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4/3/2016
CSC, home to global companies, investing $100 million in global headquarters; Weiner: we have to balance the need for economic stability with protecting our infrastructure

“In these challenging times, the viability of our community depends on attracting and retaining good jobs,” County Councilman Bob Weiner said. “At the same time, we have to balance the need for economic stability with protecting our infrastructure. Doing that often presents a difficult, but necessary, challenge.”

LEGAL SERVICES: CSC grows up, and out, in Greenville; Company investing $100 million in new global headquarters


SCOTT GOSS THE NEWS JOURNAL 4/3/16

Corporation Service Co. is one of the oldest and largest legal-service businesses in the nation. With roots in Delaware that trace to 1899, the company’s history parallels the state’s century-long reign as the incorporation capital of the world.

Yet CEO Rod Ward, the great-grandson of company co-founder Christopher Ward, said CSC’s focus is now on building for the future.

Nowhere is that more evident than the southeast corner of the Lancaster Pike and Centerville Road intersection in Greenville.

There CSC is investing close to $100 million in its future global headquarters, a 17-acre campus in the Commons at Little Falls where the company is constructing a four-story office building that will stand as a glass and steel monument to its next century in Delaware.

“Delaware is where our history is and it’s where our future will be,” Ward said. “We think there is a lot of opportunity for us here and in terms of the culture of our company, being here is very important to who we are.”

The construction of CSC’s 149,000square-foot office building, a four-level parking garage, acres of landscaped CSC green space and a pair of road extensions is among the largest building projects in the state. At the project’s height this summer, about 200 construction workers will on site daily.

But given the company’s generic-sounding name and decidedly behind-the-scenes business, Ward says he’ll forgive anyone who doesn’t have a clue what CSC does.

“It’s not like we make chairs or something people recognize,” he said. “The services we provide are not top of mind or sexy, frankly.”

An unglamorous force

CSC’s services are vital, however, to some of the world’s best-known corporations.

Walmart, Apple, Bank of America and General Electric are just a few of the customers that depend on CSC – along with 90 percent of all Fortune 500 companies and thousands of smaller enterprises.

CSC provides those clients with an array of business, legal and financial services, ranging from help with incorporation to securing web addresses. CSC also handles their legal documents, sets up their business addresses, helps file their taxes, keeps their business licenses up to date and scours the internet to ensure their reputation is being upheld.

“I would compare what they do to breathing,” said Lawrence Hamermesh, a professor of corporate law at Widener University Delaware Law School. “You’ve got to do it to survive, but you don’t always pay a lot of attention to it.”

They don’t tend to get much attention, but CSC and similar companies – which generally operate under the umbrella of “registered agent” – are critical to Delaware’s economy.

Favorable incorporation laws, a renowned business court and some of the country’s top law firms have helped to convince 1.2 million companies to make their legal home here.

The taxes and fees paid by those corporations account for more than a quarter of the state’s annual revenue.

And 31 percent of those incorporations are handed by CSC. It’s next largest domestic competitor, New York-based CT Corp., handles another 39 percent.

“They tend to go back and forth in terms of market, usually depending on their latest acquisition,” said Rick Geisenberger, the deputy secretary of state who oversees Delaware’s Division of Corporations. “The average person might not know who they are, but they’re both a big deal in our world.”

While its business may be unglamorous to the casual observer, CSC’s growth in recent years has turned a few heads.

Since Ward took over as CEO in 2010, the company has doubled the size of its workforce, both globally and in Delaware. Today, CSC employs about 2,000 workers worldwide, half of whom are based in New Castle County.

The privately held company does not release financial data, but executives say the hiring boom is matched only by CSC’s revenue growth.

A global headquarters for a global company

That rapid expansion, Ward said, is what drove the need for a new headquarters. Once completed, CSC will consolidate most of its seven New Castle County offices – all located within 10 miles of the company’s current headquarters in the Little Falls Center off Centerville Road. CSC has occupied that office park, located a half mile south of its future campus, since 2001.

The company also operates 26 satellite offices in major cities throughout the U.S. and 14 locations in Europe and Asia.

“Over the last five years or so, we’ve become much more of a global company,” Ward said. “Our customer base isn’t just Fortune 500 companies anymore, but what they call the Global 1000. So we needed a headquarters that would match the scale and scope of the business.”

But after adding 100 employees in Delaware each of the last five years and with plans to hire another 100 this year, CSC’s local workforce now outnumbers capacity at its new headquarters. CSC has county approval to build another 55,000-square-foot office building on the campus, but Ward said that structure is not in the company’s immediate plans.

“Our goal is to consolidate and bring in as many employees as we can,” he said. “But we haven’t decided who that will be, yet.”

CSC held a ribbon cutting for its new project in late October. A day later, Wohlsen Construction’s earthmoving equipment began removing vegetation and leveling the vacant lot. Sewer pipes and drainage were added over the winter.

Only in the last month has the real construction started as a 220-foot crane places the 650 tons of steel that will make up the skeleton of the future office building.

Slated for completion early next year, the headquarters designed by Environetics of Philadelphia promises to be one of the most innovative and advanced office buildings in the state.

“It’s not going to be your typical office with cubicles and designated work stations, “said Scott Malfitano, a CSC vice president tasked with overseeing the project. “We’re going to have 750 sit-stand desks with ergonomic chairs, but the whole thing is going to be full of these open, collaborative spaces where you can put on your head phones and plug into the Wi-Fi or work in groups.”

A two-story foyer with a glass wall will open onto an outdoor courtyard. Inside, the facility will include a 2,300-square-foot fitness center and a two-story dining facility. A third-floor terrace will provide a second outdoor work space that overlooks the courtyard.

The facility also will include a “green roof” topped by dozens of planters filled with succulents, while a large underground tank will collect rainwater for use in cleaning and irrigation.

About 30 percent of the roughly 280 trees on the property were removed for the project. But CSC says it will replace those lost trees with another 340 once the building is complete.

Parking problems

Along with its office building, CSC is constructing an unattached, four-story parking garage that will accommodate 644 vehicles.

The garage will be 36-feet tall, about 9 feet higher than Capers and Lemons, the Italian restaurant next door.

Ward says he was adamant the project include the garage instead of a parking lot, which he said would have been unappealing and more harmful to the environment.

Instead, CSC says it will use the saved space to create a 4-acre meadow of native grasses and wildflowers. The green space will be designed by Jonathan Alderson, whose landscape architecture firm in Wayne, Pennsylvania helped create Longwood Gardens’ 86acre Meadow Garden.

The campus also will include more than a mile of publicly accessible walking trails, a mostly paved path with the exception of a quarter-mile stretch that will run through the meadow.

“Frankly, it’s more expensive for us,” Ward said of the garage. “But we didn’t want to look out on a sea of asphalt. Plus, we think the meadow will be cool.”

Building the garage represents about one-tenth of CSC’s total investment in the property, but its inclusion nearly delayed the entire project – and possibly endangered the company’s future growth in New Castle County.

After announcing its building plans in 2013, CSC learned the added square footage of a multi-story garage would trigger New Castle County’s major development plan requirements.

According to county land use rules, major development plans must include a traffic study that gauges the impact of a proposed construction project on nearby roadways. If those intersections are too congested, a developer can be forced to pay for improvements.

The development community has long argued the rules are unfair because it forces them to correct traffic issues that predate their projects.

The courts, meanwhile, have upheld the county’s power to enforce those rules.

Delaware Superior Court, for instance, recently backed the county in a lawsuit brought by home builder Toll Brothers over intersection improvements required for a 254-home development at the former Hercules Country Club.

The required improvements in that case centered on the intersection of Lancaster Pike and Centreville Road – the same crossroads where CSC is building its new headquarters.

CSC was able to avoid a traffic study by working with government officials and civic groups on an agreement that would exclude parking garages from the equation.

The company saved time and costs, while community groups got protections that reduced the project’s visual impact on the surrounding community.

But tempers flared when last-minutes doubts were raised by the county’s land use committee. CSC’s director of government affairs and general counsel Ian McConnel threatened to cut off the company’s future growth in New Castle County.

“We will always have a presence here in Delaware,” McConnel said at the time. “But we don’t have to continue to grow here.”

Less than a month later, the proposed change passed county council. CSC’s final plans won approval in September.

“In these challenging times, the viability of our community depends on attracting and retaining good jobs,” County Councilman Bob Weiner said. “At the same time, we have to balance the need for economic stability with protecting our infrastructure. Doing that often presents a difficult, but necessary, challenge.”

Neighborly accommodations

Some of CSC’s closest neighbors in the Commons at Little Falls say they welcome CSC’s construction project.

“I think they’re going to make excellent neighbors,” said Capers and Lemons owner Carl Georigi. “I’ve had very open and constant communication with the company and they’ve kept me well informed about the construction process and timeline.” Georigi said his 7-year-old restaurant has lost some parking capacity to the construction project, but his customers will gain access to CSC’s parking garage, slated for completion in November.

“I hope having them so close also will mean more foot traffic for lunch and dinner,” he said. “They are now and I expect will continue to be loyal guests once their new headquarters is open.”

Clara Orlando, director of the nearby Children of America daycare and preschool, said her business is already benefiting from the project.

“The children love to go on the playground to watch the bulldozers and other equipment,” she said. “We use it as an educational activity.”

Orlando said she anticipates a spike in enrollments once the new facility opens.

“We already have several children whose parents work there,” she said. “I think we’ll be a great option for more of their employees now, especially parents of infants and nursing mothers.”

Ward said CSC will strive to make its new headquarters a benefit to the community at large. That includes making conference rooms and walking trails open to the public.

“We’ve been in the community for 116 years so we care very much what the impression is to the surrounding area,” he said. “We want this project to be a benefit for our employees, but we also want it to something positive for our neighbors, the county and Delaware.”

Contact business reporter Scott Goss at (302) 3242281, sgoss@delawareonline.com or on Twitter @Scott-GossDel.

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