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Business Observer Friday, Feb. 2, 2018 7 months ago

Why Tampa? The Amgen story

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Behind the scenes of a big win.

Biotech giant Amgen had lots of choices on where to open a new office.

The Thousand Oaks, Calif.-based firm, which specializes in drugs used to treat serious, life-threatening illnesses, such as heart disease and some cancers, sought a back-office support facility, what it dubbed a capability center.

Amgen Executive Director Michael Frankel, a former Molson Coors Brewing Co. executive, says the company evaluated more than 400 cities in its search. Frankel, speaking at the ULI Tampa Bay Trends Conference in late January, detailed why Amgen, with offices in nearly 100 countries and more than 20,000 employees, picked Tampa. The company's $25 million facility, he says, will eventually employ up to 425 people.

As of December, the center was 65% staffed. Frankel believes it will be easy to fill the remainder of the positions, whether via new hires or worker relocations. “It's a lot easier to get employees to move from California to Tampa than, say, Wichita,” he says.

That's because the Tampa Bay area, Frankel says, checks so many of the boxes companies like Amgen look for: low cost of living; low-tax, business-friendly local economy; geographic location and growth; and availability of talent.

Frankel says Amgen was particularly intrigued by Tampa Bay because of its large and growing talent pool. The company conducted a deep dive into the region's demographics and found that some 87,000 residents are already employed in occupations relevant to Amgen's business.

Amgen, Frankel adds, also took note of the region's rapidly growing tech sector. The firm's research revealed the tech talent pool in Tampa Bay had risen by 60% from 2010 to 2015, and companies doing similar work had effectively recruited here.

All those factors led Amgen to sign a lease on its new facility in March 2017 and open it in October. Frankel says Amgen expects the facility to be fully staffed by December this year.

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