A $6.57 billion business targeting a need for a new call center with room for some 1,000 employees found the perfect match in an unusual spot in the region: a shuttered Target Supercenter.
The company, auto-financing giant Santander Consumer USA, plans to take over 115,000 square feet of the former Target on State Road 54, near the Suncoast Parkway in Odessa, Pasco County. The Target was vacated in 2016, part of a corporate decision to close new stores after an unrelated move into Canada backfired and siphoned profits. “It’s a specialized large building that required a special tenant,” Pasco Economic Development Council President and CEO Bill Cronin tells Coffee Talk.
Dallas-based Santander Consumer USA — a unit of a larger entity that’s part of Madrid-based Banco Santander, one of the largest banks in the world — is that special tenant. With locations in Texas, Arizona, Colorado and California, Santander manages accounts for more than three million customers for vehicle financing and third-party servicing. Santander officials, says Cronin, prioritized several factors in the search for a new call center location, with livability and talent pipeline at the top of the list.
With plans to hire 875 people over five years, the need for access to talent was particularly important, says Cronin, and helped set Pasco apart from competing markets, in Florida and elsewhere. Pasco, he adds, has a solid base of Spanish-speaking residents, making the talent pool even richer for Santander. “It’s difficult for a lot of communities to be able to pull that together,” Cronin says. “This is a very significant win.”
At 875 jobs — with annual salaries around $46,200, exceeding 115% of the average county wage — the project is the largest single new employee announcement ever in Pasco County, says Cronin. In addition to the talent pipeline from fast-growing Pasco towns and nearby Tampa, Cronin says the pandemic also played a role in Santander’s decision: Pasco County, unlike some other places the company considered, isn’t overbuilt and has lots of bike trails and abundant parks. “Suburbia is now pretty cool,” Cronin says.
The financial investment in the project is also significant. Pasco County Commissioners approved $2 million in job-performance based incentives, while Santander plans to invest at least $12 million and up to $22 million on tenant improvements, upgrades, office equipment and furniture. Santander will join another tenant in the former Target space — a 180,000-square-foot building owned by Outback Steakhouse founders and area entrepreneurs Bob Basham and Tim Gannon. The other tenant is Rasmussen College, which plans to occupy about 44,000 square feet.
“I am thrilled to welcome Santander to Pasco County and am looking forward to all of the great jobs they are bringing,” Pasco County Commissioner Kathryn Starkey says in a statement. “This is a huge economic development win and I am happy we are able to offer local incentives to assist in recruitment.”