until legislation is filed.

"It will be an array of the incentives that we typically use for companies that relocate to Jacksonville and the city is participating at an appropriate level," Carter said.

Carter wouldn't speak to any potential state incentives.

Typically, incentives involve the Qualified Target Industry tax refund program for the creation of high-wage jobs, of which the city is responsible for 20 percent and the state, 80 percent.

The city also has been making Recapture Enhanced Value grants to companies for making capital investments, as well as other assistance.

The state has programs as well, including job training and the Quick Action Closing Fund.

Gulliford said he hasn't seen any information about the incentives.

Because Adecco has made it clear it wants to move the headquarters to Jacksonville, the question arises whether local and state financial assistance is a true incentive to complete the deal.

"We've got some folks that are pretty sensitive to that. Mr. Crescimbeni is trying to get some type of sense to it," Gulliford said, referring to council member John Crescimbeni and his efforts to clarify the city's incentives policies. He chairs the Economic Development Incentives Subcommittee of the Finance Committee.

"But when you have an opportunity like this, life is full of exceptions," Gulliford said.

Gulliford also said Adecco's decision to move could change.

"Until they actually make a financial commitment to move here, they can reverse their decision," he said.

"I think the unwritten part of that statement is provided that everything goes smoothly, including the consideration of incentives," he said.

"This puts pressure on us to go ahead with whatever incentives are put forth because the hidden meaning is 'we can always reverse our decision.'"

Crescimbeni said Sunday he had not seen any information about the deal, but was "eagerly looking forward to the details."

Carter referred questions about Adecco's decision to move to Jacksonville to the company.

Carter said bringing the North American headquarters to Jacksonville "is another reflection of Jacksonville's emerging presence in the global marketplace."

"It is a terrific company, an important company," Carter said. "That's a great brand and corporate identity to have in Jacksonville."

DeCamp provided statements Friday from Brown and Adecco Group North America CEO Robert "Bob" Crouch.

• "Global corporations increasingly consider Jacksonville a great place to invest and do business," Brown said. "Employees love to live, work and play in Northeast Florida, and the result is a growing and vibrant local and regional economy with more well-paying jobs that benefit families and our neighborhoods."

• "We appreciate the efforts of city and state economic development officials, including Mayor Alvin Brown and Governor Rick Scott," Crouch said. "They've made this project possible. We look forward to coordinating with local officials in the coming weeks to work through the final steps of this process."

The CEO's influence

One factor that might have played a large role in the move is that Crouch was promoted to lead the company from his position with Adecco in Jacksonville. He continues to maintain his home and an office in Jacksonville.

Gulliford questions that Crouch's affinity for Jacksonville was the defining factor.

"Companies like that don't make a move because the CEO lives in a particular area and likes a particular area," Gulliford said.

He said a CEO can wield a great deal of influence, but a CEO's desire is measured against the best interests for the future of the company "because when your CEO goes away, there goes the reason" for the move if it's driven by just one person, he said.

The move is not a complete surprise because four years ago, Switzerland-based Adecco bought out Jacksonville-based MPS Group Inc. Two years ago, Adecco named Crouch, a former MPS executive, as CEO of Adecco Group North America.

Because Crouch still lived in Jacksonville, that started speculation that Adecco could move its North American headquarters here.

In a story published March 12, an unidentified Adecco spokeswoman told Newsday that all Adecco employees in Melville whose jobs are moving to Jacksonville will be eligible to apply for the positions, and the company will offer employment assistance for those remaining in the Long Island area.

She also said about 250 jobs will remain on Long Island, including employees of a service center and an information management unit.

The building in Melville was the headquarters of Olsten Staffing until 2000, when Adecco acquired its Melville-based rival in a $1.6 billion deal. A decade later, Adecco acquired Jacksonville-based MPS Group Inc. for $1.3 billion.

MPS was one of Jacksonville's most well-known companies — or at least its subsidiary, Modis, was. The Modis name was atop the Jacksonville skyline's signature 35-story building downtown, which now is Wells Fargo Center.

After Adecco's buyout of MPS in 2010, it remained a major employer in the area. However, its lease in the Downtown building expired in 2011 and the company decided to move its Jacksonville offices to the Deerwood South business park on the Southside.

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