Jennifer D. Duell is on special assignment for

CHANDLER, AZ-Countrywide Financial Corp., ending four years of courtship, has made the ultimate commitment to this Arizona city–a plan to build two class A office buildings, totaling 350,000 sf, near its existing central office campus in Chandler Commons Office Park.

“Hooray for us,” boasts Christine Mackay, economic development specialist for the City of Chandler. “This is a gigantic win for Chandler.” The expansion will bring 2,500 new jobs to the city.

Mackay tells that Chandler beat out several other locations, including Las Vegas, Plano, TX and several cities in Florida. Expansion in California, where Countrywide is headquartered, was not an option because of the state’s unfriendly and high-cost business climate, a major reason for looking elsewhere, according to industry sources.

Mackay says the other locations offered strong competition. “It was made very clear to us that Countrywide was being offered cash incentives from other cities,” she confides. In contrast, Chandler did not offer one single penny of economic incentives.

Mackay says the city has focused its economic development efforts on financial services firms like Countrywide since 2000. She led the efforts to bring Calabasas, CA-based Countrywide to Chandler and initiated contact with the company in 2001.

Since then, Countrywide has been immersed in a three-phase expansion plan. Each phase involved site selection. Chandler has been the winner for all three phases, Mackay says.

The company owns two other buildings in the Chandler Commons Office Park. It purchased the first building, 80,000 sf, in April 2003; the facility now houses about 480 employees. In July, the company bought another building, which allows it to expand its local workforce to 900. Both buildings were developed by Lowe Enterprises Real Estate Group, which also will build the two new buildings and be purchased by Countrywide upon completion. Travers Realty/Oncor International of Los Angeles represented Countrywide in the purchase of Chandler Commons.

Countrywide will manage mortgage originations and servicing out of the new facilities. According to Mackay, Countrywide is just one of many California-based companies that feels the Golden State’s business environment is tarnished. “We’re seeing a lot of information requests from California business,” she says. “I would say that the number of leads has doubled.”

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