Weeks after a handful of employees set up shop in a shared workspace at Tampa’s Sparkman Wharf, Rapid7 is almost ready to expand.
The Boston cybersecurity company announced in October it was opening its 10th office in Tampa and planning to hire 100 workers here over the next year. It’s now close to leasing a permanent office nearby — one that can accommodate even more.
“I would be floored if we didn’t hit that number by the end of 2022, and then we’ll just grow from there,” said Christina Luconi, Rapid7′s chief people officer. “We’re saying 100, but we would hope in the next couple of years, we’ll hit 500, easy.”
Often when a company relocates or establishes a new regional office, it projects how many local jobs it aims to bring with it. This year, Rapid7 was among a handful that did just that. Tampa Bay newcomers like Pfizer, HomeLight and ID.me all pledged to bring hundreds of executive and tech-focused jobs to the region, some by the end of 2021, others by 2022 or 2023.
As the year draws to a close, some have already surpassed projections. Others are still working on it.
That’s par for the course, said Craig Richard, president and chief executive officer of the Tampa Bay Economic Development Council, which helps recruit corporations to Hillsborough County. Especially with companies relocating, which may require months to move teams of employees from one city to another.
“We start talking to them about how to accommodate their needs from the very beginning, and what their needs will look like once they get to the point where they’re in full operations mode,” Richard said. “We’re trying to determine how many employees they’re looking at hiring, the capital investment they’re looking at investing, if it’s going to require a physical presence, what’s the square footage or the amount of land needed.”
The Economic Development Council doesn’t track how hiring projections match reality, Richard said. But over time, those numbers often surpass the early targets. Richard pointed to companies like USAA and the Depository Trust and Clearing Corporation, which started with a few hundred employees in Tampa and now have thousands between them.
That’s huge, Richard said, “because now you’re taking into consideration how the employees have made an impact on the community and the organizations that are supported from their presence.”
The Tampa Bay Times looked at seven companies that announced new Tampa Bay offices in 2021; combined, they pledged to create at least 1,350 new jobs. One was Rapid7, which Luconi said is on its way toward hitting its goal of 100 workers in 2022. Here’s where the other six stand.
The target: Bringing 200 jobs to the area.
Today: The privately held company, which manufactures packaging equipment for industrial shipping and storage and claims annual revenues of $2 billion, moved its global headquarters to Tampa from the Chicago area this summer. At first, only a handful of senior-level executives moved. Today, as it builds out a permanent office in the Hidden River area near Interstate 75 and Fletcher Avenue, the company is up to nearly 100 employees, with plans to hit 200 by next summer.
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Ultimately, the workforce will be more than half local hires, with the rest relocated employees, said Michael Watts, Signode’s senior vice president of business and strategy.
“It’s not just the global headquarters and the senior leadership team, but we also have one of our business platforms, the Americas division, co-located here in Tampa,” Watts said. “So that means there’s ample opportunity to court customers and have key suppliers and distributors come through this area as well.”
The target: A February announcement didn’t specify a number, but the company was at the time hiring for about 50 positions.
Today: The biopharmaceutical giant’s Tampa office, encompassing 100,000 square feet at the Heights Union development near Armature Works, is open for some workers, with a full opening planned for Feb. 1, according to a company spokesperson. Pfizer already has more than 180 local employees in positions tied to logistics, finance, human resources and other operations. The company is actively hiring another 160. The eventual plan is to hire more than 500.
“We continue to be impressed with the highly qualified and diverse talent pool in Tampa and are building a strong team of professionals across several business functions,” Brian Martin, a vice president and Tampa site lead for Pfizer, said in a statement.
The target: Adding 500 Tampa workers by the end of 2021.
Today: The McLean, Va. company, which provides digital authentication software for a range of services that require log-ins, blossomed during the pandemic as the need for online services grew Among its new clients: The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, which used ID.me to verify the identity of claimants locked out of the state’s unemployment system, CONNECT.
As a result, ID.me breezed past local hiring projections this fall, with at least 562 employees in Tampa by mid-September, according to a company spokesperson.
“When companies have multiple offices, and (employees) are given an opportunity to move to Tampa, Tampa’s the first one to get filled up,” said Richard, of the Tampa Bay Economic Development Council.
The target: Adding 300 regional jobs by 2022.
Today: The tax technology company announced in March it was relocating its headquarters from New York to an office park in St. Petersburg’s Gateway area. It started with about 10 employees, with its chief executive and president joining early on.
Today, the company still has employees in New York, and it’s operating under a hybrid workforce model, with some employees working remotely or only part-time in the office. Some new hires ended up being remote workers. But the company is up to 71 employees in St. Petersburg, said spokesperson Carlee Wendell, and is still hiring, with at least nine open St. Petersburg positions listed on its website.
“For the most part, just as every other organization has experienced COVID, different variants have posed the same challenges for us as just about everybody,” Wendell said. “It’s impacted our expansion internationally as well. … But we’ve been really pleased with the community, with the talent that we’ve found here and we continue to find here.”
The target: Adding 100 Tampa workers, including 30 this year.
Today: A big addition to the area’s growing cybersecurity industry was OPSWAT, which announced in January that it was moving its headquarters from San Francisco to Tampa. The move stemmed from the company’s acquisition of Tampa cybersecurity firm Impulse. The company took over Impulse’s Orient Park headquarters as it ramped up hiring efforts and has since expanded into two additional office suites.
At the time of the move in March, OPSWAT had 350 employees worldwide, including 30 in Tampa. Today, it’s up to 537 worldwide and 77 in Tampa. The company expects to exceed 100 local employees next year, adding workers in engineering, finance, marketing and other departments, said founder and CEO Benny Czarny.
“One of the biggest operational changes and challenges we’ve faced is finding a permanent office location,” Czarny said in an email. “While we’ve expanded in our current building, we’re looking for an ideal office space that is more centralized, meets our current needs, and can fit our vision for the future and scale for business growth.”
Beyond the search for real estate, Czarny said the move to Tampa has been all the company had hoped for.
“We have had access to top local talent to supplement the incredible talent we have around the globe,” he said. “We’ve even seen a desire from candidates and remote employees to move to Tampa. And with the influx of other major technology and cybersecurity companies coming to the region, the impact Tampa has had on both our operational and business growth has been great.”
The target: Adding 500 workers in Florida, including 100 in Tampa.
Today: San Francisco real estate referral and technology services company HomeLight announced in July that Tampa would become the Florida headquarters of its HomeLight Closing Services division, which handles title and escrow operations. The company had 20 employees at the time but leased expanded space in the Westshore district to accommodate a much larger workforce.
Today, HomeLight has more than 30 employees at the Tampa hub and is “aggressively hiring continuing into the new year,” said company spokesperson Lizzie Ryan. The company expects to hire another 30 to 40 in the coming months, which would put it at 60 to 70 by mid-2022, with a goal of surpassing 100 by the end of that year. The company also has added employees in Sarasota, Orlando, Miami and Jacksonville.
Economic Development Reporter