BUSINESS

Office Depot selects Boca Raton for corporate headquarters

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

BOCA RATON, Fla. -- After 10 months of turmoil for employees and the community since the merger announcement, Office Depot announced Tuesday it will stay in Boca Raton.

Office and OfficeMax merged in November after the Federal Trade Commission determined it would not cause shoppers to pay more for office supplies. The joint company expects to have sales of about $18 billion a year, which is still less than industry leader Staples.

As one of Palm Beach County's only two Fortune 500 companies, the office supply superstore chain is a big fish. It employees 1,700 people and has a foundation that invests heavily in the community, as well as active internship programs with Boca-based universities.

Business Development Board President Kelly Smallridge said she has been working daily on keeping the retail giant in Palm Beach County, where it has been located for 25 years. She arranged conference calls with Office Depot CEO Roland Smith and local university presidents and other CEOs who call the county home.

''It certainly reiterates how important it is you have a solid community and economic development product that addresses so many factors when a large company considers locating here," she said.

She made sure Office Depot had all the information it needed to compare the workforce, tax climate, educational system, housing stock and other economic factors.

''Both Florida and Illinois have many positive attributes, but our analysis concluded that Boca Raton provides the best platform for us to achieve planned synergies, leverage assets to drive improved profitability, and launch a compelling vision for the future," Office Depot CEO Roland Smith said in a news release Tuesday.

The company is still under an economic development incentive plan worth $15 million over 10 years. It needs to have 1,950 employees at headquarters by August 2014 to meet its goals.

Office Depot spokesman Brian Levine said Tuesday that the merger will mean job gains at the Boca Raton headquarters.

The decision is the result of a thorough evaluation that took into account a number of important factors, including the cost to operate each headquarters location, lease obligations and sublease considerations, tax implications, government incentives, ability to add associates and incorporate functions in the current space, and people-related costs, Office Depot officials said.

''Selecting the headquarters location is a critical step toward integrating our two companies," Smith said.

''We appreciate the significant efforts from legislators in Illinois and the generous support we have received from the State of Florida, Palm Beach County, and City of Boca Raton," Smith added. "We would like to thank Florida Governor Rick Scott, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn and the countless others involved in providing the information necessary for us to make this important decision."

Boca Raton's selection first was reported in November by The Palm Beach Post. Real estate sources said the company had settled on Boca Raton because of the property's lengthy lease and the space available for expansion at the office complex.

At the time, Office Depot spokesman Brian Levine had denied a decision had been made.

But sources close to Office Depot said the company was staying in Boca Raton and would not consolidate in Naperville, Ill., where OfficeMax was headquartered.

The company will remain in its current 625,000-square-foot corporate campus at 6600 North Military Trail in Boca Raton, which has ample space to accommodate associates who will relocate from Illinois.

Office Depot has 1,750 employees in Boca Raton. The former OfficeMax has 2,050 employees in Naperville but only 361,000 square feet of space.

Office Depot moved into the Boca Raton site in 2008 from older offices in Delray Beach, Fla. The size of the campus matches the size of Office Depot's rival, Staples Inc., which has a 600,000-square-foot headquarters in Framingham, Mass.

''With the location of our headquarters now decided, we will quickly move forward to build a world class leadership team and organization focused on exceeding the expectations of consumers and businesses, becoming a more appealing partner to our vendors, and driving value for our shareholders," Smith said. "To do that, we will select the best talent available from both locations."

Emily Roach writes for The Palm Beach Post. E-mail: emily(underscore)roach(at)pbpost.com. Staff writer Alexandra Clough contributed to this story.

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