When Ernst & Young LLP (EY), a global giant in corporate assurance, tax, transaction and advisory services, set parameters for its newest shared-services office, executives specified a US city that would offer operating costs a fraction of New York or Washington’s while providing a smart and enthusiastic workforce able to go toe-to-toe with white-collar pros anywhere.
They chose Louisville.
“We were very impressed with the level of talent in Louisville and commend efforts by the city, state and local learning institutions to grow the talent base even more aggressively and in new areas,” says Brent Summers, EY’s Americas enterprise support services leader. “That, along with Louisville’s affordability and quality of life, were important factors in our location decision. We are also excited to be locating our new center in the downtown area. There is so much new development and energy. We think it will be a great environment for our new team.”
In early 2017, EY announced it would locate a 125-job office in Louisville to house members of the firm’s expanding National Executive Assistance Team, which supports EY partners across the country, as well as creative and digital services employees. It stands as one recent example of Kentucky’s ability to attract and grow business services.
Across a broad range of industries — including financial and customer service, manufacturing, energy, tech, biotech, marketing and media — businesses continue selecting Kentucky for their professional offices, support centers and headquarters.
More than 650 such corporate facilities, in fact, populate the state, employing nearly 84,000 people. While many exist as branch, regional and state offices serving Kentucky’s population or specific business sectors in state, many more — as with EY — exist to reach outward. They serve out-of-state organizations, and recruit customers, clients and industries beyond Kentucky’s borders.
Louisville holds wide recognition for its Yum! Brands headquarters — parent of KFC, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut — as well as hosting the Papa John’s Pizza empire, Humana Inc. and GE Appliances. Lexington, to the east, boasts Lexmark, construction crane maker Link-Belt, Valvoline, A&W and Tempur-Pedic, among others. But many other headquarters and corporate office locations fan out across Kentucky.
The state’s ready and qualified workforce, its location as a gateway between the American South and Midwest and the fact it straddles two time zones, all help it persuade minds. Hearts, however, are won by its vibrant city downtowns, riverwalks, blocks of historic housing, picturesque main streets and the quality of its people.
Just ask Greg Bush, division vice president for Alorica. He and a team from the rapidly expanding customer-engagement company visited Kentucky last year as they honed in on locations for an 830-job office to service clients across the US. They stayed in — and eventually chose Owensboro, a city of about 60,000 in Northwest Kentucky, laid out along the Ohio River.
Alorica, a $2 billion company with 92,000 employees worldwide, could go anywhere. Speaking to Andy Levine, CEO of economic development consultancy DCI for a blog on large-company investments, Bush said his team members were taken aback.
“We stayed downtown at a hotel right on the riverfront, and it was beautiful,” Bush says. “Everything about it. The development in the downtown area is amazing. They have put unbelievable efforts in to the park, into the new buildings, into renovations and the culture they’re trying to create down there.”
In meeting with business people and residents, their energy and sincerity shone through.
“The engagement — you could just tell the passion from the people in the community,” he says. “The work ethic and the pride that people have out there was evident in every single person who spoke to us.”
Bush and his team selected a revitalized former bank building in Owensboro’s downtown. Announced in fall 2016, the Alorica office will open this year, company executives say.
Professional services finding homes and expanding in Kentucky run the gamut from locally sourced employers to fast-growing global firms.
Locally grown East Kentucky Network LLC is investing nearly $1 million to expand its operations in Floyd County’s Ivel community. The wireless communication services company provides mobile phone service, a high-speed fiber optic network and customer support. Floyd County is part of a nine-county region serviced by One East Kentucky, an economic development-focused partnership of private businesses, communities and chambers of commerce.
In the industry’s digital spectrum, El Toro Internet Marketing opened a new headquarters in Louisville in mid-2016, creating space for 60 additional professional-level hires. El Toro, which opened on Louisville’s Distillery Commons district several years ago, renovated new office space in the Whiskey Row neighborhood. At the time of the opening, the company employed 35 people and expected to add its new jobs over the coming few years.
“There’s a whole concept of density that we’re seeing emerge in the Louisville tech community,” says Stacy Griggs, El Toro president and CEO. “We need density and we’re willing to help build it. My colleagues and I believe it’s vital to build a robust community of technology companies — to meet people, make introductions, make connections and discuss ideas. Higher density of tech companies makes this easier, that is why we chose to move downtown.”
“Our employees love being downtown. The energy and after-work entertainment are simply fantastic for our staff,” adds David Stadler, vice president of ad operations and co-founder of El Toro.
El Toro helps advertisers target their audiences digitally by matching IP addresses to physical locations. This allows advertisers to aim messages at specific groups, such as college campuses, businesses and zip codes.
Low costs of housing and conducting business, six commercial airports making for easy travel and a high quality of life for residents all make a compelling case for existing businesses to expand and new firms to locate in the commonwealth.
Hogan Lovells LLC, one of the world’s largest law firms, selected Louisville for its second shared-services office, the other being in Johannesburg, South Africa. Hogan Lovells’ Americas regional managing partner, Cole Finegan, said the firm chose Louisville since it offers an excellent supply of talented people.
“It is (also) well placed in terms of time zones and offers good opportunities for cost savings when compared to Washington D.C. and a number of our other existing office locations,” he says.
The firm announced in early 2016 it would invest nearly $9 million to establish its 250-employee office, which supports clients throughout North, Central and South America.
In the Southcentral Kentucky city of Columbia, Brown & Brown Insurance — seventh among top global insurance brokers with $1.657 billion in brokerage revenues — is investing $1.5 million. The investment covers leasing and outfitting a 5,000-square-foot building planned for construction near its current Columbia office, as well as other activities supporting its new national personal-lines sales and service center.
Among the fast-growing companies finding new homes in Kentucky is global clinical trials firm CTI. In mid-2016 it announced it would locate a new headquarters in Covington, creating 500 Kentucky-resident jobs.
It will lease about 125,000 square feet in the RiverCenter building. The relocation will help the company consolidate its locations and facilitate future growth.
“We’re thrilled for CTI to be starting a new chapter at RiverCenter,” says Timothy Schroeder, CEO of CTI. “We feel that this location will be a state-of-the-art headquarters for our staff, enabling collaboration and innovation. This site allows us to retain and grow the most talented team in the industry who are helping to develop some of the most innovative life-changing therapies.”
Founded in 1999, CTI is a global leader in clinical research, working with pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies to plan, manage and analyze clinical trials, a critical step in bringing new drugs, therapies and medical devices to market.
The company is therapeutically focused on critically ill patient populations, chronic diseases and unmet medical needs including the areas of regenerative medicine, cell and gene therapy, rare disease, immunology, transplantation and oncology.
CTI has associates in more than 25 countries and has worked on over 2,700 projects across six continents. CTI has contributed to more than 100 new drug and device approvals by regulatory agencies around the world.
With more companies seeking out and locking in its advantages each year, Kentucky promises to continue attracting professional-level office locations for decades to come, whether for its quality workforce, central location, inviting cities or charming small towns.