Deciding where to open a new office can be one of the more important decisions a company makes. It is expensive and will surely impact the corporate culture. Therefore, it is important to make the decision carefully and to consider multiple factors.
“When a larger company like ours is searching either nationally or geographically to open a center that will create hundreds of jobs, they are really trying to figure out where they are going to be successful,” said Niraj Shah, CEO and co-founder of Wayfair, a Fortune 500 e-commerce company that sells home furnishings, housewares and home improvement goods.
Wayfair completed a multi-city search and concluded that its new Customer Service and Operations Center will be successful in Pittsfield. The company made a significant investment in a historic building just east of downtown. It expects to hire at least 300 employees in Pittsfield within one to two years.
Pittsfield first came to Wayfair’s attention as a possible location because Niraj grew up here. He went to Pittsfield High School and had warm feelings towards the city.
“However, Pittsfield had to earn it. There were other finalists that we could have selected. We were not going to make a bad decision just because I grew up here,” Niraj said.
The City deployed its “Red Carpet Team” to work with Wayfair. The team, headed by Michael Coakley, the city’s full-time business development manager, works with companies looking to move to or expand in Pittsfield. The team includes the Mayor, local and state economic development officials, workforce development experts, and representatives from 1Berkshire and Berkshire Community College. The team can put together significant economic incentive packages using local, regional and state resources as well as reduce the time it takes for a business to open.
Wayfair’s requirements were high.
“We want to be in a place where we can be a meaningful employer so that we will become a sought-after place to work. We want to be the place where our employees want to be. We want to be able to pay a salary that will result in a good quality of life. Then, they are going to be able to do the best work possible to take care of our customers,” said Niraj.
The company starts with a detailed analysis of each possible location. The initial analysis is quantitative and includes data such as labor pool size, the number of recent high school graduates, the other types of work available nearby, the cost of living and more.
“At a minimum, it needs to be a big enough community where we can hire enough people to build a center and can have a critical mass,” Niraj said.
Once the list is narrowed down, Wayfair digs deeper to understand the location.
“We try to get a real feel for a place through a visit,” Niraj said. “It is very important to find the right communities where there are great people, people who fit your company culture, attract them, be able to pay them well enough so that they have a great quality of living and then retain them. Finding those locations is harder than you would think. You have to look hard.”