In a July 18 letter to Palm Beach County Commissioner Burt Aaronson, Office Depot said it expects to meet its incentives requirement with the county to retain and create jobs.
"We believe we will continue to meet these requirements for the remainder of the term. If we do not, as I told you during our meeting, Office Depot will make restitution to the County in the full amount required by the Agreement," said chief executive Neil Austrian in the letter.
Office Depot has been under fire for its decision to outsource 80 finance jobs to Guatemala and India. Assistant County Administrator Shannon LaRocque and Comm. Aaronson requested the meeting out of concern that Office Depot might default on its county agreement after changing CEOs. Newly appointed Austrian met with LaRocque and Aaronson last week.
The office supply company must report in March 2012 whether it has met the requirements that includes retaining workers and creating jobs at a salary above the average county wage.
"New jobs have been added at the leadership, management and professional staff levels within our marketing, sales, eCommerce and other teams," Austrian said in the letter. For the fiscal period that ended on August 31, Office Depot hired 160 individuals; the headquarters' average annual wage reached $109,587, which is more than 42 percent above the minimum requirement under the agreement, the CEO said.
Office Depot agreed to retain at least 1,750 employees in accepting multimillion-dollar incentives from the county and the state. The company signed an incentive contract with the county on Aug. 18, 2009, to receive $650,000 a year in maximum incentives over a 10-year period, in return for capital investment, job retention, job creation and maintain a certain average salary. So far, Office Depot has received $952,822 in incentives, LaRocque said.
Office Depot is required under the county incentives it receives each year to create 200 new jobs by 2014. That number has been reduced twice by the Palm Beach County Commission in recognition of more difficult economic times.
"We have bent over backwards to make concessions to them," Comm. Aaronson said Tuesday. "They should be more sensitive to the people looking for jobs and those who had the jobs and are now going to be unemployed."
Aaronson said that he would ask that a "no outsourcing" provision be included in future contracts for employers seeking incentives.