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ST. PETERSBURG, FL-The Tampa Bay market’s cigar heritage can take partial credit for helping to backfill 100,000 square feet of industrial vacancy with this week’s announcement that Oettinger Davidoff Group will move its US headquarters to Pinellas County from Stamford, CT. Davidoff, a Swiss importer of fine cigars, will take up warehouse space at 3001 Gateway Center Parkway in Pinellas Park that had been occupied by Hunter Douglas until last fall.

Details of the lease are sketchy, but Geneva-based Davidoff will hire 90 people over the next six months at its new US headquarters and distribution site, paying annual average wages of approximately $55,000, according to Pinellas County Economic Development. Davidoff is using Florida’s Qualified Target Industry program, which allows tax breaks of up to $3,000 per new job created, and is also entitled to $324,000 in state and local incentives.

Davidoff, which also considered South Carolina for its new US base, indirectly benefits from the housing market crash in Florida that impacted Hunter Douglas. The Netherlands-based maker of custom window treatments disclosed last May that it would shut down its Pinellas Park operation at Gateway Center near Interstate 275 by Oct. 1, resulting in 191 layoffs.

In addition to space availability and economic incentives, Davidoff was attracted to the local market by its cigar manufacturing history that dates back to the late 19th century. “The Tampa Bay area was quickly recognized as a possible location as a result of its long history and rich heritage in the cigar industry,” says Oscar Avallone, a location consultant who worked with Davidoff.

Local officials anticipate nearly $10 million in capital investments by Davidoff, which promotes a wide variety of “Good Life” cigars made in the Dominican Republic and Honduras. Industrial vacancy in the Gateway submarket was nearly 11% at the end of 2009, according to Clearwater-based Colliers Arnold.

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