Aramark has decided to keep its global headquarters in Philadelphia, ending speculation that the food- and facilities-services giant may decamp to another city with its jobs and prestige.
The company is not yet sure whether it will remain at its namesake headquarters tower at 1101 Market St. or move to another building, but it has concluded that Philadelphia's business costs, talent supply, transportation links, and other advantages will keep it in town, communications chief Tod MacKenzie said in an interview ahead of Thursday's announcement.
"It really was the aggregate or collection of things," he said. "The bucket tipped heavily to Philadelphia's and Pennsylvania's side."
In a statement, Mayor Kenney said his administration was "ecstatic" about the decision.
"We're glad to know that in considering the many elements of a potential relocation . . . the city of Philadelphia remains the best option," Kenney said.
Gov. Wolf called the decision "good news for our workforce and Pennsylvania's overall economy. We look forward to continuing to work with Aramark through their site selection process."
Among other factors that led the company to stay put was its longtime identification with the city that has been its home for 55 years and a desire not to uproot its staff here, MacKenzie said.
Philadelphia-area employees make up about 6,500 of Aramark's 14,000 workers statewide, he said. Of those, about 1,150, mostly managers and their support staff, work in about 365,000 square feet of offices at 1101 Market.
City officials offered some financial incentives and other enticements to remain, said MacKenzie, who declined to elaborate. The aid will come into play when the company selects its future home, he said.
Under consideration are the planned office building at 2400 Market St. - the former site of the Marketplace Design Center - and the Navy Yard, MacKenzie said. Aramark also may opt to refresh its current space and remain there, he said.
"Now that we've narrowed it in geography and market, we can now go out and look at where is the best place to park ourselves," MacKenzie said.
As Aramark's lease at its current Center City offices approached its 2018 expiration date, the company had said it was weighing locations outside Philadelphia. Some had suggested that Eric Foss, a relative newcomer to the area who became CEO in 2012, would not have the same commitment to the city as his predecessor, Joseph Neubauer.
Losing the headquarters of a big, internationally focused corporation such as Aramark would have dealt a major blow to Philadelphia's economy because of the number of highly paid, managerial-level positions that would have vanished, said Stephen Mullin, former city commerce director.
With a dearth of such high-paying jobs, Philadelphia's median income lags that of most other cities of similar size, demographics, and location, according to a March Pew Charitable Trusts report, "State of the City."
"I consider corporations like Aramark to be disproportionately positive for Philadelphia," said Mullin, now president of the consultancy Econsult Solutions. "Their impact on the economy is greater that the direct impact of the employment."
MacKenzie said that other cities - near and far - also made convincing cases for themselves as the company was vetting locations, though he declined to specify which had been under consideration.
Mitch Marcus, a managing director at commercial real estate services firm JLL in Philadelphia, said Aramark's office space makes up less than 1 percent of the city's total supply, so vacancies left would have been easily absorbed.
But it would have hurt the city's image by feeding into the narrative of Philadelphia as a down-at-its-heels town that can't retain the nation's most sought-after companies, Marcus said. Headquarters losses in recent years include Rohm & Haas Co., which was acquired by Dow Chemical Co. in 2009.
"It would have told the old Philadelphia story, that corporations are leaving," he said.