Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Mayor Looks at His Options for Citibank

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Mayor Looks at His Options for Citibank

Article excerpt

Byline: Karen Brune Mathis, Times-Union senior business writer

Mayor John Delaney wants to avoid sliding down the slippery slope of Southside and "stay" incentives as the city figures out how to make an adequate overture to keep the Citibank credit card operation, its 4,000 employees and its potential 700 new hires in town.

"This is thinking out of the box," Delaney said yesterday. "How can we get to where we would both like to be and still stick with the city's policy and be able to convey to Citi's corporate headquarters that they have made the right fiscal decision?"

As reported, state Sen. Jim King notified Delaney and Gov. Jeb Bush that Birmingham, Ala., was courting Citibank's Florida operations with an incentives offer. Citibank is part of New York-based Citigroup.

Citibank spokesman Bruce Reid said Monday that the company preferred to stay in Jacksonville and "work with Florida and with the mayor and the city and for them to be competitive with something that would keep us right here." He did not offer specifics.

Citibank owns or leases more than 600,000 square feet in Baymeadows, but the leases expire in several years, prompting the company to evaluate whether to renew them, develop an office campus elsewhere in Southside or move to another city.

King said Florida Citibank executives "don't wish to make the move" but need to justify their decision to headquarters, and he urged Delaney and Bush to offer "a little bit of financial incentive" to "put this small fire out before it becomes any bigger."

Delaney wants to work with Citibank while adhering to the city's economic incentives policy.

"We want to impress upon them that we want them to stay . . . but I have conveyed that we have two rather large difficulties," he said. He said the city has shied from using incentives for businesses already here, unless there is significant job growth or they are small, neighborhood businesses, and that the policy directs incentives away from Southside. …

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