Looks like the rumors were true: Personal care products maker and longtime Triangle corporate citizen Burt's Bees is on the verge of moving downtown, to American Tobacco, from their current perch on the Durham-Wake border at Keystone in the midst of RTP.
The H-S' Monica Chen has a very good and detailed look at the news, which first popped up in the public record late Monday, via the April 6 City Council agenda.
Chen reports that the Hill Building -- currently the home of mobile content provider Motricity, which is in the midst of moving to Washington state -- would be Burt's Bees new site. BCR understands that Burt's Bees could potentially lease the entirety of the building, only half of which was occupied by Motricity; the firm would start in the existing footprint and expand over time.
The Hill Building has been rumored to be under scrutiny for other relocating firms before; last fall, a deal to relocate Bandwidth.com from offices in Cary to downtown Durham -- in what was rumored to be a Hill Building play, though unconfirmed by the company -- fell through.
DDI's Bill Kalkhof tells the Herald-Sun that Burt's Bees, now a division of Clorox, has weighed expanding at its current site, or relocating to Wake County's Perimeter Park, which we believe is in Morrisville, if American Tobacco isn't an option.
Interim director of Durham's Office of Economic and Workforce Development Kevin Dick notes in his memo that the firm has applied to Durham for $183,750 in economic development incentives. (We presume that this has been the subject of the two recent City Council closed sessions on economic development.)
The incentives would hinge upon the relocation of 132 jobs from the Keystone office park plus 51 new jobs expected to be created over five years. Dick's memo and presentation note that the well-above-living-wage positions (avg. salaries of almost $82,000) and the location inside Ambacco, a targeted community development area, fit within the boundaries of the Council's policy on economic incentives.
All of the incentives are performance-based, meaning City dollars would flow over time as jobs are created or retained. The incentives deal would run through spring 2012.
Though advocates for the deal may expect some political static given that Burt's Bees already is based within Durham's city limits, the firm's high-paying jobs, expected job growth (at a time when other companies are shrinking), longtime support for community service in Durham, and green reputation -- the growth of 'green jobs' is a high priority for the mayor and administration -- all stand out as important balancing figures in the incentives request.
In fact, provisions in the incentives deal would, among other things, have Burt's Bees assert that they would continue company-sponsored "Habitat for Humanities" building projects for their employees and to support other non-profits directly and through board service. Burt's Bees would also commit to providing the same level of health care services to its employees under the agreement.
Ultimately, the provision of such factors in the contract seems more to be about recognizing the good work the company is already doing than about trying to press it into maintaining those ties. At the end of the day, Burt's Bees is the kind of environmentally-friendly, community-oriented, responsible corporate citizen that communities kill to have located in their backyard.
And with a Wake County address one possible outcome for the firm, that may end up being the biggest reason of all to see elected officials get behind a move that would solidify Burt's Bees as a Durham-linked company.