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Companies use urban office locations to attract IT talent

Fred O'Connor | Nov. 7, 2014
To attract workers in the competitive technology job market, remote connectivity service provider LogMeIn decided that a change of address was needed.

To attract workers in the competitive technology job market, remote connectivity service provider LogMeIn decided that a change of address was needed.

For about a decade, the company was based in an office park in Woburn, Massachusetts, a suburb 10 miles north of Boston. But as LogMeIn discovered that younger tech workers preferred to live and work in the city, in 2013 the company moved to a trendy waterfront Boston neighborhood and turned a former warehouse built in 1904 into its loft-like headquarters.

"We felt that for us to continue to attract the talent we wanted and compete with companies, getting into Boston would be better for us for talent recruitment," said Chief Financial Officer Jim Kelliher, who helped spearhead the move.

Location, long an important factor in real estate, now ranks as a concern for companies hiring IT workers. Younger employees versed in the latest technologies are opting to live in urban settings and favor taking public transportation to the office over driving to the suburbs. Employers, eager for staff with trendy skills like mobile development, are taking steps to keep their companies appealing to city dwellers. Some have traded suburban offices for vibrant city locations while other companies, most notably those in the Bay Area, operate private shuttles between San Francisco and their Silicon Valley headquarters.

"The commute conversation is really taken off the table," said Dena Upton, LogMeIn's head of human resources. "It's much easier to get people to respond to our email when we're doing an outreach campaign for a position than when we were in Woburn."

LogMeIn isn't the only Massachusetts company looking to set up in Boston or neighboring Cambridge, according to internal staffing data from recruiting firm WinterWyman.

Between 2004 and 2013, the percentage of software jobs located in Boston soared to 36 percent from 5 percent. The percentage of software positions in Cambridge, where technology heavyweights including Microsoft, Amazon and Google have opened development offices, increased to 27 percent from 20 percent.

By comparison, the percentage of software development jobs in Waltham and Burlington, suburban cities traditionally associated with the state's technology industry, declined by more than half during the same period. In Waltham the percentage decreased to 6.43 percent in 2013 from 16.7 percent in 2004. In Burlington, the drop was to 3.22 percent from 12.9 percent.

Many large, established IT businesses with locations outside of Boston are either reducing IT headcounts or not adding positions, said Ben Hicks, who compiled the data and is a partner in WinterWyman's software technology search practice. Instead, small and medium-sized companies based in the city are hiring.

"If I have a job seeker who says 'I want to work out in the suburbs and I want to work for a big multinational publicly traded company,' it's hard to place that person since so much of the job activity is in the city and so much of the job activity is with small companies," said Hicks.


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