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Tampa Bay Area
Business Observer Friday, Nov. 4, 2016 1 year ago

Thinking global

When Johnson & Johnson decided to move its Global Services division North American headquarters to Tampa from New Jersey, where the company was formed in 1886, it wasn't just packing up a department and relocating it.
by: Kevin McQuaid Observer Staff

When Johnson & Johnson decided to move its Global Services division North American headquarters to Tampa from New Jersey, where the company was formed in 1886, it wasn't just packing up a department and relocating it.

Instead, the health care and consumer products company best known for Tylenol and Band-Aid bandages, was creating a new business model aimed at attracting and retaining younger workers.

Even so, the shift was a logistical challenge that took more than two years to accomplish. Once a site was selected, more than 500 local construction workers logged more than 93,000 hours.

“We didn't move a lot of furniture from New Jersey to Florida,” says Erin Champlin, the company's vice president of Global Services, which encompasses the company's IT, procurement, accounting and human resources departments.

“We wanted a showcase of a workplace of the future, one that enables technology, fosters collaboration and promotes a healthy work environment.”

The company's four floors in the Hidden River Corporate Center One office building, part of a tree-dotted business park that is among West-shore's most coveted addresses just off Fletcher Avenue, are a testament to that desire.

Each floor features an open office design with a series of cubicles, cafes and lounges, break-out rooms, ubiquitous TV screens and Wi-Fi connections throughout. There are no individual offices or even set workplaces. Instead, employees are provided an individual locker complete with power and USB plugs.

“It's intentionally a nontraditional workspace formed into neighborhoods,” says Ron Walker, Johnson & Johnson's on-site manager in Tampa, who joined the company in April from Walgreens Co. to help complete the move.

“We don't have a lot of unused capacity,” he adds. “The idea is to push collaboration and force people to get up and move about.”

In all, Johnson & Johnson ultimately will occupy four floors of the six-story building and 88,545 square feet in a lease through 2023 with Boston-based Farley White Interests, which earlier this year acquired Hidden River Corporate Center I and two other buildings for $73 million.

The deal represents one of the largest new Class A office transactions of the past five years in the Tampa area.

As a health care supply company, Johnson & Johnson has also baked fitness and wellness into its space.

On the first floor, the company has installed a full cafeteria with a Starbucks, a fitness center that offers stationary bikes and yoga classes, a convenience store, meditation room, an area for playing ping-pong or video games and a medical “suite” with a full-time nurse. It also has exam, physical therapy or private counseling rooms for employees.

“Johnson & Johnson is a big believer in employees having balance in their lives,” Walker says.

But the company's path to its 8800 Grand Oak Circle building was anything but straight.

Champlin recalls spending her first day with Johnson & Johnson two years ago flying to Tampa to scope out properties that a consultant had initially identified.

Even before Champlin's flight from New Brunswick, N.J., where three Johnson brothers founded the company 130 years ago — company officials had been scouring the continent searching for a location for U.S. Global Services.

Worldwide, the company also maintains Global Service operations in China, Colombia and the Czech Republic.

In the U.S., commercial brokerage firm and company consultant CBRE Inc. in late 2014 began zeroing in on Florida and Texas as likely areas for Global Services' future home.

Puerto Rico made a strong showing, as well, but ultimately the continental U.S. was deemed a better site overall.

Johnson & Johnson was drawn in particular to the Sunshine State, Champlin says, because it already had business here.

Once Florida was selected, the search for a city heated up. Jacksonville was considered. So was Orlando. Tampa was chosen by an internal executive team comprising the head of human resources, its CFO and COO largely, Champlin says, because of the potential to attract younger workers.

“We wanted to make sure our U.S. location would meet the needs of all of our lines of business,” she says. “And talent was our No. 1 criteria. We had to find a location that had a good source of talent.”

Once Tampa popped to the top, Champlin examined a series of properties -- in downtown Tampa and Westshore -- evaluating availability, proximity to hotels, day care facilities, transportation networks, restaurants and other amenities.

The company even considered developing its own building before focusing on Hidden River, where it signed a lease in August 2015.

In January, Gilbane Construction Co. gutted the Hidden River floors where Johnson & Johnson planned to move, and began the long process of completing tenant improvements.

By Independence Day, the company's first three floors were ready, thanks to more than 500 contractors who put in more than 93,000 hours to finish the job. Final touches went on for months prior to employees occupying all of the space in mid-October.

And while the plan for the space was a deliberate one, aimed at attracting millennial workers and others, so was a decision not to shift Johnson & Johnson employees from New Jersey.

“Our intention was not to take 100 accountants out of New Jersey,” Champlin says. “This is a new site for us, and it was absolutely intentional that we staff it with talent we could bring into Johnson & Johnson.”

In all, about two dozen existing company employees moved to Tampa from New Jersey. The balance of Johnson & Johnson's workforce — the company now employs 240 in Hidden River Corporate Center — came from recruiting events, including one held in February in Tampa's Museum of Science & Industry.

The hiring plan stood in contrast to corporate moves by Hertz Corp. and others in Florida and elsewhere, which have faced backlash from employees who've felt shoehorned into unfamiliar settings.

Johnson & Johnson expects to hire 540 workers for its Tampa Global Services operation. It believes the Hidden River space will help its cause.

“This has been a big move for us, but also a big win for us,” Champlin says. “The space is going to help us retain and attract talent, and we plan to have a long-term presence in Tampa.”

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