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April 2001
Growth Engine
By Lynda A. Stadler

     Charlotte recently achieved a huge coup by recruiting one of the country’s largest Fortune 500 companies to expand its operations in the Queen City. In addition to its offices located around the country, Charlotte will become home to the second-largest service center the company operates. The company is known not only for its impeccable reputation in its industry, but also for its proven dedication to being a solid corporate and community citizen. Charlotte is one lucky town.
    
Meet TIAA-CREF — Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association-College Retirement Equities Fund. It is a leading national, non-profit financial services organization and the largest private pension system in the world. Last fall, the company began construction in the first of at least two phases on its new Southern Service Center on a 138-acre site in University Research Park. It will consist of three buildings totaling nearly 460,000 square feet, housing a financial call center, an information and training center, and a meeting and training facility. The company’s initial investment in the project is $130 million.
   
TIAA-CREF lured one of Charlotte’s leading executives, Lisa Crutchfield, away from Duke Energy to run the operation, and has already hired financial professionals and administrative staff members from the Charlotte area and lured others from its New York and Denver, Colo., offices. Total employment by year end may reach 1,000 and by 2003, TIAA-CREF could employ up to 3,000 people in Charlotte.
     But that’s just Phase I. A proposed Phase II would construct an additional three buildings, more than doubling the square footage. A decision has not yet been made to relocate TIAA-CREF’s data center to Charlotte.
    
Potentially, over the next 10 years, additional phases could accommodate development of up to 3.5 million square feet of office space, with the capacity to hold nearly 9,000 employees.   
      
Charlotte vs. Tampa: Two Cities Compete For Company’s Commitment
      According to John H. Biggs, TIAA-CREF’s chairman and CEO, the search for a new Southeastern site began in September 1997 and the research process was intensive. Key factors considered for each site included demographics, communications, educational opportunities, projections of labor force availability and workforce diversity.
     “A field of 20 prospective sites was gradually pared to eight, then four, then two, through a rigorous winnowing process,” explains Biggs. The final contenders: Charlotte and Tampa, Fla.
    
“Both sites had much to offer,” he notes. “But the Charlotte site is just a day’s drive from New York for staff members who want to visit their families often. But even more importantly, Charlotte allows us to enter into a creative educational partnership with UNC Charlotte, whose leadership is so impressive to all of us. The University has been very innovative in thinking about ways to work with us on training and educational issues. It’s very exciting.”
     
The state of North Carolina helped prompt the move, providing incentives worth between $3.3 and $4.5 million to attract TIAA-CREF to the state.
    
While TIAA-CREF’s headquarters will remain in New York City, much of the growth of its operations will occur in Charlotte over the next several years, says Biggs. The company’s Western Service Center, located in Denver, provides similar services to what will be offered in Charlotte. The two centers will work together to serve more than 2.3 million customers worldwide.
    
TIAA-CREF provides high-quality, low-cost annuities, insurance, mutual funds and trust services for individuals primarily in the education and research communities. It also serves as investment manager for tuition financing programs in several states and is offering increased services to the public at large. The organization manages approximately $285 billion in assets.
    
“The facility in Charlotte ensures our ability to grow to meet our customers’ needs in the future so that we can continue to serve them well,” says Biggs. “We look forward to becoming a part of the Charlotte community.”

Crutchfield Leads the Way
     If you don’t already know Lisa Crutchfield’s name, it won’t be long until you do. The 37-year-old executive was recruited to serve as vice president and general manager of TIAA-CREF’s Southern Service Center last May. Crutchfield has a proven record of success as vice president of policy and strategy at Duke Energy Corporation and is an active member in a variety of civic and professional organizations in Charlotte. She also has experience in the financial services industry, starting her career as a banker in Philadelphia. She exhibits all the qualities that TIAA-CREF looks for in a leader.
    
“We wanted someone with an extensive knowledge of the area who could provide insight and direction based on experience and knowledge,” says Mary Ann Werner, president of Shared Services for TIAA-CREF. “Lisa’s broad participation in Charlotte community organizations and her demonstrated talent and enthusiasm proved to be a perfect match.”
    
“It was a complete surprise when they approached me about the position,” says Crutchfield. “I decided to make the move because it would allow me to return to the financial services industry and provide me an opportunity to be responsible for operating a facility for a very respectable company,” she said. 
    
Crutchfield uses words such as “conservative” and “nice” to characterize the company’s personality and culture. “TIAA-CREF is a conservative financial services organization committed to managing the long-term financial needs of educators and research professionals,” Crutchfield explains.
    
“There is a strong team spirit among associates and they are all very nice people,” she says. “They are a very diverse group of professionals representing a number of different cultures, which makes it very unique.
    
“TIAA-CREF is very employee-focused and offers continuing education opportunities as well as courses on products and services, and provides full support to associates who want to further their education.” Crutchfield emphasizes, “It’s a nice place to work with a culture committed to an appropriate balance between work and family life.”
    
TIAA-CREF is also a very charitable organization with a high level of community focus. “Most of what we will do in Charlotte will be in the education arena,” says Crutchfield, “but it’s important that we build strategic partnerships with a number of local organizations.” 
    
Almost from the moment of ground breaking last year, TIAA-CREF began its involvement in local issues. The company is already highly involved in the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce and the United Way of Central Carolinas; Crutchfield serves on the board of directors for both organizations.
    
Last year, the company was a sponsor of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Public Library’s annual festival of reading, Novello. It will serve as a sponsor again this year, as well as participate in the Library’s Check It Out campaign, which promotes the importance of books and reading. This spring, the company will co-host the UNC Charlotte Bobby Lutz Kids’ Basketball Clinic, working with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools to sponsor up to 100 kids to attend the event. Through these and other alliances, the company hopes to increase its name recognition in order to successfully integrate into the community and recruit new associates from the local area.
    
“I believe Charlotte is a very lucky city to have TIAA-CREF in its community,” says Chris Power Bain, director of communications for the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce who works closely with Patty Fontneau, vice president and general manager of TIAA-CREF’s Western Service Center. “Patty is one of our most active board members and TIAA-CREF is very involved and very supportive of so many events in the city,” she says. “They are very hands-on. They allow employees to be involved and they live up to their promises. They’ve done a great service to our community.”
   
Ed Dolby, president of Bank of Americas Carolinas and chairman of the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce, anticipates a fond relationship with Charlotte’s new addition. “We are very excited about the TIAA-CREF organization moving into our community,” says Dolby. “Lisa Crutchfield is one of the leading corporate executives in town and one of our emerging leaders. She and her company will certainly make a solid impact on our community. She will recruit people who will come to our city with a series of new ideas and talents. We will all benefit from having TIAA-CREF here. I see it as a win-win for everybody.”

Moving In the Troops
     Crutchfield, a native of Philadelphia, believes that her experience in making the transition from a northern city to Charlotte four years ago will help her relate easily to associates who will be transferring from other offices. During 2001, several hundred employees will move from the company’s headquarters in New York City, as well as other TIAA-CREF offices.
    
In addition to making sure the build-out is complete for a May 2001 grand opening and recruiting new employees from the Charlotte area, it will be one of Crutchfield’s primary resopnsibilities to ensure a pleasant transition for associates transferring in from the other sites  including New York, Denver, Detroit and Atlanta.
    
“I want to help them get acclimated to our state and community and look forward to seeing them happy in their new homes,” she says.
    
For out-of-state associates, the company will team with UNC Charlotte to offer courses in North Carolina history and geography, as well as other activities. “We plan to hold special events for associates such as a TIAA-CREF day at Discovery Place and an activity with the Museum of the New South to help associates become familiar with our area,” says Crutchfield.
    
“We’re also designing our property to preserve the natural beauty of the land by incorporating the various regions of North Carolina into the landscape,” she explains.
     At the center of the campus will be a unique crescent garden that will include plantings and landscape features representative of the coastal, piedmont and mountain areas of the state. “Since many associates will walk to and from the various buildings on campus, we want it to be an attractive place to work and visit,” adds Crutchfield.
   
Charlotte’s Childress Klein Properties is developing the project for TIAA-CREF, FN Thompson Company of Charlotte is the general contractor, and Thompson, Ventulett, Stainback & Associates of Atlanta is the architect.

Welcome to Charlotte
     TIAA-CREF’s first building opening will be celebrated on May 14, 2001, but plans continue to develop for future expansion. The projected growth of TIAA-CREF’s pension, insurance and financial services business — especially as many of these services become more available to the general public — will require additional staffing and office space over the next several decades. And it looks as if it may grow Charlotte every bit as much as Charlotte grows with it.
    
“We believe we will eventually become a household name,” says Biggs. “And everyone in Charlotte will know us.”

Lynda A. Stadler is a Charlotte-based freelance writer.
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