First Financial to keep headquarters in downtown Cincinnati

March 10, 2011

Business Courier - by Lucy May, Courier Senior Staff Reporter, Thursday, March 10, 2011, 11:21am EST

First Financial Bancorp will keep its corporate headquarters in downtown Cincinnati.

First Financial CEO Claude Davis announced the decision at a news conference at Cincinnati City Hall with Mayor Mark Mallory and Cincinnati City Manager Milton Dohoney.The bank moved its headquarters to temporary space downtown in late 2009. It currently occupies less than 45,000 square feet and has fewer than 100 employees downtown. Davis said the bank will nearly double that space, although he wouldn’t say exactly where downtown. That announcement will come soon, he said.

“We couldn’t be more excited,” Davis said. “We see lots of positive developments in the city. From a business perspective, Cincinnati is the center of this greater metropolitan area.”

Pending City Council’s approval, First Financial will enter a 12-year agreement with the city to bring 150 jobs to the central business district.

Davis said the bank opted to remain downtown because the move has provided First Financial “significant opportunity for business development,” has helped First Financial attract and retain talent and has created greater awareness for the company.

Mallory applauded the decision, saying it underscores all the great things that are happening in the city.

“Announcements like this mean people want to be in this city,” Mallory said. “They want to do business in this city. This is the epicenter. This is the driver for the region.

”The city is offering the bank several incentives, pending council approval. Terms of the deal include:

• Property Investment Reimbursement Agreement (PIRA) that would include an annual cash payment to First Financial equal to 75 percent of the individual earnings tax generated by new employees in the city, not to exceed $235,462, up to an amount not to exceed $2,825,550 over the term of the agreement.

• A capital grant in the amount of $774,450 if the company makes capital investments of at least $4 million in its facility within the city limits.

• The agreement would have a 12-year term and apply to all jobs created since Jan. 1, 2010.

• By the end of the term, the incentive could be worth $3.6 million to First Financial.

• The city’s offer is supplemental to any economic incentives provided by the state of Ohio.

• First Financial is committed to establishing 150 net new jobs in Cincinnati by 2014. (Davis said that was a conservative estimate.)

• First Financial must maintain those job levels and payroll for three years beyond the incentive term. If the company falls below a payroll threshold of $10.2 million, the city would enforce claw-back provisions that would require the company to repay the total of any incentive payments received prior to the date of non- compliance.

Davis said First Financial also will soon open its first of several retail banking centers downtown.

Today’s announcement will not impact the bank’s employment in Hamilton or Butler County, he said.

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