Jobs State support fuels Indeed growth
A year ago, Indeed executives and state officials gathered at the job-search company’s downtown Stamford headquarters to announce an eight-figure package of state aid to support the addition of 500 positions. Twelve months later, the firm is already about a third of the way to its goal.
The growth of Indeed offers hope for a state beset by a protracted economic recovery that it can attract and keep major technology businesses. Indeed officials cite the central location of their Stamford hub and access to a large pool of skilled workers as key reasons for their rapid expansion in the city — a trajectory that state officials and community leaders are keen to see other companies emulate.
“We’ve been growing globally very aggressively for many years, and I think the last year has been a continuation of that,” Indeed Chief Operating Officer Dave O’Neill said in an interview earlier this month at Indeed’s offices at 177 Broad St. “Stamford has been a great place for us to attract talent.”
Growing in Connecticut
Since its 2004 founding, Indeed has maintained its largest East Coast offices in Stamford, alongside its global headquarters in Austin, Texas.
Since then, the company has developed into the self-described “No. 1 job site in the world.” More than 200 million people use indeed.com each month to search for jobs, post resumes and research companies.
The company has quadrupled its worldwide headcount in the past three years. It now employs about 6,700 in 27 offices around the world.
Its growth in Stamford has been equally striking. When the firm moved to 177 Broad in 2011, it took a half-floor for about 50 employees. About 850 now occupy eight levels— up about 150 from a year ago — and the company is building out a ninth floor. The firm aims to eventually employ about 1,200 in Stamford.
Millennial-aged employees make up a large swath of the total, with the company drawing heavily from area universities and other colleges with graduates who have tri-state roots.
“We believe that southwestern Connecticut is a great place for people to live and work and build their lives,” said Nolan Farris, Indeed’s senior vice president of sales. “We think we’re able to continue to attract a highly educated, tech-savvy employee base.”
Sales and “client success” customer service departments comprise the largest departments in Stamford.
Employees work in open layouts. The chatter of headset-clad sales team members on calls with clients fills the floors.
Festive flourishes help to lighten the atmosphere. A small gong is rung, accompanied by a theme song for the closer, whenever a sale is made.
“We just want to create an environment where people feel comfortable and can be themselves,” Farris said.
As Indeed has grown, it has also woven itself more into the downtown workday tableau outside its offices.
Indeed staffers wearing blue shirts with the slogan “I help people get jobs” proliferate on sidewalks in the city center.
Last month, the company installed a 33-by-9-foot sign with its name on top of the building at 177 Broad.
“Indeed is as great success story in terms of being able to find a location that allows them to grow,” said Jackie Lightfield, executive director of the nonprofit Stamford Partnership, which focuses on developing the city’s business community. “The more companies you have in your region that scale rapidly and are able to grow, it simply attracts other companies looking to achieve the same success.”
To support its Stamford expansion, Indeed is in line to receive from the state a $7 million loan and up to $15 million in tax credits. The loan would be fully forgivable if the company were to create 500 additional jobs between 2017 and 2030 and meet intermediate targets.
The state aid accompanies a $26.5 million company investment in the Stamford hub.
During his visit last year to the Indeed offices, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy suggested that those who blamed state officials for the 2016 relocation of GE’s headquarters from Fairfield to Boston should rally around efforts to retain and grow firms like Indeed.
“It’s a good, strong investment,” Malloy said. “If people complain about a loan forgiveness that totals that little money for 500 jobs ... then they should stop reporting on things like GE,”
The deal has also garnered strong support in the state Legislature, although some have quibbled about the details of the agreement.
“While the overall investment seems reasonable, I think the state could have negotiated a little harder on the tax credit amount,” said state L. Scott Frantz, R-Greenwich, co-chairman of the Legislature’s Commerce Committee. “And I would have much preferred to see it as a repayable loan, as opposed to a potentially forgivable loan. Having said that, I think it is wonderful that Indeed is in Stamford, and we stand by to support them going forward.”
State Rep. Caroline Simmons, D-Stamford, co-chairwoman of the Commerce Committee, said she also supported the deal.
“However, we need to ensure that the state is getting the greatest return on investment possible and that when other companies get support from the state, that they commit to staying here and continuing to create jobs,” Simmons said.
At the same time, Indeed is growing in Austin. Already employing about 1,600 in the Texas capital, the company announced in May it would add up to 3,000 jobs there during the next few years.
Indeed is not receiving state subsidies for the Austin expansion.
The state continues to recruit tech companies. Earlier this month, Seven Stars Cloud Group committed to building a headquarters on the site of the University of Connecticut’s former campus in West Hartford.
Backed by a $10 million state loan, the Seven Stars project is expected to create 330 jobs during the next five years.
But Connecticut’s tech sector is still grappling with growing pains. Last year, the state Department of Economic and Community Development submitted an unsuccessful bid for Amazon’s planned second headquarters, with Stamford and the Hartford areas as its proposed locations.
Many saw the state’s inability to make the shortlist of finalists for Amazon HQ2 as a reflection of structural problems. Chronic instability with the state’s finances and aging transportation infrastructure in southwestern Connecticut rank among the top obstacles to doing business in the state.
“What will give our state’s economy the single largest boost in growth is investment in rail, highway and telecoms infrastructure,” said Joe McGee, vice president of public policy for The Business Council of Fairfield County.
Indeed executives, however, remain bullish about their plan to scale up to 1,200 employees in Stamford within the next few years.
“We’re well on pace to meet the obligations,” O’Neill said. “We’re very optimistic.”
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