Tech center means jobs

Internet brokerage reportedly will open Arundel operation

300-500 skilled positions

Glendening expected to announce Ameritrade decision

Real estate

July 30, 1999|By Kevin L. McQuaid | Kevin L. McQuaid,SUN STAFF

In one of the largest local investments by a high-tech company in recent history, Gov. Parris N. Glendening is expected to announce by the end of next week that fast-growing Internet stockbrokerage firm Ameritrade Holding Corp. will open an East Coast technology center in Anne Arundel County.

Ameritrade's decision to locate a technology center in an Annapolis Junction business park is expected to create between 300 and 500 skilled jobs, sources familiar with the company's plans said yesterday.

Ameritrade's commitment to Maryland came after evaluating five states, including Georgia, South Carolina and Texas, sources said.

The Omaha, Neb.-based company signed a lease Tuesday to house its new operation in a four-story building being constructed by Corporate Office Properties Trust in the National Business Park, a 175-acre business hub that is home to the National Security Agency, Intel Corp., Applied Signal Technology, Stanford Telecom, Wang Global Services and others.

Company representatives declined to discuss its plans.

"I can't tell you anything official at this point," said Jonathan Dedmon, an Ameritrade spokesman. "We're not in a position to announce anything."

State economic development officials would say only that they have held discussions with Ameritrade, which intends to invest $100 million into new technology in the next year.

"They are an outstanding company on the cutting edge of technology," said David Iannucci, deputy secretary of the state's Department of Business and Economic Development.

"The nature of their business is one identified by many people as one that should experience rapid growth, and we're pleased that they would consider locating here," Iannucci said.

Ameritrade's lease is expected to cost the company roughly $26 million through 2010. It could not be determined whether the company received any state or county economic incentives to offset its rental costs.

Stephen Franco, an analyst at U.S. Bancorp Piper Jaffray in San Francisco, said the majority of the jobs would be high paying, in the fields of computer programming and engineering.

"Ameritrade's problem has been being in Omaha, they haven't been able to compete for high-tech talent," Franco said. "I'd expect that they're hoping being in the Baltimore/Washington area will level that playing field. But we're talking highly skilled, high-end positions."

Neither Anne Arundel County economic development officials, Ameritrade real estate representative CB Richard Ellis, nor the Greater Baltimore Alliance returned telephone calls for comment on the new technology center.

Executives of Corporate Office Properties Trust confirmed that their new 120,000-square-foot building is fully leased, but declined to identify any of the tenants. The 132 National Business Parkway project is scheduled for completion in the spring.

"It's centrally located, which helps the companies attract and retain quality employees," Randall M. Griffin, Corporate's president and chief operating officer, said of National Business Park. "There's a high-tech ambience, and companies there have room to expand because we have land slated for future development." Ameritrade already leases a small amount of space in one of National Business Park's six existing buildings, a factor that influenced its decision to locate the technology center there, sources said.

Ameritrade is expected to fund at least a portion of the technology center from the proceeds of a roughly $200 million debt sale, scheduled to take place today.

Ameritrade requires the $17 million building to keep pace with the tremendous growth in online discount stock trading and with competitors such as Charles Schwab Corp., the nation's largest Internet brokerage.

With more than 505,000 accounts nationwide, Ameritrade ranks as the sixth-largest online broker. In the past 12 months, stock trades on its system have increased 179 percent, leading the company to hire about 40 employees each week and post significant earnings gains.

For its third quarter this year, Ameritrade posted net income of $8.9 million, a 51 percent jump from the third quarter of 1998, while revenue was nearly doubling to $78.1 million.

Ameritrade is expanding elsewhere, too. In Fort Worth, Texas, the company opened a customer service center that it expects to grow to 1,000 employees.

Pub Date: 7/30/99

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