Fidelity to expand Florida operations
By Ross Kerber, Globe Staff | June 21, 2006
Fidelity Investments said yesterday it plans to open a customer-service center in Jacksonville, Fla., creating 1,200 jobs there by 2010, in the latest expansion by the mutual fund giant outside of Massachusetts.
The new employees will work in Fidelity's growing retail brokerage division, in a leased facility that was sited in Jacksonville because of a mixture of economic incentives, geography, and other factors, according to the state and the company.
``We do intend to continue to grow in other locations, because that strategy is what makes sense for Fidelity," spokeswoman Anne Crowley said yesterday. She noted the company also runs call centers in places like Kentucky, Texas, and Toronto. Among other things, the spread-out base helps assure continuous customer service, she said.
Some Massachusetts leaders who have been trying to persuade Fidelity to create more jobs in the Bay State said they weren't concerned by the move, saying Massachusetts wouldn't typically compete for call center jobs.
But the step still serves as a reminder the state should be more focused on keeping and expanding Fidelity's local workforce and that of other employers, said David Begelfer , leader of the Massachusetts chapter of the National Association of Industrial and Office Properties, which represents commercial landlords that house local businesses.
``Call centers aren't the kind of businesses we should be going after, so that doesn't mean much," Begelfer said. But he added that ``All of us in the state, from the economic development people to the private sector, have not spent enough time and resources on the existing businesses in the state, and that's where the growth has occurred and most likely will occur," he said.
Fidelity's intentions toward Massachusetts have drawn much interest since January, when it said it would move as many as 1,500 jobs to Rhode Island and New Hampshire by 2008. That would be more than 10 percent of the company's current Massachusetts workforce of roughly 12,900. Fidelity employs 38,000 people worldwide.
In comparison, the company had 100 fewer workers in Massachusetts and 1,000 fewer people worldwide at the start of the year, and is hiring in both categories.
Yesterday, Crowley said Fidelity won't discuss reports in North Carolina newspapers that it has held talks about locating more jobs there. She reiterated the company's past statements that it expects to keep its headquarters in Massachusetts and remain one of the state's larger employers.
But the jobs it is creating in Florida are significant, she said, ranging from entry-level customer-service jobs to trading, sales, and financial planning positions. ``They're all good-quality jobs," she said, including many that require credentials such as licenses to deal securities.
Previously Crowley has also noted that spreading out its facilities offers advantages such as ``getting us closer to our customers and clients" nationally and opening up a deeper pool of potential hires.
Fidelity currently has 10 retail investor centers in Florida and has been building up its brokerage-services businesses to capture more business from individual investors who want to trade stocks.
As of March, Fidelity said its retail brokerage unit had $715 billion in total client assets, up 21 percent from the same point a year earlier, and 143,089 daily average commissionable trades, 44 percent more than a year earlier.
Since Fidelity's disclosures in January, representatives of both Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino have met with the closely held company to persuade it to expand locally, but officials have declined to discuss any details.
In a press release, Florida development agencies said Fidelity's project requires further approvals. Fidelity will spend about $27.25 million to refurbish the site.
Jerry Mallot, executive vice-president of the Jacksonville Regional Chamber of Commerce, said officials have been in talks with Fidelity for several years to persuade the company to pursue the new location compared to alternatives like expanding existing facilities. The company will be eligible for a tax break of $3,000 per employee and get a grant of $5 million, he said.
Ross Kerber can be reached at email@example.com