CINCINNATI - Cincinnati Bell Inc. is expanding its downtown headquarters to make room for 600 employees relocating principally from Norwood.
The city of Cincinnati is offering an incentive package worth $10.5 million to encourage the move.
“We are first and foremost a Cincinnati company,” said Ted Torbeck, president and CEO of Cincinnati Bell. “This move reinforces our commitment to our hometown and enables us to play an even bigger role in making Cincinnati a more vibrant place to live, work and play.”
Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley said the deal emerged from a breakfast meeting in January, when Torbeck told Cranley that the company had decided to consolidate employees to one location. It was looking at sites downtown and in Northern Kentucky for what it called “Project Unity.”
Cincinnati Bell recently signed a letter of intent for 220,000 square feet in the Atrium II building at 221 E. Fourth Street.
“It’s just a sign that people want to be in the city. They want to be downtown,” Cranley said in a conference call with reporters Monday. “I used to get the question, ‘Why should I stay in the city?’ Now increasingly people say, ‘How do I bring more jobs downtown?’”
Norwood Mayor Tom Williams said Norwood offered tax abatements to attract the consolidated headquarters. He declined to quantify the offer and has no hard feelings about Cincinnati Bell's decision.
"I don't want to sound like a bitter race horse owner," Williams said. "Cincinnati Bell is a good company. What they requested of us, we gave. We can only do so much."
The city’s press release explains the Cincinnati incentives as follows:
The city is offering a Property Investment Reimbursement (PIR) incentive to Cincinnati Bell. The PIR is a cash payment from the city designed to offset a portion of the company’s net profits tax obligation.
- The PIR would be equal to 80 percent of the earnings tax generated from the 600 net, new employees, relocated or hired to the City within the first three years on the first $50 million of new payroll generated.
- The City would provide payments for a period of 10 years. The maximum payout for this PIR will be $840,000 a year for each of the 10 years – for a maximum total of $8.4 million.
- Additionally, the City will extend the PIR offer so it can be applied to up to an additional $20 million of new payroll (beyond the initial $50 million of new payroll).
- The extra PIR would be equal to 50 percent of the earnings tax generated from net, new employees relocated or hired to the City within the first three years. The City would provide payments for a period of 10 years. The maximum payout for this PIR will be $210,000 a year for each of the 10 years – for a maximum total of $2.1 million.
“Our economic development team has been working with them for months to come up with the right package,” Cranley said.
Cincinnati Bell’s decision could help the city land another big economic development prize: A shared services center where General Electric Co. is looking to house up to 2,000 employees. G.E. is considering sites in Mason, Oakley and downtown for an office building to house I.T. and back office employees.
“I really don’t know where G.E. is going to locate but there’s no question that Cincinnati Bell has an extremely important relationship with G.E,” Cranley said. “I think G.E. is their biggest client and it can’t hurt.”