State Farm’s announcement earlier this month that it would exit downtown Tacoma by the end of this year has placed a priority not only on attracting a new tenant to fill the 300,000 square feet of Class A office space but helping the 400 workers in danger of unemployment find a new job.
“My focus in the upcoming months will be on the State Farm workers who are impacted by this decision,” said Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards. “While the impact is somewhat mitigated by the relocation of 600 positions to DuPont, I look forward to working with our economic and workforce development partner agencies to identify opportunities for those employees searching for new career options.”
State Farm representatives confirmed that 600 positions would be transferred to its DuPont offices, while another 250 would be sent to State Farm’s headquarters in Bloomington, Ill. and 150 to its office in Phoenix. That leaves still 400 employees anxious to know where they ultimately will land.
“We believe it will be a rolling exercise,” said Kim Bedier, acting director of community and economic development for the City of Tacoma. “We believe (State Farm) won’t be closing on one day; they will be closing over the course of 2018. We hope to help everyone with workforce assistance.”
State Farm’s call center offices are made up of approximately 226,000 square feet at 909 A St. in the Frank Russell building, with the remaining balance in the Columbia Bank Center at 1301 A St. State Farm’s five-year lease will expire on Dec. 31. They entered the marketplace in October 2013 and became fully operational in January 2014.
“Where we were economically in 2013, we are in a much different place now,” Bedier said. “The economy is much healthier here and there is a greater population of skilled workers, so everyone is enthusiastic about filling office spaces.”
During its five years in Tacoma, State Farm established a legacy of giving back to the community. One example of that is its investment in the South Tacoma historic business district along South Tacoma Way. In April 2018, a new permanent public art display will be unveiled along South Tacoma Way between South 48th and South 58th streets. The $111,000 commissioned art project was fully funded by State Farm, in partnership with the City of Tacoma, Local Initiatives Support Corporation, and the South Tacoma Business District.
“State Farm is a good partner,” said Rebecca Solverson, public art specialist for City of Tacoma’s Office of Arts & Cultural Vitality. “They have joined us in person for some of the meetings. They haven’t been a silent funder.”
State Farm’s reasoning for vacating its downtown Tacoma offices is due to the need for streamlining operations and maximizing space at its existing facilities. Sevag Sarkissian, a State Farm spokesman, said the company is committed to maintaining a positive difference in the communities in which it does business, despite announced office closures. This commitment, he said, will be no different in Tacoma.