|The country’s top originator has made its way into Florida in a big way.
Countrywide Financial Corp. announced last week that subsidiary Countrywide Home Loans Inc. purchased two buildings near the Tampa International Airport and plans to establish its first central office in the Sunshine State.
“In alignment with Countrywide’s ambitious strategies for continued rapid growth through this decade, we have initiated searches for new office locations in business-friendly states, and we are particularly excited to make Florida our newest corporate facility home,” said Patrick Benton, the company’s managing director of corporate real estate administration, in the announcement.
Currently, Countrywide has a Florida workforce of more than 2,500 dispersed throughout 100 smaller locations for mortgage production branches, related support operations and other financial services divisions.
But with the recent purchase, that workforce will increase by about 40 percent, as the newly acquired space will house 900 to 1,000 employees, according to the announcement.
Of the 900 to 1,000, about 95 percent to 97 percent will be new hires for mortgage origination, servicing and technology operations in the two facilities, spokesman Rick Simon told MortgageDaily.com. The other three to five percent will be management lead personnel transfers, from existing facilities in Texas, California and possibly Florida, who will carry the company’s culture, experience and leadership into the new corporate office.
The Calabasas, Calif.-based lender anticipates it will begin to occupy the campus in the first quarter 2006, but it will start hiring for the new positions before the end of the year and meanwhile house the employees in existing nearby offices, Simon said.
While Countrywide expects to have all the positions in place within two years, “it would not be unreasonable to have them filled within one year,” the spokesman added.
He pointed out the company increased it workforce by 28% last year, and throughout this year pushed it up another 20 percent, bringing its headcount to more than 50,000 and closer to its goal of doubling that staff number by the end of 2010.
Two to three years ago, Countrywide started stepping out of its California base into more business-friendly climates, including Texas and Arizona, as part of its strategy to achieve its employment goal.
As for Florida, in addition to state and local tax incentives “vital” to the decision to expand there, Countrywide said it was “attracted to the proximity of these buildings to the airport, allowing for the convenient handling of documents that will come to this location from Countrywide offices around the country.”
Countrywide funded more loans during the second quarter than any other primary U.S. mortgage lender covered by MortgageDaily.com.
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