By Anthony Clark | The Gainesville Sun
India-based software company MindTree Limited has chosen Gainesville for its U.S. development center with plans to create at least 400 jobs with an average salary of $80,000.
The company will move into the Ayers building at 720 SW Second Ave., now considered part of Innovation Square surrounding the University of Florida’s Innovation Hub business incubator, following a $2.9 million renovation.
MindTree expects to employ 35 people in Gainesville over the next six months from a combination of existing employees and local hires, with plans to add 100 jobs a year thereafter, Scott Staples, co-founder and president, Americas, told The Sun.
He said in a presentation that they hope to go beyond initial plans for 400 jobs, to create 500 or 600.
MindTree develops software for Fortune 2000 companies and independent software vendors worldwide. It has 11,000 employees.
The official announcement came Tuesday morning at a ceremony with local business, government and education officials at the Hilton University of Florida Conference Center.
Staples credited a coordinated effort among those factions with selling the company on Gainesville.He presented Brent Christensen, president and CEO of the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce and the Council for Economic Outreach, with a conductor’s baton for a “well-orchestrated team effort.”
He also credited the quick response of Gerhard Ritter, acting chairman of the UF Department of Computer and Information Science & Engineering, after first making contact by email to ask about the potential labor pool out of the university.
In a subsequent email projected on a screen Friday, Staples wrote, “This is the best response I have received from any major university. Thanks for the detail and the passion behind it.”
Staples said MindTree was seeking IT talent, a strong university tie, proximity to potential Fortune 2000 clients, a place relocated employees would want to live, and local and state support.
“We found a place that is obsessed with innovation and action,” he said.
The company was approved for up to $1.2 million in tax refunds depending on the number of jobs created, with 80 percent coming from the state. Gainesville and Alachua County commissions each approved $120,000 credits for the remainder.
Florida Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll said the company will help prevent the brain drain of UF graduates leaving the state.
“You are helping Florida move in the right direction to help the governor and I create those 700,000 jobs that we campaigned on,” she said.
UF President Bernie Machen said, “MindTree is exactly the kind of global, creative, aggressive company that we’ve been dreaming about. … With Innovation Square, we began a brand new era. MindTree’s decision to come to Gainesville affirms our direction.”
MindTree is publicly traded on the India stock exchange with revenues of $100 million per quarter and 20 percent annual growth, Staples said.
The company has six U.S. offices and headquarters in Warren, N.J., and Bangalore, India.
Staples said they are known for a corporate culture that emphasizes integrity and calls employees MindTree minds.
Among several honors, the company was awarded the Best Corporate Governance, India, 2012, by World Finance magazine.
Staples first contacted Ritter on Nov. 29, 2011, and visited Gainesville on Dec. 20. He said he received a call from Gov. Rick Scott shortly thereafter and had dinner with him about a month later.
“And some guy named Tim Tebow sent me an autographed copy of his book saying Gainesville turned out pretty good for him and he promised it would be pretty good for my team,” he said.
He said he would return the favor now that Tebow is with the New York Jets, which plays in New Jersey.
Staples returned with other MindTree executives on Feb. 13 to tour two potential locations, and get a taste of the workforce and quality of life over four hours. Gainesville was competing with sites in South Carolina and Alabama.
“You guys delivered. We were impressed with Gainesville,” he said.
Realtor Mitch Glaeser, chairman of the Council for Economic Outreach, said, “We had four power-packed hours to make our case.”
As part of the incentive package, FloridaWorks received permission from the U.S. Department of Labor to alter a $5 million training grant to include technology companies, making MindTree eligible to apply. The grant funds part of the salary during on-the-job training for hiring the unemployed.
Chamber Chairman Michael Gallagher of SantaFe Healthcare said CEO and Innovation Gainesville partners can celebrate the fruits of their labors after raising $3.4 million from local investors for economic development. Other recent Chamber and CEO efforts include helping lure Silver Airways and with Priora Robotics’ downtown expansion plans.