Information technology company Citrix Systems, which established a presence in the Triangle last year, is injecting new blood into downtown Raleigh by relocating a divisional headquarters that plans to hire 337 workers over five years.
The publicly traded company, which today has 130 employees near Crabtree Valley Mall, could receive state and local incentives worth more than $9 million if it meets hiring and investment goals.
The new jobs will pay an annual average wage of $70,695, well above the Wake County average of $45,396.
The move is a boon to downtown, which lost a corporate headquarters with the recent sale of RBC Bank and stands to lose another if the long-delayed merger between Progress Energy and Duke Energy wins regulatory approval.
The city has been working to cultivate a startup scene downtown and boost Raleigh’s image as an innovation-friendly community. That image was buffed up in January when Red Hat announced that it was transferring 750 workers from N.C. State University’s Centennial Campus to a new corporate headquarters in a 19-story downtown tower being vacated by Progress Energy. Red Hat also received state and local incentives.
“An old-line, slow-growth commodities business like an electricity provider moving out at the same time an upstart technology firm moves in, that shows the direction Raleigh is going,” City Councilman Bonner Gaylord said. “We’re becoming more focused on innovative and growth industries. It symbolizes the way our city’s economy is going to grow.”
Arriving in Raleigh
Citrix entered the Triangle market in October when it acquired Raleigh software firm ShareFile, which now operates as the Florida company’s data sharing division. Jesse Lipson, the 34-year-old Duke University graduate who founded ShareFile, is now vice president and general manager of the division.
“I’m excited about the chain reaction that can happen when something like this occurs,” Lipson said. “We are going to have hundreds of high-tech professionals in Raleigh looking to live near where they’re working. ... It’s going to stimulate a lot of activity.”
Lipson said the wealth of local talent here helped Citrix choose Raleigh over Atlanta and Austin, Texas.
Other factors included the relatively low cost of living, low taxes, and the fact that “people here are actually really nice,” he added. “For ShareFile our No. 1 core value is customer-centric, so everything is about the customer and providing the highest level of service.”
Lipson started ShareFile in late 2005. The company, which makes software that enables businesses to share large files confidentially over the Internet, had grown to about 80 employees when Citrix acquired it for an undisclosed amount.
“The company started just with one person, me, programming out of a dark room,” Lipson said. “It’s been quite a ride for us over the last six-and-a-half years.”
ShareFile, along with competitors such as Dropbox, Box.net and YouSendIt, has had demand for its products explode in recent years.
With the rise of cloud computing, businesses want their workers to be able to access applications and files on their computer desktop remotely. The growing popularity of tablet devices such as the iPad has only increased the need for a way to transmit such files safely and securely.
Lipson said ShareFile’s growth has accelerated even more under Citrix’s wing, bolstered by a national radio campaign and other advertising.
“Before we were a boot-strapped company, so we needed to keep our eye on the bottom line,” he said.
Businesses like ShareFile often get relocated when they get swallowed up by a much larger company, and Lipson admitted that he and his management team were worried that might happen to ShareFile as well.
ShareFile needs software developers, support staff and salespeople, and the company isn’t wasting any time in staffing up.
“Actually, we hired 11 people yesterday,” Lipson said.
Citrix’s incentive packages don’t require it to move downtown, but company executives said that’s where they intend to locate. Citrix is looking for 80,000 to 100,000 square feet of space.
“We’ve had some good discussions so far,” said Lipson, who declined to discuss specific sites. “We are looking, over the next month or so, to make an announcement.”
With a vacancy rate hovering around 10 percent, downtown Raleigh has few large blocks of empty space available. Given the amount of money Citrix plans to invest in the new location, the most likely scenario is moving into an existing property. The downtown warehouse district, in particular, is viewed as having buildings in prime locations that are ripe for renovation.
Citrix, which had $2.21 billion in revenue in 2011, enables companies to access specific applications remotely as well as entire computer desktops. Its competitors include Microsoft and VMware.
As is the case with Red Hat, Citrix boasts a youthful work force with the potential to deliver a jolt of energy to the downtown scene.
“Those are young people with disposable income who will want to move downtown or live close by,” City Councilwoman Mary-Ann Baldwin said. “They will want places to shop and eat. You’re really talking about something that could be transformational.”