SAS foresees adding 600 workers in Cary over next 3 years

SAS CEO Jim Goodnight, left, and Gov. Pat McCrory in a moment of levity at the dedication of a new building on the SAS campus in Cary on Tuesday.
SAS CEO Jim Goodnight, left, and Gov. Pat McCrory in a moment of levity at the dedication of a new building on the SAS campus in Cary on Tuesday.

SAS co-founder and CEO Jim Goodnight foresees adding about 600 workers at the company’s local headquarters over the next three years and projects that 2014 revenue will probably rise about 5 percent.

“The demand for analytics keeps growing,” said Goodnight. Customers use SAS business intelligence and analytics software to analyze their operations and predict trends.

The growth that Goodnight foresees, with regard to both headcount and revenue, are in line with SAS’s recent track record.

The privately held company has added nearly 1,000 workers at its sprawling headquarters in Cary over the last five years, or nearly 200 a year. Today SAS has more than 5,300 workers in Cary and nearly 14,000 worldwide.

Last year SAS’s annual revenue rose 5.2 percent to surpass $3 billion for the first time. In 2012 its revenue rose 5.4 percent. The company’s revenue has grown every year since it was founded in 1976.

Goodnight’s remarks came Tuesday morning at a grand opening for a new 220,000-square-foot building on the company’s campus – building No. 23 – and in a pair of brief Q-andA sessions afterward.

“This expansion is a symbol of SAS’s continued growth and commitment to innovation,” Goodnight said.

Gov. Pat McCrory, who spoke at the opening, noted that the state is “a major customer of SAS.”

“These analytical services that they are providing to the state in education, in economic development, criminal justice and fraud detection – just to name a few, the list goes on and on – are making a big difference in our government efficiency, our quality of service,” McCrory said.

Goodnight said the new building at its Cary campus gives SAS room for an additional 600 workers over the next three years.

“We’re already designing our next building, which will be ready in about four years,” he added.

SAS has developed about 300 acres at its Cary campus and still has about 600 acres available for further expansion. Goodnight initially dismissed a reporter’s query about the company’s revenue expectations for the year.

“That’s a silly question,” he said. “We won’t know until the end of the year.”

He then proceeded to answer the question anyway.

“We’re probably looking at about 5 percent growth,” he said.

“Europe is just doing very poorly for us right now,” he said, citing the ailing European economy. “The Asia Pacific is doing extremely well and we’re doing well in the U.S.”

Jim Davis, executive vice president and chief marketing officer, said in an interview that the weakening of the euro also is negatively impacting the company’s revenue.

Although he said he hasn’t run the calculations, Davis estimated that if you exclude Europe the company’s overall revenue growth for the year would “probably be closer to double digits.”

One of SAS’s hottest businesses is its cloud-based offering, which is up 35 percent this year. About 450 of the employees housed in SAS’s new building are part of its SAS Solutions OnDemand business, which develops and supports the company’s cloud-based analytics products.

SAS’s cloud service enables customer to avoid investing in costly hardware to run the company’s software. Or customers can hire SAS experts to run complex analyses for them in the cloud.

“More and more companies are leaning towards outsourcing their ... analytics to companies like us,” Goodnight said.

In addition, SAS recently teamed up with Amazon Web Services, by far the largest cloud computing platform, improving customers’ ability to use SAS software over Amazon’s cloud service.

Davis said that among the company’s other fast-growing businesses is its Visual Analytics software, which enables users to graphically portray large amounts of data to make it easier to pick out patterns.

Overall, SAS is benefiting from a surge in interest in analytics and Big Data and at the same time has faced a raft of new competitors in recent years.

“We continue to find ourselves in the hottest software market today, so ... everybody claims to do what we do,” Davis said. “The fact is, they don’t.”

“We are experts in Big Data. ... We have more advanced analytics than everybody else,” he said. “Nobody else has $3 billion in revenue in what we do. We are the big gorilla in this space.”