As Quality Distribution gets settled in its new space in downtown Tampa’s Channel District – one of the largest corporate relocations in recent years to that part of downtown – the company is already seeing the benefits of a walkable location and a creative open office concept in recruiting millennial, tech-savvy talent.
Economic and urban development experts routinely say that highly skilled millennials crave shorter commutes and a creative, collaborative atmosphere in the heart of urban environments. QDI’s experience since it moved into its new space nearly five months ago is proof of this concept: Previously located in an office park off I-75, the company has seen an uptick in interested applicants, including two new millennial hires who were seeking a shorter commute and creative work space.
After spending 10 years in the Navy, 33-year-old Shea Peaton had never thought about working in logistics. But Peaton says QDI’s location within a block of his gym, local restaurants and his apartment in the Fitzgerald building encouraged him to apply. “My commute is exactly one minute and four seconds from my backdoor,” said Peaton, who is now a QDI logistics coordinator. “It can’t be beat.”
Similarly, 35-year-old working mother Aura Kerr was working across the bridge in a traditional closed office space in downtown St. Petersburg. Kerr wasn’t proactively looking for a new job, but battling traffic on the Howard Frankland Bridge to pick up her young child every day played a role in her decision to apply at QDI. “From the moment I walked into the offices I felt the windowed doors and open feel were a confirmation and reflection that QDI really does have an open-door policy,” said Kerr, now Manager of Driver Recruiting in QDI’s Driver Services department. “Between the creative space and the location, they had me hook, line and sinker from the first interview.”
To Gary Enzor, QDI’s Chief Executive Officer, these examples show the power of the company’s new location. “Our new Channel District office offers amenities like dedicated covered parking and walkability to many restaurants, Amalie Arena, and hopefully major league baseball soon. We also have a Crunch gym conveniently next door where many of our team members like to work out. All these factors give us an advantage in attracting the best people to our team,” he said. “So when the space became available, we jumped at the chance to be closer to the urban core and to develop a space from scratch to fit our needs and personality.”
Starting from dirt, the 48,000-square-foot space now incorporates 30-foot ceilings, more than 200 open sit/stand work stations, and 14 ocean shipping containers that are being utilized as focus rooms and office spaces. The red containers, which are 20×8 feet each, were the brainchild of Kreher Barna Design Studio, serving as a daily reminder of Quality Distribution’s business – managing bulk transportation for nearly all of the largest chemical producers in the world.
As QDI’s North American headquarters, the location houses QDI’s back-office operations such as human resources, finance, information technology, logistics, etc. The headquarters staff handles everything from recruiting for QDI’s workforce of approximately 3,500 drivers, to tracking shipments for clients, to providing 24-hour support to drivers on the road.
The new office is located at 1208 E. Kennedy Blvd., Suite 132 in Grand Central at Kennedy, which also houses Stageworks Theatre, the Pour House Tampa, Cena Restaurant, and a Saint Leo University facility. Next door, the eagerly anticipated Publix and Channel Club apartments are scheduled to open later this year, and four blocks north is the Ybor City site for the proposed Tampa Bay Rays stadium.
“As downtown Tampa makes a dramatic transformation into a live-work-play destination, more millennials are realizing this is where they want to be,” said Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn. “Quality Distribution’s relocation to the Channel District will help ensure the company has the talent it needs for years to come.”
Initially built with grocery/retail in mind, the space includes loading bays and high ceilings. Office brokers Lee Winter and David Green of Jones Lang LaSalle initially brought the location to QDI’s attention because the space could be built out as a large, contiguous Class A office space with covered parking included, which is a rarity downtown.
Kreher Barna Design Studio, based in Tampa, was retained to design the office due to its deep experience with lively, collaborative working environments. Principals Catherine Kreher and Jan Barna have worked for more than 30 years on notable projects such as The University of Tampa’s John Lowth Entrepreneur Center and the downtown Tampa facility housing CAMLS – Center for Advance Medical Learning and Simulation.
Recognized for its cutting-edge design, QDI’s office space was recently named a finalist for the Tampa Bay Business Journal’s 2018 Coolest Office Space award. In addition to dramatic high ceilings that range from 12 to 36 feet and the use of shipping containers for office and collaborative space, art also plays a key role. Pep Rally Inc., based in Tampa, painted a mural featured in the break room, and Portland, Oregon artist Davey Barnwell designed multiple wall maps highlighting Tampa’s major transportation routes and QDI’s global footprint.
Design and construction of the space was executed by Mainstay Construction at a breakneck pace completed in just 8 months. With a hard deadline to move out of its former headquarters location off Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and I-75, QDI officially moved into the new space in November 2017. Finishing touches like glass doors and artwork were added over several months as QDI finalized the transition to its new office space.
About Quality Distribution, Inc.: Quality Distribution, Inc. (QDI) is a Tampa-based transportation and logistics company specializing in bulk transportation. QDI has been in business for over 100 years, and is the largest North American transporter of bulk liquids. The Company operates through 140 locations across North America and Europe, and employs roughly 3,500 drivers. Via multiple subsidiaries such as Quality Carriers, and Boasso Global, QDI safely transports bulk chemicals and food grade products for household names such as Dow Chemical Company, Procter & Gamble, Sherwin-Williams, BASF and Honeywell.