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In memo to DuPont employees, State Farm confirms plans to open offices in Tacoma

Post by Kathleen Cooper / The News Tribune on April 3, 2013 at 2:31 pm with No Comments »
April 3, 2013 2:31 pm

In an email to its DuPont employees, State Farm confirmed its plans to locate some of its offices in downtown Tacoma late this year.

The former headquarters of Russell Investments, 909 A St., in Tacoma. Photo by Joe Barrentine/staff photographer
The former headquarters of Russell Investments, 909 A St., in Tacoma. Photo by Joe Barrentine/staff photographer

The email, dated April 2 but received by most employees today, also assured employees that the company plans to continue to use its DuPont facility, and it cautioned that references to number of potential employees in Tacoma are “purely speculative.”

As The News Tribune reported first Tuesday evening, the company is in the final stages of lease negotiations to move into the former Russell Investments headquarters and to several floors of the Columbia Bank Center, with plans to become operational later this year. Sources with knowledge of the deal have said the company plans to bring about 2,000 jobs to downtown.

“Because of the nature of lease negotiations and agreements we do not disclose locations before agreements are executed,” read the memo to employees, obtained by The News Tribune. “In this instance, plans were in place to communicate with you as soon as this was done, but publication of this information has forced us to discuss this decision before we were prepared to.”

State Farm's operations center in DuPont, Wash. Photo by Peter Haley/staff photographer
State Farm’s operations center in DuPont, Wash. Photo by Peter Haley/staff photographer

The email goes on to confirm the location of State Farm’s planned Claims Initial Loss Reporting and Auto Express operation in Tacoma. It’s unclear what work will continue to be done in DuPont, where just more than 1,000 people work now.

“Our plan is to continue to use our DuPont Operations Center as outlined in our recent facilities communications,” the email reads. “In regards to staffing, there have been no final decisions made as to the total number of employees who will be housed in the Claims ILR and Auto Express operation. Any numbers referenced now are purely speculative.”

For months, Illinois-based State Farm and two building owners have been negotiating. German billionaire Erivan Haub’s family trust owns the Columbia Bank Center. Ilahie Holdings, a subsidiary of the large Seattle-based holding company Saltchuk, owns the former Russell headquarters, which has sat empty since Russell moved out in 2010. Russell’s lease was effective through November of this year, and Ilahie and Russell finalized an early termination in the past few months. Russell gave up control of the building March 1.

The space in the Columbia Bank Center was taken over by DaVita when Russell announced it was leaving. DaVita announced last year that it was moving those operations to Federal Way. Since 909 A St. has been empty for almost three years, and the space State Farm wants in the Columbia Bank Center will soon be available, it’s unclear what might prevent the deal from closing.

Those with direct knowledge of the negotiations, including real estate brokers and economic development officials, won’t comment. City officials on Wednesday referred all comments to State Farm.

Downtown business and property owners, though, were abuzz.

“This is a gamechanger for downtown. An absolute game changer,” said Dan Putnam, one of the owners of Pacific Plaza and of engineering firm PCS Structural Solutions. If the former Russell building “was filled with small tenants, it could have taken three to four years to fill.

“This could give downtown the ability for future development,” he said. “There’s a trickle effect for everything. Related companies like to be near quality companies. When you say State Farm, you think of quality.”

Here’s the text of the email to DuPont employees:

April 2, 2013

TO:
DuPont Operations Center Employees

FROM:
Susan Q. Hood, Senior Vice President – Claims
Doug Smith, Operations Vice President – Claims

RE: Claims ILR and Auto Express operation

A news story about the location of our Claims Initial Loss Reporting (ILR) and Auto Express operation appeared online Tuesday evening and will likely appear in other news sources. We have been clear in our facilities communications that DuPont/Tacoma will be the location of a fourth ILR and Auto Express operation and that staffing plans are being developed to enable that site with a goal to become operational in late 2013.

Because of the nature of lease negotiations and agreements we do not disclose locations before agreements are executed. In this instance, plans were in place to communicate with you as soon as this was done, but publication of this information has forced us to discuss this decision before we were prepared to.

We are in the final stages of a lease agreement to locate the Claims Initial Loss Reporting (ILR) and Auto Express operation in Tacoma, Washington in the former Russell Investments Building and in portions of the Columbia Bank Center located at 909 “A” Street and 1301 South “A” Street in Tacoma.

Our plan is to continue to use our DuPont Operations Center as outlined in our recent facilities communications.

In regards to staffing, there have been no final decisions made as to the total number of employees who will be housed in the Claims ILR and Auto Express operation. Any numbers referenced now are purely speculative.

Our commitment is to share information with employees first and as soon as we are able to. We appreciate your patience and continued support of our policyholders during this time of change, and apologize for any undue concern the premature publication of this information may have caused.

cc:
Senior Vice Presidents
Department Heads
Area Vice Presidents
Operations Vice Presidents
Vice Presidents – Agency
Vice Presidents – Operations

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