RALEIGH — Mike Esser, a six-year veteran at Linux software company Red Hat, is delighted that the company moved its headquarters from N.C. State Universitys Centennial Campus to the center of the city.
Obviously love the space, said Esser, 35, a manager for the communications and design team within the companys marketing department. Its a little bit more light and bright. Its much more open than our previous space. It gives us more of an opportunity to collaborate. ...You could never find a meeting room in the other space, because we were just bursting at the seams.
H e also sees the location as a major plus.
Love downtown, he said. You can feel the heart and soul of Raleigh down here, the restaurants, the people.
Red Hat, unquestionably a 21st century software company, marked the shift of its headquarters to a downtown Raleigh building formerly occupied by an oh-so-20th-century business, Progress Energy, at a Monday ribbon-cutting ceremony. The company has been renovating and moving into the 19-story building on East Davie Street now dubbed Red Hat Tower, although the signage planned for atop the building isnt yet in place since last July, with the final employees relocating earlier this month.
Local leaders are anticipating that Red Hats younger, hipper employees more than 900 and counting locally, including more than 200 added in the last year will be a boon to the city. Raleigh has been working to cultivate a start-up scene downtown and boost its image as an innovation-friendly community
Harvey Schmitt, president and CEO of the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce, said the downtown presence of Red Hat, which has 5,700 employees worldwide, creates an environment of energy that will help the area attract other businesses.
You cant overstate the power of branding, said Brooks Raiford, president and CEO of the N.C. Technology Association. Any region that brings a brand like a Red Hat in a prominent building with a sign on it ... really does attract attention.
Schmitt and Raiford were among a host of local dignitaries and elected officials who crowded into the first-floor lobby for Mondays event.
Gov. Pat McCrory, who addressed the crowd before the ribbon-cutting, said of Red Hat: Theyre creating jobs. Theyre an innovative company. They have talent thats second to none. ... Thats the best of North Carolina.
When Red Hat decided to relocate its headquarters downtown in 2011, it became eligible for more than $15 million in state incentives contingent on creating 540 new jobs over nine years. Since then, the company has been adding employees locally at a faster past than it anticipated.
The dignitaries also toured Red Hats new digs. Among the distinguishing characteristics: an expansive wrap-around outdoor patio on the eighth floor with Wi-Fi access for those who prefer working out-of-doors; a broad translucent staircase; a gaming area that includes pool and air hockey tables and a videogame center, and a ninth-floor cafeteria with a view of the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts.
Red Hats open-source software is free, but that didnt stop the company from generating $1.33 billion in revenue for the fiscal year that ended in February, up 17 percent from a year earlier. The company makes money by charging customers for maintenance and support and for services such as training and consulting.
The companys software is not only significantly cheaper than that of competitors such as Microsoft, but its also renowned for its reliability. Thats why the New York Stock Exchange and more than two dozen stock exchanges around the world that handle more than half of the worlds trading volume depend on Red Hat software.
Without a doubt, our most important asset is our people, CEO Jim Whitehurst told the crowd. A key part of attracting the best and the brightest is where were located. ... Now employers have to locate where employees want to be. Thats why Im so proud that we can be here in Raleigh.
Charlie Peters, Red Hats chief financial officer, noted that Citrix ShareFile also is planning to inject some new blood into downtown the downtown scene by relocating a division headquarters here.
Well have two big technology companies right downtown, Peters said.
Mike Bradley, 67, is a director of boating industry services at the Small Business and Technology Development Center who lives in a condominium near Red Hats headquarters. He and his wife have discovered that the influx of Red Hatters downtown means that theyre more likely to wait for a table at their favorite restaurants.
But Bradley said he doesnt see that as a negative.
We know it means more new restaurants, he said.