EF Hutton America move to Springfield ‘catalytic moment’ for resurgence

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The Springfield News-Sun digs into important stories that affect jobs and the economy in Clark and Champaign counties, including recent coverage of a rise in temporary workers and tracking local unemployment rates.

By the numbers

415: Jobs that have been projected EF Hutton America will add in Springfield

$1.5 million to $1.7 million: Possible final value of proposed employment incentive agreement with the city of Springfield if approved

$22 million: Investment EF Hutton America plans to make to move to Springfield

EF Hutton America’s decision to move to downtown could boost other downtown businesses, provide jobs for local college graduates and signal that Springfield’s economy is finally improving, local leaders said Friday.

The financial firm, which will make its headquarters in Springfield, said it will bring at least 400 jobs downtown over the next several years. On Friday, local officials unveiled a sign to officially change the name of the former Credit Life Building to the EF Hutton Tower.

Company leaders pledged to do their part to provide a spark to the city’s downtown.

“That’s one of the reasons we came,” EF Hutton America CEO Christopher Daniels said. “We saw a community that was excited to get behind a company that wants to open on a national scale from a Springfield headquarters.”

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While the details haven’t been finalized, city commissioners are expected to vote by the end of this month on a proposed seven-year employment incentive grant for the company based on the number of jobs the firm creates. If the company creates the 415 jobs that have been projected, the final value of the grant could be as much as $1.5 million to $1.7 million, Franzen said.

Ohio is also offering an incentive package, but state officials said details are still being finalized and no further information was immediately available. The company’s projected payroll was also not immediately available Friday.

The company is already hiring for some positions and will ramp up in the next several months, he said. The firm will look to fill a range of positions, from customer service to website designers to data specialists to product managers.

The firm will also launch a new website on Monday, Sept. 26, Daniels said, along with a new series of products and services for customers.

The company will look to hire workers from Springfield first, he said, then branch out to outside communities if necessary.

One focus will be on retirement advice, which Daniels said is one of the biggest challenges the country faces. The company’s move to Springfield also signals it plans to separate itself from traditional Wall Street firms. City leaders agreed to change the address at EF Hutton Tower from 1 S. Limestone St. to One Main Street.

“The recent financial crisis caused many investors to question the trust many placed in their financial services provider,” Daniels said.

Geoff Norman, owner of Fountain on Main, said while it may take time, 400 new potential customers would be a significant boost to businesses that have seen highs and lows in downtown over the past several years. He’s operated the ’50s-style diner at 14 E. Main St. for 13 years.

“Any more foot traffic we can get downtown is coveted,” Norman said. “It would be a cherished, long-awaited benefit to all the folks downtown if it does come to fruition.”

Several entities and individuals have been working for more than a decade to spur growth downtown, said Tom Franzen, assistant city manager and director of economic development for Springfield. That includes everything from developing a downtown hospital to making $1.2 million in improvements to Fountain Avenue, and more recent projects like a new ice arena and brewery.

EF Hutton America’s announcement Friday is a big step toward further growth, Franzen said.

“We’ve been working on laying the groundwork for these types of investments,” he said.

The company’s decision to move to Springfield likely means more than just jobs and more foot traffic downtown, said Michael McDorman, president and CEO of the Chamber of Greater Springfield.

It also means more opportunity for area college graduates, a potential boost to the local housing market, and an encouraging sign to retail businesses thinking about moving to Clark County. It will also be the second large company that has a headquarters in Clark County after Speedway.

“This announcement serves as a catalytic moment for our county’s resurgence … It’s safe to say we’re making a comeback,” McDorman said of the local economy. “Maybe even a strong comeback.”

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