Merrill Lynch Offer: 800 New Jobs to City; Company Would Increase Positions at Its Facility If It Receives Tax Rebate of $5,000 per Job

By Light, Joe | The Florida Times Union, November 19, 2005 | Go to article overview

Merrill Lynch Offer: 800 New Jobs to City; Company Would Increase Positions at Its Facility If It Receives Tax Rebate of $5,000 per Job


Light, Joe, The Florida Times Union


Byline: JOE LIGHT

Merrill Lynch wants to add 800 jobs to its Jacksonville location with an average wage of nearly $67,000, city and company officials said Friday.

Mayor John Peyton and economic development officials said Merrill Lynch executives had applied for city and state incentives related to the project. If the incentives are approved, the company will increase its Southside presence to 2,500 full-time employees by the end of 2007, they said.

"This is great news," Peyton said. "The company has a long-standing tradition and a desire to increase their presence here."

Company officials would invest $16.4 million to renovate its corporate campus that is being vacated by PHH Mortgage.

With an average wage of at least $66,925, the new employees would increase Merrill Lynch's local annual payroll to $142 million from $89 million. The company is currently one of the city's top 20 private employers.

"We can't think of a better place to live and work," Merrill Lynch managing director Bill Bridy said at a news conference.

Jerry Mallot, executive director of the Cornerstone Regional Development Partnership, said Chamber of Commerce officials have tried to encourage Merrill Lynch to expand in Jacksonville for some time.

The new positions, the majority of which they expect to fill with local people, would primarily come from other Merrill Lynch operations in the Northeast. Merrill Lynch spokeswoman Selena Morris said the company wanted a more diverse geographic footprint and that Jacksonville seemed like a natural fit because of the existing facility.

The company operates Merrill Lynch Credit Corp., offering home financing, personal credit and real estate financing. Other supporting units at the Southside facility include Merrill Lynch Insurance Group Services, Financial Data Services Inc., Financial Data Services & Insurance Technology and Merrill Lynch Group Employee Services.

Merrill Lynch officials hope to become the latest beneficiary of the state Qualified Target Industry tax rebate program, which would allow Merrill Lynch officials to receive a $5,000 tax rebate for every job added.

Company officials have submitted an application to the Jacksonville Economic Development Commission for $4 million in tax incentives for their project, of which $800,000 would come from the city.

But in Jacksonville, approval of such incentives has been far from automatic.

Officials at Fidelity National Financial have said they came close to abandoning an 800-job expansion in its Jacksonville headquarters after an incentives package came under heavy fire from city officials and the media. In that instance, some City Council members thought the $10.5 million in incentives weren't necessary to convince the company to expand.

Council President Kevin Hyde said he thought the council would look "very favorably" on the deal.

Councilman Daniel Davis said he expects the project to receive as much scrutiny as Fidelity's, although he said Merrill Lynch's expansion looks like a good project for Jacksonville.

The incentive application will go up for JEDC approval on Dec. 8. If the commission approves, it could go before the City Council about six weeks later, JEDC Executive Director Ron Barton said. …

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