YBOR CITY — Ashley Furniture Industries Inc. officially announced Thursday that it will locate its global e-commerce headquarters, a training center and other administrative offices in Centro Ybor later this year.
Starting with 100 employees, the company expects to attract customers and employees from around the globe who will conduct business or training here, book hotel rooms and patronize local businesses.
Ashley is the world’s largest furniture manufacturer and the No. 1 selling brand of furniture in North America. Its manufacturing operations are based in Wisconsin.
Bringing business headquarters to Hillsborough County has become a primary goal for the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corp. This is the second headquarters announced in Tampa just this week.
Inspirata, a biomedical firm specializing in digital pathology, announced its headquarters opening on Monday off Kennedy Boulevard. That company expects to grow from 30 to about 70 employees over the next two years. Other corporate headquarters that have either moved here recently or are expanding include Xcelience, ReliaQuest, FitLife Foods, BluePearl Veterinary Partners, Tribridge and Laser Spine Institute.
The Economic Development Corp. is working with Tampa Bay Lightning owner and developer Jeff Vinik to draw a Fortune 500 headquarters here as Vinik moves forward with his $1 billion revitalization and development plan for downtown.
The state, Hillsborough County and the City of Tampa all contributed incentives to make the Ashley deal happen. The company will receive $320,000 in incentives through the state’s Qualified Target Industries program. The company is required to offer a minimum average wage of $48,813 to qualify for the funding.
The 70,000 square-foot complex in Centro Ybor replaces half of the Muvico movie theater — or 10 of the 20 screens the theater once operated — off 7th Avenue, in the heart of the historic business district.
“It’s an excellent environment for training, for our customers and for our e-commerce operation,” Ashley founder Ron Wanek said after a formal presentation outside of Centro Ybor.
“I live here, we have a distribution center in Brandon and Ybor is a great area for millennials” who will work for the e-commerce center, said Wanek, a St. Petersburg resident. “They are creative people and they love this area.”
Many of the employees who will work in the U.S. e-commerce headquarters are new hires and many were hired from this area, said Jason Lockington, a spokesman for Ashley. He said the company is still hiring. Anyone interested in learning about available jobs can visit www.ashleyfurniture.com/jobportal or send a resume by email to email@example.com.
“Here we are in Ybor and they are saying ‘this is where we want to grow our business.’ This announcement goes beyond jobs and capital investment,” said EDC President and CEO Rick Homans. “It says we have and can attract talent for a global e-commerce company.”
Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn harkened back to the mid-1990s when Centro Ybor was first envisioned as a hub for the historic district. “We couldn’t be more excited to have you here,” he told Wanek and his son, Todd Wanek, who now serves as president and CEO of Ashley Furniture Industries. “We appreciate your investment in us.”
Ron Wanek said Ashley, through its wholly owned subsidiary, Ashcomm LLC, recently launched its website and its entire line of furnishings will be available on the internet. Home delivery should begin soon, he said.
Hillsborough County was in competition with six other locations for this e-commerce headquarters, according to Hillsborough County Commission Chairwoman Sandy Murman. “Their decision to locate in Hillsborough County proves once again that this community offers a business climate, diversity of talent and quality of life that other major markets can’t top,” she said in a press release announcing the new headquarters.
Conversion of the former movie theater space will involve 30 subcontractors and 100 suppliers. The Perry Company, Ai Collaborative and Fabricated Products, all located in Ybor City, will play major roles in the project. About 300 people will be directly involved in the construction project.