March 4, 2014

Exclusive: IBM, Fluor looking at USC office building

Tech-titan IBM and construction-giant Fluor reportedly are looking to lease a portion of a new office building, planned for USC's campus, to do research and information technology work, a source has told The State.

Tech-titan IBM and construction-giant Fluor reportedly are looking to lease a large portion of a new office building, planned for the University of South Carolina’s campus, to do research and information technology work, a source familiar with the project told The State on Tuesday.

The companies initially would employ 50 workers but add another 450 people within a few years at the school’s Innovista research campus.

The $144 million research campus, meant to marry university faculty work with businesses, has fallen short of expectations since being announced nearly a decade ago because of the poor economy and troubled leadership.

But the school found a private developer, Atlanta-based Holder Properties, to build a $25 million, five-story office building on campus land at the Assembly and Blossom streets.

Much of that 120,000-square-foot building would house IBM and Fluor, whose chief executive, David Seaton, heads USC’s $1 billion fundraising campaign.

IBM has been linked to Innovista since its inception. Fluor, based in Irving, Texas, has three offices in Greenville, a legacy of buying the Daniel International Corp., which was founded in the Upstate city.

Efforts to reach IBM and Fluor officials to comment Tuesday were unsuccessful.

USC will ask the State Budget and Control Board on Wednesday to bypass state procurement rules to land “a significant Fortune 100 company” that would “bring significant business to ... South Carolina,” according to documents submitted for that meeting.

USC told the Budget and Control Board that it needs to negotiate an exclusive contract with the company to provide services to the school. The contract would help the S.C. Department of Commerce with “Project Sunset,” according to the budget board request.

The school said the request for an exemption from state contract rules “contains safeguards to ensure that the negotiated price for the contractual services is fair, reasonable, and tied to the economic development efforts associated with this building.”

S.C. Commerce Department and USC officials declined to comment.

Holder Properties chief executive John Holder said Tuesday that he could not discuss the economic-development deal but added that a “name” tenant could help attract others to the building.

The Holder office building is part of a public-private partnership that also includes a $94.6 million apartment complex, slated to go behind the Carolina Coliseum.

USC will receive $72,600 a year in rent from the office building as well as 15 percent of its profit. The school has the right to rent a third of the office space in the building, which must open by summer 2017.

But before construction can start, the school needs the budget board to approve a lease request for the Holder project on Wednesday.

The board delayed voting on the lease last week, when House Ways and Means chairman Brian White, R-Anderson, raised questions about the state’s responsibilities after the Holder lease ends.

White said Tuesday he was not inclined to approve the contract, saying USC spent 18 months negotiating a deal that state leaders have had just a few weeks to review.


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