Scott announces 157 jobs coming to firm’s new operational center in Tampa

December 18, 2015

Frances McMorris | Tampa Bay Business Journal
An insurance brokerage scouting locations for a new facility ultimately decided to expand its Tampa presence.
Willis Group and Gov. Rick Scott announced 157 jobs would be coming to its new Tampa operations office at a press conference and ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new facility Thursday.
“When we were evaluating locations for this facility, we looked long and hard and Tampa became the natural choice,” Jeff Elliott, director of operations at Willis North America, said at a press conference held at the new center on West Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.
Willis Groups Holdings plc (NYSE: WSH), a global provider of insurance and reinsurance brokerage services, serves as the broker of record for eight out of 11 of the largest (by revenue) publicly-traded companies that have headquarters in Tampa. Willis also is the insurance broker for Tampa International Airport’s expansion project.
The company’s estimated $9.05 million capital investment in its new center will include renovation costs for office space as well as furniture, fixtures and computer/IT equipment.
Willis has already hired approximately 50 employees with plans to hire another 100 over the next two years. The salaries will be well above the Hillsborough County’s median wage rate, Elliott said.
Willis and analytics firm Towers Watson & Co. (NASDAQ:TW) previously announced an $18 billion merger of equals. Shareholders of both companies have approved the proposals necessary to complete the merger. The companies expect the transaction will close early in 2016; the merged company will be known as Willis Towers Watson.
Scott, flanked by government officials such as Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and Willis employees, noted that Tampa “has more job openings than any place in the state.” In a statement following the press conference, the governor said, “Willis could have chosen any location for their new Operational Center of Excellence, but they knew that Florida was the best place to grow their business and create new jobs. In order to keep creating these new opportunities, we will stay focused on making sure we diversify Florida’s economy by cutting $1 billion in taxes and creating the Florida Enterprise Fund next year.”
“The fact that you have invested in us,” said Buckhorn at the ceremony, “really means a lot to me.” In a prepared statement, the mayor added: “We deeply appreciate their selection of Tampa over other Southeastern locations that fought hard to win their business and welcome them to our great city.”
As part of its North America business, Willis currently operates eight retail insurance brokerage offices in the state of Florida, including its existing Tampa retail office. The new operational center will have teams of insurance professionals providing support to the firm’s property and casualty business across North America. Wills notes that it has an extensive connection to Florida where it “places employee benefits and property and casualty insurance programs for many of the state’s large corporate and middle market businesses.”
Willis joins a growing roster of multinational companies that have recently established major North American and regional operations in Tampa and Hillsborough County, including Bristol-Myers Squibb, Johnson & Johnson and Ashley Furniture Industries.
The center is made possible through a joint partnership between Enterprise Florida, the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corp., Hillsborough County, the city of Tampa and the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.