Hertz rental car company picks Lee County as new world headquarters

9:11 AM, May 8, 2013   |    comments
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Hertz Corp. has its headquarters in Park Ridge, N.J. The company is moving its headquarters to Estero. / Peter Carr/The Journal News

 


 


Fort Myers, Florida (News-Press) -- Rental car giant Hertz Global Holdings Inc. is building a showcase world headquarters in Estero - a Tuscan-style 300,000-square-foot office building with car rental and sales operations.

Hertz CEO Mark P. Frissora told The News-Press in an exclusive interview Monday that after a rigorous nine-month selection process, "It was kind of an easy decision: Everything pointed to Lee County."

In exchange for approximately $19 million in economic stimulus money from Lee County, the state and FPL, Hertz will relocate from its present headquarters in Park Ridge, N.J., spending $50 million to build its headquarters and bringing at least 700 jobs paying an average $102,000.

Company officials hammered out the agreement with the Lee County Economic Development Office and Enterprise Florida, a public/private organization that helps facilitate corporate investment in the state.

The headquarters building will go on 34 acres that Hertz has the option to buy at the northeast corner of U.S. 41 and Williams Road, Frissora said.

"This is a major victory for our state," Gov. Rick Scott told The News-Press in an exclusive interview. "What happened just reinforces this state is a great place to do business. Lee County is a great place to do business."

Frissora said that although he and Scott have homes in Naples, they didn't know each other before the negotiations for the relocation began and the headquarters' proximity wasn't a factor.

"Nothing could be further from the truth," Frissora said. "I certainly have the money to buy a condo in Miami and anywhere else."

More to the point, he said, was Southwest Florida's workforce, prospects for growth and major tourist and airline industries.

Also important to the decision, Frissora said, was that Hertz is in expansion mode - having merged last year with Tulsa-based Dollar Thrifty Automotive Group.

It was a quality-of-life issue, he said: Getting talented Dollar Thrifty workers to relocate to New Jersey would have been a tough pitch. As many as 120 Tulsa employees may move here, and possibly some from European operations in locations such as Dublin, Ireland.

Scott said he uses the state's charms in his tireless efforts to bring jobs here. "I sort of tell everybody, 'Why in daylights wouldn't you live in our great state?'"

It's helpful that a lot of CEOs have places in Naples, he said, but really it's a matter of staying focused on the task. "I make these cold calls on CEOs all the time and every once in awhile they pay off big."

Now that the decision to move here has been made, Frissora said, the complicated logistics of transitioning to the new location begin.

Hertz officials are looking at three potential locations for a temporary home while the permanent one in Estero is built. "I'm trying to find something halfway economical," he said.

One of those is the old Gartner Inc. building in Gateway, vacant since Gartner moved out of the 63,200-square-foot facility last year and the subject of a foreclosure lawsuit filed last week by Wells Fargo Bank against owner Lexington Fort Meyers LP.

By the first or second quarter of next year, the temporary headquarters should be housing about 200 employees, Frissora said.

Meanwhile, Hertz is hard at work creating an ambitious new headquarters complex that will include car leasing and sales operations.

That will allow the company to tweak the way it does business, Frissora said. "It'll allow us to experiment," perhaps with the leasing of Ferraris and Lamborghinis.

A builder hasn't been chosen, but he said the plan is for a Tuscan-style building that will fit in with its neighbors. "I don't think they wanted to have some big concrete and glass palace that would stand out as some kind of clumsy albatross."

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