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Indeed’s Stamford employment surge continues with state support

December 7, 2018

STAMFORD — The company that touts its ability to “help people get jobs” is growing its own ranks in the city at a furious pace.

Jobs-search firm Indeed has announced it planned to add 500 local positions in the coming years, following a pledge last year to create another 500 posts at its downtown offices on Broad Street. Those new hires will eventually increase the Stamford contingent to some 1,700.

Indeed’s burgeoning headcount underscores its dominance, as it has built a user base of hundreds of millions and capitalized on client demand generated by a robust economy. Keen to keep the company in Connecticut, state officials have allotted tens of millions of dollars in subsidies to support the firm’s eight-figure investment in the hiring rush. Some company observers are skeptical of the deal, questioning how long the business can sustain its success. Others see Indeed’s rise as a sign of a broader revival.

“With Indeed, we’re seeing a new economy emerging,” said Joe McGee, vice president of public policy for The Business Council of Fairfield County. “They see this as a welcome location, and they can get the talent they need here. The doom-and-gloom message we’ve heard about Connecticut’s economy for the last eight years is lifting.”

Growing in Stamford, growing worldwide

Indeed now employs more than 900 in Stamford, its main East Coast base since its 2004 founding. The company’s global headquarters is in Austin, Texas.

In the past 14 years, the company has morphed into the self-described “No. 1 job site in the world.” More than 250 million people use indeed.com each month to search for jobs, post resumes and research companies.

“Indeed has always been focused on one thing only — helping people get jobs,” Dave O’Neill, Indeed’s chief operating officer, said in an email. “It’s been our mission since we were founded 14 years ago and continues to fuel our growth today.”

A booming jobs market — national unemployment ran last month at a nearly five-decade low of 3.7 percent — has fueled the need for Indeed’s services.

With a valuable trove of data on job candidates, Indeed has eclipsed competitors such as CareerBuilder and Monster, according to David Lewis, founder and CEO of the Norwalk-based HR consulting and outsourcing firm, Operations Inc.

“When you think about all the marketing and advertising Indeed has done and continues to do, Monster is almost invisible on that front,” Lewis said. “They don’t seem to be doing anything to drive employers to post openings on their website and drive candidates to look and post resumes on their website. It feels like they watched Indeed go by, instead of trying to figure out how to close the gap. The same thing is true of CareerBuilder.”

As it has emerged as a job-search giant, the company has quadrupled its headcount in the past three years. It employs about 7,400 in 27 offices across 14 countries.

Its growth in Stamford encapsulates its trajectory. When the firm moved to Broad Street in 2011, it took a half floor for about 50 employees. It now occupies nine levels.

Sales and “client success” customer-service units represent the largest departments in Stamford.

A large share of the Stamford workforce is millennial-aged. In recent interviews, Indeed officials have cited their ability to recruit from top universities in the tri-state area and also hire Connecticut natives from top-level colleges in other states.

The company released a statement last week, stating it is “exploring real estate options” to accommodate future hires, suggesting it would consider other locations, in addition to 177 Broad.

More subsidies

Indeed is investing $66 million in the Stamford expansion.

To support the company, the state Department of Economic and Community Development has awarded a $10 million loan for equipment and lease-related improvements.

Indeed could have the entire loan forgiven if it reaches 1,700 jobs by the end of 2031 and maintains that employment level for at least two years.

The firm could also earn up to $5 million in tax credits through DECD’s Urban and Industrial Site Reinvestment Tax Credit program.

Separately, Indeed qualified for a $7 million loan and up to $15 million in tax credits for its 2017 expansion plan.

Without those subsidies, the company might have located the new jobs elsewhere, according to Catherine Smith, the state’s economic development commissioner.

“We had a lot of conversations with them,” Smith said. “It became clear to me after a couple of conversations that we would not be able to slide by on this one and get the jobs (without state funding). We sat down and heavily negotiated this deal. It’s not as rich as the first deal (in 2017), but it still is something in their favor. At the same time, we continue to be extremely disciplined about the underwriting.”

Other state-backed corporate expansions in Stamford were announced earlier this year by IT consulting and research firm Gartner, professional-services firms KPMG and PwC, reality-show producer ITV America and entertainment-startup Wheelhouse Entertainment.

Those initiatives could together create almost 1,400 jobs, with potentially more than $25 million in state subsidies.

“I do think providing incentives to support high-tech jobs and business growth in Stamford is an effective investment,” state Rep. Caroline Simmons, D-Stamford, who is also co-chairwoman of the state Legislature’s Commerce Committee, said in an email. “However, we need to ensure that the state is getting the greatest return on investment possible and that when companies get support from the state, that they commit to staying here and continuing to create jobs.”

State Sen. L. Scott Frantz, R-Greenwich, a co-chairman of the Commerce Committee, was not available for comment.

Long-term growth?

Combined with earlier state-funded relocations to Stamford — such as the 2012 move of Charter Communications’ headquarters and the 2017 transfer of Henkel’s North American consumer-goods headquarters — this year’s deals have cemented the city’s position as the top corporate destination in Connecticut.

“When companies like Indeed, Charter or Henkel choose Connecticut, it sends a strong signal that there are a variety of good reasons to be in the state,” Smith said. “It signals that we have access to great talent in the state, including for companies focused on technology.”

But Lewis questions whether Indeed can fulfill all of its hiring targets.

“A company like theirs is 100 percent joined at the hip with the success of the job market. If the job market isn’t hot, they’re not hot,” Lewis said. “You don’t hire sales people when your prospective client base does not need your services. Do they have some magic formula that will allow them to continue to grow or maintain their size, even in a down economy?”

Indeed officials responded that the company would be ready for the next downturn. They said the company weathered the last recession by doubling revenues and increasing its market share.

“We believe we will be well-positioned going forward by focusing on improving our service to job-seekers and creating more efficiency and value for employers,” O’Neill said.

pschott@scni.com; 203-964-2236; twitter: @paulschott

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