Hertz relocating to Estero
Gov. Scott, Hertz CEO announce relocation.
Park Ridge, N.J. - Kelley O’Donnell has called the quaint New Jersey borough of Park Ridge home since 1971, watching the 2.6-square-mile area develop from farmlands to the home of major international corporations.
She’s seen businesses come and go, hundreds of jobs added and subtracted, all while the borough of nearly 9,000 retains its cozy upper-middle-class aura.
So while the decision by Hertz Global Holdings, a company she calls a model citizen of Park Ridge, to relocate to Southwest Florida stings, she believes Park Ridge will carry on.
“I’m disappointed that they’re leaving,” said O’Donnell, the borough’s administrator, “but I don’t think it will have a huge impact on the area.”
As Hertz’s relocation announcement Tuesday was heralded as a watershed moment for Lee County, the residents of Park Ridge, who’ve become accustomed to major jobs shifts in recent years, had a more mixed response to the decision. For employees, there’s uncertainty. For executives, there’s excitement. For locals, there’s both discouragement and a sense of perseverance, served in some cases with a side of apathy.
The move undoubtedly impacts the roughly 550 Hertz employees who now must decide whether to uproot from charming Park Ridge and its neighboring boroughs, located about 30 miles north of New York City. From a quality-of-life standpoint, their bucolic home can compete with Southwest Florida, offering two-lane roads lined with dogwoods and maples, a large selection of well-kept homes and a small-town feel within shouting distance of the Big Apple’s bustle.
Multiple attempts to reach employees for comment were met with resistance. In one case, a table of lunching staffers called the announcement “too fresh” for discussion. Locals in Park Ridge described the employees’ reactions as ranging from frustrated with the prospect of relocating to ecstatic at the opportunity to move south.
Sitting on white folding chairs in the atrium of Hertz’s 230,000-square-foot headquarters, employees watched the announcement Tuesday morning, said Richard Broome, Hertz’s executive vice president of corporate affairs and communications. Company officials are in the process of gathering questions and responses for employees, with the most common queries about Southwest Florida’s schools and job opportunities for spouses, Broome said.
“We’re going to have a robust amount of information for them,” he said. “We want to retain our folks. The good people here are experienced and we want to keep them, but if some people decide not to go, we want to find the best talents we can.
Employees are expected to decide by July whether to join Hertz in Estero, with about 200 staff members expected to move to a temporary location by early 2014. A target date of late 2014 or early 2015 is set for the opening of the new 300,000-square-foot headquarters, located at the southeastern corner of U.S. 41 and Williams Road.
For some, the news of Hertz’s relocation, which came about suddenly and surprised some political power players in New Jersey, was still unraveling. Multiple New Jersey media outlets reported Tuesday that the state’s lieutenant governor only learned about the relocation last week, and she never had the chance to fight the move.
“It’s something that’s new to us and we’re very limited in what we know right now,” said Robert Oppelt, a borough council member.
While Hertz employs the second-largest number of people in Park Ridge — 650 people, behind only Sony Electronics Inc.’s 730, according to the Bergen County Economic Development Corporation — locals didn’t describe it as a “company town,” noting the prevalence of corporate America in northern New Jersey.
Since 1988, Hertz’s headquarters have been situated on the western edge borough in a large corporate park area, now populated by Sony, NUS Consulting Group and Mercedes-Benz (the latter of which rests in neighboring Montvale). It is, however, a major taxpayer, with about $750,000 paid in property taxes in 2012, O’Donnell said.
Chuck Del Console, owner of Park Pizza in downtown Park Ridge, said he’s become accustomed to large shifts in employment during his 37 years in the borough, offering Sony as an example of a company that has downsized its local presence.
Del Console, taking a break from an early evening rush, said he typically makes one or two large deliveries to Hertz’s headquarters each week, and he’s come to know several regular customers whose business will be sorely missed.
“It’s going to impact us, of course,” he said. “But that’s normal for us. You don’t really notice much change because there’s so much coming in and out of here all the time.”