A $15 million cash grant turned Washington Mutual's head toward Texas when it was searching for a place to locate about 4,200 back-office...

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A $15 million cash grant turned Washington Mutual’s head toward Texas when it was searching for a place to locate about 4,200 back-office jobs.

San Antonio and Bexar County dished out another $5 million in cash and incentives to reel in the deal, which WaMu announced yesterday at a news conference attended by Texas Gov. Rick Perry, San Antonio’s mayor and other community leaders.

Dallas-Fort Worth also was vying for the facility, which officials expect to house a call center with a couple hundred employees by fall.

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Benson Porter, WaMu’s chief administrative officer, said the San Antonio site will handle some future growth for the Seattle-based thrift. He did not rule out moving Washington jobs to the new operations center.

“We have not identified any jobs in Seattle that we intend to move to San Antonio at this time,” Porter said in an interview. “We will know more in the next 30, 90 days as [business units] say what kinds of functions they want to put here.”

WaMu already has a 400-employee operations center in the Dallas area that handles back-office work for its commercial business. Earlier this month, it bought the building housing that center. It has a 500-employee regional office in Houston as well.

In San Antonio, WaMu is buying a 75-acre site with 405,000 square feet of office space. MCI once employed 2,500 people there.

WaMu in Texas


Branches: 225

Employees: More than 3,500

Major current operations: 500-employee regional office in Houston, 400-person operations center for WaMu’s commercial business near Dallas-Fort Worth

What’s coming: 4,200-worker regional operations center in San Antonio

Source: Washington Mutual

WaMu plans to expand those facilities to about 1 million square feet over the next seven years to accommodate about 4,200 workers. It has agreed to develop no more than 44 percent of the land, or about 33 acres.

Porter said WaMu was looking for something in the Central time zone for the new operations center. Texas dangled a $15 million grant from a state fund created in 2003 to help attract jobs.

San Antonio and Bexar County kicked in another roughly $3.6 million in job-training funds and money to help with the purchase of the MCI campus, along with property tax breaks, that bring the total package to more than $20 million, Porter said.

Ed Kelley, chairman of the San Antonio Economic Development Foundation, said this is the biggest project the foundation and city leadership have ever pursued, based on the number of jobs.

WaMu has more than 3,500 employees and 225 branches in Texas.

It entered the state in 1998 with the acquisition of H.F. Ahmanson & Co. and expanded there in 2001 with the acquisition of Bank United.

The company employs more than 9,000 people in Washington, including nearly 7,400 in King County.

Melissa Allison: 206-464-3312 or mallison@seattletimes.com