The News Journal | by Jeanne Kuang
Delaware officials are giving Barclays $2.5 million in taxpayer grants to create more than 300 jobs at its Wilmington consumer banking headquarters, a year after the bank moved 500 jobs from the same site to New Jersey.
The company also plans to spend close to $7 million renovating the space to accommodate the new positions, which “include a range of customer support and operations management roles,” according to a news release.
Gov. John Carney, Wilmington Mayor Mike Purzycki and Barclays U.S. Consumer Bank President Danny Nealon in the news release emphasized the bank’s commitment to Delaware.
The company will use the taxpayer grants on building a customer service call center and training the new employees, spokesman Matt Fields said.
“We stand ready to support businesses looking to grow and to provide good-paying jobs for Delawareans,” Carney said.
Just last June, city and state officials had been reacting to the British bank’s decision to move a quarter of its Delaware workforce to a new “regional hub” in Whippany, New Jersey.
At the time, Fields told Delaware Online/The News Journal the company chose northern New Jersey because of its proximity to New York’s bigger pool of financial advisers, traders and technology developers, a $4 million New Jersey taxpayer grant and 65 acres of developable land for a Barclays campus there.
Those 500 jobs were primarily related to operations and technology, Fields said.
The vast majority of the 323 new customer service employees are expected to make about $32,000 a year, according to Barclays’ grant application obtained by Delaware Online/The News Journal.
While many of them are likely to work remotely during the coronavirus pandemic, Fields said they will be Wilmington-based jobs for which local governments will receive taxes.]
Carney’s office last year acknowledged conversations between the bank, state officials and the Delaware Prosperity Partnership, the privately run economic development agency that brings grant recommendations for companies to the state’s Council on Development Finance.
Delaware Prosperity Partnership representatives did not respond to requests for comment about discussions with Barclays.
Fields said the bank began planning a customer service expansion in April to help customers facing financial hardships during the coronavirus pandemic, which has triggered a widespread economic downturn.
The company considered the expansion at call center operations in Henderson, Nevada; Hamilton, Ohio; and Wilmington, Fields said, choosing the latter for the available office space and Delaware’s “rich workforce” of financial services employees.
The grant application also notes that the promise of state assistance in Delaware was “a critical factor in the ultimate decision.”
The Council on Development Finance approved the funds for Barclays, to be paid out over three years, at a Monday meeting.
State Rep. Ed Osienski, D-Newark, was the sole “no” vote, explaining he believed the money should go toward a company with “a better history than laying off Delawareans.”
In 2017, Barclays closed its call center in Ogletown, moving 200 employees out of state eight years after the center’s celebrated opening. Months after, a Sallie Mae executive said a $2.16 million taxpayer grant from the state would be used to hire laid-off Barclays and HSBC workers.
Osienski’s colleague John Kowalko, D-Newark, criticized the grant as “corporate welfare” on the House floor Monday afternoon as he voted against the state’s bond bill, which for the next fiscal year allocates $14.3 million to the same economic development fund.
“I will not let my taxpayers suffer this endless circle of stopping once at a toll booth, giving money to the toll to continue on our way around the circle again and come back to the toll booth again to put the money in the richest corporations’ pockets,” he said.
City and state officials praised the 323 jobs as welcome news as the state suffers record levels of unemployment during the pandemic.
In an interview, Purzycki said based on “ongoing communication” with the bank about its prospects in Wilmington, he believes the company will keep operations in the city. No city incentives were provided for the current hiring plan, he said.
“They’re different kinds of jobs than what left, but most important is that they signal there is no losing enthusiasm for their place here in Wilmington,” Purzycki said.