Creditrust leases half of AAI site, is hiring

Credit-card collection firm says it hopes to add 1,500 workers

Commercial real estate

May 18, 1999|By Kevin L. McQuaid | Kevin L. McQuaid,SUN STAFF

In one of the area's largest office deals in a year, a fast-growing credit-card collections company has leased half of the five-story AAI Building in Hunt Valley and says it hopes to hire up to 1,500 employees.

Creditrust Corp.'s lease of the space appears to settle a simmering feud between Baltimore County and the company, which threatened to leave Maryland last year after failing to get $850,000 in economic incentives that it claimed were promised but never received.

Creditrust did not seek financial incentives in making the commitment to expand into the building at 10150 York Road, which will be renamed the Creditrust Building.

"This gives us room to grow, which is critically important to us because we have been constrained because of a lack of office space," said Joseph K. Rensin, Creditrust's chairman and chief executive officer.

"Hunt Valley is a good location for us," he said. "That building is one of the premier buildings in the area and it's built like a fortress. We're excited."

Creditrust's lease through 2006 is valued at roughly $15 million. The company also has an option to buy the building for $22 million within two years from York-Sterling LLC, an investment group consisting of Douglas L. Becker, who is Sylvan Learning Systems' co-chief executive, and others from Baltimore and Chicago.

York-Sterling acquired the building little more than a year ago from defense contractor AAI, which had been downsizing and didn't need the 200,000-square-foot unit.

Creditrust intends to move into the building's top two floors in July.

With the Creditrust lease, the building will be fully occupied. Its other tenants include Zurich Insurance and AT&T Corp. spinoff Lucent Technologies Inc., both with three-year leases. Creditrust needs the space to keep pace with the rapid expansion of its business. Last year, the company hired dozens of workers each month, stuffing them into 56,000 square feet in two locations in Woodlawn.

"This is really a credit to the well-trained work force that we have in the county," said Baltimore County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger.

Baltimore County Economic Development Director Robert L. Hannon, who said he was unaware that a lease had been signed, said a nearby light-rail stop should aid the company in drawing quality employees.

Rensin said he expects to hire 1,500 credit-card account processors, customer service representatives and account maintenance employees for its Hunt Valley location within 18 months.

The company currently employs 825 people, and Rensin expects the Woodlawn facilities to employ roughly 1,500 by the end of this year also.

In the first quarter of this year, the 8-year-old company's earnings jumped nearly fivefold to $2.4 million and 300 percent on a per-share basis. At the end of the first quarter, its receivables accounts carried a face value of $3.1 billion.

Creditrust also announced this month plans to launch its own secured credit card through a subsidiary. Most of the Hunt Valley operation will be devoted to the new subsidiary, Rensin said.

Although Rensin said some headquarters "functions" will likely be relocated from Woodlawn, Creditrust has no plans to move the entire corporate office.

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