First Financial’s HQ to stay in Cincinnati; no Hamilton impact

March 11, 2011

Dayton Daily News: Updated 1:45 AM Friday, March 11, 2011

Top official says banking headquarters in Hamilton not affected by announcement

CINCINNATI - The headquarters of First Financial Bancorp will stay in Cincinnati, but its leader says it has no effect on operations in Hamilton.

President and Chief Executive Officer Claude Davis made the announcement Thursday at Cincinnati City Hall that the corporate holding company, formerly based in Hamilton, will make a long-term commitment to maintain its home in Cincinnati. Davis said it's the ideal location as the region's business center.

"Butler County continues to be a very important part of our business and those jobs that will be coming downtown are coming from different areas other than Hamilton and Butler County," he said.

The corporate operations moved to temporary headquarters under a two-year lease at 201 E. Fourth St., Cincinnati, at the end of 2009. Part of Thursday's announcement was a 12-year agreement with the city for financial incentives to encourage the investment.

Incentives include a capital grant of $775,000 for an investment of at least $4 million and a reimbursement based on the amount of tax dollars generated by new employees to Cincinnati, according to both groups.

In exchange, First Financial said it's committed to creating 150 net new jobs, which includes jobs created since the original move because the agreement is retroactive to 2010.

The company now has fewer than 100 employees in Cincinnati, Davis said.

He was mum on the permanent headquarters location and made no comment if the Fourth Street space is in the running. The details of a longterm lease are being finalized. He said the announcement is planned for the second quarter, which begins in April.

The holding company's subsidiary, First Financial Bank, is headquartered in Hamilton.

"First Financial is important to Hamilton, especially to downtown which is an area experiencing the first steps of positive redevelopment," said Mayor Pat Moeller in a statement.

Contact this reporter at (513) 705-2551 or clevingston@coxohio.com.

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