Article: Fortune 500 company Mosaic to relocate headquarters from Minnesota to Hillsborough County

TAMPA — The Mosaic Company announced plans Monday to move its headquarters from a suburb of Minneapolis to Hillsborough County, making the phosphate mining giant the first Fortune 500 company to decide to relocate here.

Key details — when Mosaic will move and where it will land — are still under consideration.

So is how many employees will be relocated. Mosaic, No. 377 on Fortune 500’s ranking of companies by total revenue, currently has about 150 employees at its corporate office in Plymouth, Minn., company spokesman Benjamin Pratt said in an email.

Mosaic is the world’s largest combined producer of potash and phosphates, two key plant nutrients, and its presence in Florida already is huge, with 3,000 employees, another 3,000 contractors and a Florida payroll of $465 million last year.

The greater Tampa Bay area, of course, has homegrown companies of its own on the Fortune 500, including Publix (No. 85), Tech Data (No. 107), Jabil (No. 152) and Raymond James (No. 469). But persuading an existing corporate heavyweight to pull up stakes and move here is a coup that elated local officials.

“This shows that we’ve arrived,” Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn said.

“Fortune 500 company relocations are really rare,” Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corp. president and CEO Craig Richard said. “The fact that they chose Hillsborough County is just another testament to the momentum that the city and the county is experiencing right now.”

Officials hope that landing the first such company will lead to others, just as Bristol-Myers Squibb’s decision to open a major operation in Hillsborough was followed by similar commitments from fellow pharmaceutical companies Johnson & Johnson and Amgen.

Landing a Fortune 500 headquarters has long been a goal of bay area corporate recruiters, a group that in recent years has included Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik, who created a development company called Strategic Property Partners with Cascade Investment, the personal wealth fund of Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates.

In late 2014, Vinik said his company’s No. 1 goal — “our full-court press,” he said — was to get a corporate headquarters for a project that has been since named Water Street Tampa.

Mosaic is not saying where it is likely to land, but it doesn’t sound like Water Street Tampa is off the list.

“We are considering downtown Tampa as well as some other locations,” Pratt said in an email to the Tampa Bay Times. “We haven’t specifically considered Water Street yet.”

Strategic Property Partners did not comment on whether it has had any contact from Mosaic or would pursue the company to join a planned $3 billion project with two new hotels, office buildings, residential towers, a grocery store, dozens of new stores, bars and restaurants and a new building for the University of South Florida Morsani College of Medicine.

“Water Street Tampa will be a great place to do business for both retailers and for office tenants,” Strategic Property Partners spokeswoman Ali Glisson said in an email. “That having been said, it is our policy not comment on any potential tenant discussion or negotiation.”

Port Tampa Bay president and CEO Paul Anderson said the port would “definitely” talk to Mosaic about the possibility of moving onto port-owned land.

Asked whether Mosaic considered other potential locations, Pratt said, “the choice really came down to Central Florida, or stay where we are.”

Unlike other corporate recruitment efforts, the discussions with Mosaic have not included offers of state and local tax abatements for creating new jobs, Richard said.

“There’s no incentives on the table at this time,” he said, nor was he “aware of any intention to apply for incentives.”

The company does expect several benefits from a move to Hillsborough, including:

• Significant long-term cost savings.

• Opportunities to amplify Mosaic’s presence in Central Florida and engage more closely with communities where they operate.

• Closer proximity and better access to its business operations in South America. In 2014, Mosaic acquired Archer Daniels Midland Company’s fertilizer distribution business in Brazil and Paraguay. Earlier this year, it acquired Vale Fertilizantes in Brazil, doubling the size of its workforce. That, executives say, raised the need to keep its Americas-based business units in close contact with corporate leadership.

“This move will drive improved efficiency and good value,” Mosaic president and CEO Joc O’Rourke said in announcing the relocation.

While Mosaic’s television ads tout its environmental stewardship, its record with state and federal regulators in Florida has been checkered.

In 2013, Mosaic’s Riverview plant was one of two locations in Florida that flunked a new Environmental Protection Agency air pollution standard for sulfur dioxide, a component of smog. Company officials said they were working to bring the plant into compliance with the EPA rules.

In 2015, Mosaic reached two settlements with the EPA to resolve claims about hazardous waste management practices at eight sites in Florida and Louisiana. “The 60 billion pounds of hazardous waste addressed in this case is the largest amount ever covered by a federal or state … settlement,” the EPA said then.

In 2016, a 45-foot-wide sinkhole opened up under the phosphogypsum stack at Mosaic’s Mulberry processing plant, draining the 78-acre pond on top and sending 215 million gallons of contaminated water gurgling into the aquifer. No one contacted the plant’s neighbors because state law didn’t require it. When Gov. Rick Scott found out, he was so outraged he pushed for a change in the state’s pollution notification law.

~Tampa Bay Times 5/14/2018

Times staff writer Craig Pittman contributed to this report. Contact Richard Danielson at rdanielson@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3403. Follow @Danielson_Times

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