Raytheon moving 600 jobs to Largo

The company will occupy the former Eckerd Corp. complex.

By James Thorner, Times Staff Writer
Published May 5, 2007

About 600 jobs with Raytheon Network Centric Systems are leaving St. Petersburg. But they're not moving far.

The defense contractor is closing its engineering center at 72nd Street N. and 22nd Avenue N., and shifting employees to the former Eckerd Corp. headquarters in Largo about 8 miles away.

The Eckerd complex on Bryan Dairy Road has sat mostly vacant since the pharmacy chain sold out three years ago to CVS Corp. and Canadian drugstore outfit Jean Coutu Group.

Raytheon will lease 225, 000-square-feet of the Eckerd buildings, about half the space it occupies in St. Petersburg. The move, scheduled for the spring of 2008, will cut operational expenses locally by 35 percent, Raytheon spokesman George Rhynedance said.

"We're not taking the whole thing, " Rhynedance said of the 550,000-square-foot Eckerd facility. "Part of the lease allows for expansion if we need it."

The Eckerd complex belongs to Harrod Properties, which bought it last year for $24-million.

Employment won't change at Raytheon's local branches, which make, among other things, missile-detection systems for the U.S. Navy. The company's local workforce numbers about 1, 800, including those at the Young-Rainey STAR Center, a Pinellas County-run industrial park at 7887 Bryan Dairy Road.

Raytheon announced the relocation a year early so that employees could adjust and it could find a buyer for the 500, 000-square-foot St. Petersburg complex that it's vacating, Rhynedance said. The Waltham, Mass.-based company reported sales of about $20.3-billion in 2006.

For Pinellas economic development officials, Raytheon's shift helps sooth a sore spot created when 1,400 Eckerd jobs vanished from Largo in 2004.

"It's one of the largest parcels on our radar. Having Raytheon there, we couldn't ask for a better company, " county business development manager Stacey Swank said.

James Thorner can be reached at thorner@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3313.