Priceline unit nearing deal to add 200 jobs in RI

Singapore-based Agoda could receive about $4.1M in tax breaks for new office

RI Commerce Secretary Stefan Pyror.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – A division of the Fortune 500 travel services company Priceline Group is close to a deal to add an office in Rhode Island and hire 200 employees there by the end of next year, Commerce Secretary Stefan Pryor said Wednesday.

Agoda, Priceline’s Singapore-based Asian division, is considering the Blue Cross & Blue Shield building in Providence for a new U.S. office called a customer-experience center, Pryor told Eyewitness News. He described it as “one of the leading travel sites in Asia.”

Pryor cautioned that Agoda has not made a final commitment to choose Rhode Island for the office, but expressed optimism that the state would win out in its competition with other jurisdictions, which he did not identify. However, Agoda has already posted two job openings at the Providence office.

“Agoda is the latest in a series of technology-oriented companies that are considering and in fact locating in Rhode Island,” Pryor said. “Agoda would offer high-quality, accessible jobs for Rhode Islanders.”

The Raimondo administration is offering Agoda tax breaks worth about $4.1 million as an incentive to open the office in Providence, according to Pryor. Of that amount, $3.1 million would be Qualified Jobs rebates based on income tax payments made by the new workers, and $1 million would be a Rebuild Rhode Island credit to renovate the space.

The proposed incentives will go before a committee of the R.I. Commerce Corporation’s board of directors on Thursday, and if approved, could go before the full Commerce board on Monday. The tax breaks must be approved “so that we may continue our discussions with the company,” Pryor said.

The Priceline Group – perhaps best-known for its commercials featuring William Shatner – booked $9.2 billion in revenue in 2015, according to a regulatory filing. The company is headquartered in Stamford, Connecticut, and ranked 308th on last year’s Fortune 500.

Priceline describes Agoda as “a leading online accommodation reservation service catering primarily to consumers in the Asia-Pacific region, with headquarters in Singapore and operations in Bangkok, Thailand and throughout the region. Accommodation providers participate in agoda.com, which operates primarily under a merchant model, by filing rates and information about the property in agoda.com’s proprietary extranet.”

Ted Nesi (tnesi@wpri.com) covers politics and the economy for WPRI.com. He writes Nesi’s Notes on Saturdays and hosts Executive Suite. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram