Hilliard City Council took the first step Monday night in a process that is expected to bring 500 new jobs to the city.

Hilliard City Council took the first step Monday night in a process that is expected to bring 500 new jobs to the city.

Council approved the first reading of a community reinvestment area agreement and economic development agreement with Verizon Wireless to build a $13-million, 84,000-square-foot financial services call center on a 19-acre site at Davidson Road and Britton Parkway.

The passage of that legislation is one of three approvals required for the proposed project to become reality, said Hilliard Economic Development Director David Meeks.

"There are still various approvals that need to occur before Verizon Wireless is able to commit to this project," Meeks said.

A compensation agreement has to be approved by the Hilliard City School District, and a separate tax incentive package is pending with the Ohio Job Creation Tax Credit Authority.

Hilliard is offering Verizon Wireless two incentives, a 15 percent, 15-year job creation payroll tax and a 45 percent property tax exemption on the non-school portion of the property taxes for the new building.

"The company will be required to enter into a compensation agreement with the Hilliard schools that pays them annually an amount equal to the school taxes," Meeks said.

"We sent the incentives package out to the school district and they got it today," Meeks said Monday. "The school board approval will be needed on that.
Verizon was insistent from day one that none of our incentives touched the school revenues."

The state of Ohio already has offered Verizon an incentive package valued at $825,000. The hearing before the Ohio Job Creation Tax Credit Authority is set for Monday, Sept. 29.

Meeks said the project represents a consolidation of services from other Verizon Wireless sites.

"What they're doing is consolidating various operations," Meeks said. "One point will house all financial services and one will house all customer services to make sure the operations are running efficiently."

Meeks said the city of Hilliard has been involved in discreet negotiations with Verizon Wireless for more than a year.

"They were also looking at sites in Michigan and a few other places," Meeks said. "It was a very secretive process since they had employees in the region. Any time you mention doing anything in that situation it makes people nervous, so, we had to keep it quiet."

Verizon has more than 2,500 workers in the Columbus area, including 1,700 at the Emerald Parkway office in Dublin. The company also has 600 employees working in the Hilliard Verizon Business facility adjacent to the site of the proposed new call center.

Meeks said the existing Verizon Business operation in Hilliard in the old Compuserve building includes about 600 employees and is a completely separate operation from the proposed Verizon Wireless call center. He said the company wants to open for business next year.

"They want to get moving quickly," Meeks said. "It depends on the various approvals, but they would like to break ground yet this year and be in the building by the second quarter of 2009."

Meeks said Verizon Wireless plans to create 300 new financial services positions in Hilliard and move 200 positions from Dublin to Hilliard. He said there will be no net job loss for Dublin since other customer service work will be consolidated at that location.

Meeks said the call center jobs will pay in the $25,000-$30,000 range.

Hilliard Mayor Don Schonhardt said the project is the city's latest economic development success story.

"We have worked on this for a number of months, very quietly obviously, trying to make sure that Verizon was in fact committed to bringing those additional jobs to the community," Schonhardt said. "They had a lot of internal processes to go through. We're extremely excited. This is consistent with the plan that we have had since I have taken office, to grow jobs in the community and expand our commercial tax base."

Council President Brett Sciotto called the project "exciting."

"We've had an ongoing dialogue with their company and we're glad to see them invest even more in Hilliard," Sciotto said. "This is an exciting project. Any time you can bring in 500 jobs at a time, it shows it's another success in this collaborative, open-for-business atmosphere that we have tried to build in Hilliard over the years. We're bringing in jobs by the hundreds. We're getting the community on the track we want to be on."