Bankers used to give away toasters to attract new customers. Texas is giving $15 million to attract more bankers. WaMu officials said yesterday...

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Bankers used to give away toasters to attract new customers. Texas is giving $15 million to attract more bankers.

WaMu officials said yesterday they plan to open a center for back-office operations in Texas this year that could create as many as 4,200 jobs over the next seven years.

The Seattle-based thrift chose Texas because it is friendly to business, has a good pool of workers and offers a high quality of life for employees, said WaMu spokesman Joe Arbona. The state is giving WaMu a $15 million cash grant from a fund created in 2003 to help attract jobs.

WaMu employs more than 9,000 people in Washington and has more than 3,500 employees in Texas. During the year ended March 31, the company reduced its total work force by 11 percent to 52,488.

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San Antonio and the Dallas-Fort Worth area are vying for the new operations center. Chief Executive Kerry Killinger said yesterday San Antonio has the edge because of additional incentives being offered by city and county governments there.

WaMu already has large back-office operations in the Puget Sound area, California, Florida, Illinois, South Carolina and Texas.

In Washington, WaMu has more than 6,500 workers doing back-office work, which is almost any job that does not involve face-to-face customer contact. Such jobs include accounting, loan processing and call-center work.

WaMu officials declined to specify what functions the Texas center will handle but said they plan to hire mostly local workers and might transfer some managers there from other locations.

WaMu has been looking into a new operations center for the past couple of years, said Arbona. He would not name the states considered but said, “We definitely looked at several options, and they all had different types of packages.”

Texas Gov. Rick Perry took the opportunity yesterday to encourage the state’s Legislature to replenish its $295 million enterprise fund “so we can continue to attract jobs.”

Washington’s constitution forbids giving money outright to companies to encourage them to do business here. But the state has found ways to offer incentives in some cases, such as giving tax breaks to Boeing to entice it to build the 787 in Washington.

Dick Larman, business and project-development director for Washington’s Department of Community, Trade and Economic Development, said his office has had no contact with WaMu about expanding its operations here for the past couple of years.

” We were not made aware of it to enter into any sort of competition,” Larman said.

“If they made a good, healthy decision, we have to appreciate that and be understanding and hope they continue to grow what business they have here, here.”

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