Thursday, March 10, 2011

First Financial commits to Downtown headquarters

First Financial Bancorp and the City of Cincinnati announced an agreement today that will solidify the company's Downtown headquarters and create 150 jobs by 2014.

"We expect that number to be on the low end of where we'd like to be long-term," said Claude Davis, president and CEO of First Financial, during a press conference this morning.

Davis said that the company is finalizing a long-term lease for new offices, in which it plans to invest approximately $4 million. An announcement on the location of the new headquarters is expected within the next few weeks.

Since late 2009, First Financial and its 95 employees have been working from a 45,000-square-foot space at Atrium One while assessing its long-term needs.

According to Davis, the company selected Downtown due to its opportunities for business development, the ability to retain and attract talent, and the creation of greater awareness of the company in the community.

"We've chosen to remain in Downtown Cincinnati because it is the ideal location for First Financial as we continue our strategic growth and expansion plans, and as we look forward to establishing additional jobs here in the City," he said.

As part of the agreement, First Financial would receive more than $2.8 million in property tax reimbursements over 12 years. The company also would receive a $774,450 grant for capital improvements.

City Manager Milton Dohoney chalked up the agreement as another major economic development coup, similar to major headquarter packages negotiated with Medpace, dunnhumbyUSA, Eurostampa, and Graeter's.

"They could have elected to go any number of places, but they have chosen to be here," he said. "And it's not just because we're nice guys. They have chosen to be here because they see the opportunity for business growth."

"You should never take a single headline or a single event from a single day and attempt to characterize what is going on in the great City of Cincinnati," said Mayor Mark Mallory. "Announcements like this mean that people want to be in this City, they want to do business in this City. They understand that this is the center of activity for 2.1 or 2.2 million people in the region. This is the epicenter."

The package still must be approved by City Council.

"We anticipate full approval of City Council as the deal passes through them," Dohoney said.

Operating in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana, First Financial Bancorp operates 108 banking centers in 70 communities. In 2010, it reported $6.3 billion in assets and is the second-largest bank holding company in the Cincinnati region.