REDP: Regional Economic Development Partnership

Regional Economic
Development Partnership
1100 Main Street, 3rd Floor
P.O. Box 1029
Wheeling, WV 26003
Phone: 304.232.7722
Fax: 304.232.7727
Email: info@redp.org

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Williams Lea expanding Wheeling, WV operations center, creating at least 100 jobs

Wheeling Mayor Andy McKenzie says corporate investment by companies like Williams Lea is helping retool a downtown area left for dead more than two decades ago.

Williams Lea announced Nov. 12 it is adding slightly more than 11,000 square feet and at least 100 new professional jobs at its Wheeling operations center, which specializes in business process outsourcing as well as global marketing solutions. Williams Lea Wheeling Operations Director Subodh Sharma credits the expansion to sustained growth in new client activity -- a 30 percent spike this year, building on another 30 percent hike over the preceding 18 months.

“It’s a big deal for Wheeling, but it’s an even bigger deal for downtown Wheeling,” McKenzie said after community and corporate leaders celebrated the Williams Lea expansion with a ceremonial ribbon cutting. “As a city, our economy is pretty vibrant -- it’s the downtown that’s been an achilles heel for us. Until the 1980s, our downtown was thriving but sometime over the last 30-some years (that changed). Companies like Orrick and Williams Lea are investing in the downtown, and all of a sudden we’re seeing spinoff growth. A community is only as good as its downtown, and this will go a long way to revitalizing ours. These are not just jobs, they’re high-paying jobs.”

Williams Lea opened its Wheeling office in 2006 in the Stone Center, an eight-story building that at one time had housed a department store. Its Wheeling operations currently include document creation and word processing, creative services and administrative services, as well as finance and accounting support services for law firms, pharmaceuticals, investment banks and financial services organizations.

The company’s Tag creative studio offers creative development, campaign execution and production management to clients in the legal, financial services, retail and consumer goods sectors.

With the expansion, Williams Lea will have at least 400 workers in Wheeling, “parking in city garages, eating in restaurants” and patronizing downtown businesses, McKenzie said.

“It’s created a lot of foot traffic,” he said, prompting community leaders to consider the kind of downtown living options that would appeal to young professionals.

“Fifty or 100 years ago, everybody lived downtown,” McKenzie added. “Then they moved away. Now, the younger generation wants to live downtown again.”

Sharma says with their strong growth numbers, “it’s just a question of reaching out to the community to make sure (potential clients) are attracted to our brand name.”

“It’s a major expansion for us,” said Williams Lea Global Managed Services Chief Ray Krienke said. “Clients are asking us to expand, to meet that demand we need more space.”

“It’s a testament to the quality of work being done here,” he added. “Our clients are pleased.”

Krienke pointed out it hasn’t all be smooth-sailing for Williams Lea: Shortly after the firm landed in Wheeling in 2006, world financial markets nosedived. Since then, “we’ve seen an escalation in demand.”

“The economy forced a lot of businesses to look at new ways of doing things,” he said. “Now, after the recession, they’re looking at how they can do things differently than they used to. It’s helping to drive our business -- now they’re considering moving those functions to” companies like Williams Lea.

With the expansion, Williams Lee will have at least 400 employees working out of just under 50,000 square feet in the Stone Center.

“Everything they told us they would do they have done,” said Don Rigby, executive director of the Regional Economic Development Partnership. “They’ve been an ideal anchor tenant here in the Stone Center, a major employer in the region and they continue to grow.”

RED had partnered with city officials in 2005 to preserve the shell of the building for economic development uses. He said RED’s initial investment was for about $5 million, while the city allowed about $3 million in tax increment financing (TIFF) for the project.

“We had some folks second-guess us,” he said. “We went into (it) as a joint venture with the city, we took some risks with it. But things are growing quickly -- this building has over 500 people working in it every day now, and with this expansion, it will bring an extra 100 or 200 people and they’re looking, candidly, at adding a whole floor. I think it’s more than born fruit.” 

-- www.statejournal.com --