Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Economic Recruiters Get More Good News

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Economic Recruiters Get More Good News

Article excerpt

Panama City-based Arizona Chemical has completed a deal to move its headquarters to Deerwood Park North in Southside, a favorable piece of news for economic recruiters.

Jacksonville development leaders count headquarters as a top target, considering that high-profile home-based companies continue to merge with out-of-state organizations.

Just yesterday, the 43-year-old American Heritage Life Investment Corp. announced a merger with an Allstate Corp. subsidiary, although that deal bodes much better for Jacksonville than some past mergers.

American Heritage and Allstate executives pledged yesterday to retain the American Heritage jobs, management, community service, charitable contributions and brand name, and probably increase employment and corporate giving. Jacksonville will remain the headquarters for the companies' combined marketing segment.

That brought an early sigh of relief to city leaders who remember the job losses associated with some mergers and moves, like Independent Life Insurance Co. and Gulf Life Insurance Co.

The Allstate merger makes for a bigger presence, said Mayor John Delaney. "It's actually going to be bigger, and backed by bigger corporate dollars," said the mayor, who described American Heritage as becoming more of a divisional headquarters.

Indeed, American Heritage Chairman T. O'Neal Douglas said Allstate is "30 times larger than we are."

Still, in any merger, community leaders take pause when local control of a company moves into corporate hands out of state, which is why luring new corporate headquarters and growing existing companies is an economic target.

Jacksonville has retained, in whole or in part, many of the home-grown companies that were sold or merged, often as divisional, regional or statewide offices. That's much better than losing the organization, but it still means that top corporate decisions are directed by outside hands.

In some instances, the new parent companies improve local jobs and civic responsibility. In other cases, they don't.

As for Arizona Chemical, it will bring chief decisionmakers to town and create a 150-job home office for its global operations. …

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