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Published: Tuesday, 3/6/2007

Comerica Inc. to relocate headquarters from Detroit to Dallas

ASSOCIATED PRESS

DETROIT Comerica Inc. said today it plans to relocate its corporate headquarters to Dallas, affecting 200 Michigan employees and dealing another blow to the state s troubled economy.

The Detroit company said the move will allow it to be closer to the bank s high-growth markets in Texas, Arizona, California and Florida.

The relocation, expected to occur by Oct. 1, will not affect most of the bank s more than 7,500 employees in Michigan, spokesman Wayne Mielke said.

But the bank does plan to transfer about 200 employees and certain corporate support functions in the next three years, including some open positions, he said.

Ralph W. Babb, Jr., Comerica s chairman and chief executive, said the four Sunbelt states now account for a significant percentage of the company s earnings.

We are continuing to invest in Texas and California and Florida and Arizona, which is the strategy we ve put forth in the fast-growing markets, Babb told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.

Babb said the transition would be seamless for the bank s Michigan customers, and that Comerica s commitment to the state is firm. So far in 2007, the bank has opened two branches in suburban Detroit and now operates 241 branches in Michigan, Mielke said.

Michigan s economy as I think everyone understands is challenging at the moment, Babb told the AP. But areas go through ups and down and through cycles. And we are very supportive, will continue to be supportive, in doing the things for our community, Detroit and Michigan, that need to be done to help it through this cycle.

It is a very important market for us and will continue to be, he added.

Babb said he discussed the company s plans with Gov. Jennifer Granholm and Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick Monday evening. Neither was happy to hear Comerica was moving its headquarters.

We wish it weren t happening. It s not good news for us, Granholm told reporters today.

But the Democratic governor pointed out that Comerica still will have more than 7,500 employees in the state, and that other companies are creating more jobs in Michigan.

We may have setbacks, but we have to keep moving forward, Granholm said in a statement. Just today, another 300 jobs in southeast Michigan were announced by Critical Signal Technology. While it s easy to overlook the good news, it is happening, and our plan will help foster that growth.

Still, it was another blow for Michigan. As the home of the domestic auto industry and many of its suppliers, Michigan has borne the brunt of those companies decisions to close factories and cut workers to adjust to diminished market share.

The state has lost at least 260,000 manufacturing jobs since 2000, one reason the state s unemployment rate has hovered around 7 percent for the past four years while the national unemployment rate for January was 4.6 percent.

The governor, who is pitching her plan to enact a 2-percent tax on services such as haircuts and dry cleaning this week in a series of televised forums, said the announcement illustrates the importance of investing in the state.

Comerica, founded in 1849 as Detroit Savings Fund Institute, currently has its headquarters in 11 stories of a 45-story downtown high-rise opened in the early 1990s. The company signed a lease in 2005 that will keep it in the high rise until at least 2012, Mielke said.

Comerica Park, the home of baseball s Detroit Tigers, opened in 2000. It is expected to keep its name despite the headquarters relocation, the bank said.

We don t anticipate any changes, we currently have over 20 years left on the naming rights for it, bank spokeswoman Sara Snyder said. We re really committed to market leadership in Michigan and serving our customers.

Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick said the announcement was unexpected, given the bank s long relationship with the city.

Just as Comerica has sought an opportunity they believe will make them more globally competitive, it gives the city of Detroit the opportunity to seek competitive banking and financial advice in the global market as well, the mayor said in a statement.

David Sowerby, chief market analyst for Loomis, Sayles & Co. in Bloomfield Hills, said the move fits a pattern in which banks based in Michigan, such as First of America and Old Kent, are acquired by out-of-state banks.

This has been a recurring theme for 15 years and these banks have maintained a reasonable presence in Michigan but it s still not a substitute for a headquarters and the types of jobs that are associated with headquarters, Sowerby said.

One of the most common questions I ve had over the past five years is, Who s going to buy Comerica? simply because all these other banks have had mergers, he said. This partially answers that question, but in a different way.

Comerica, which has 11,270 employees, reported its net income for 2006 rose to $893 million from $861 million in 2005, largely on its high-growth markets.

Babb said Comerica was currently looking for a location for a new headquarters.

Comerica has operated in Texas for more than 20 years and now has 71 bank branches in Dallas, Houston and Austin.

Read more in later editions of The Blade and toledoblade.com



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