At a time when many U.S. corporations are cutting labor costs by shipping tech jobs abroad, Mindtree Ltd. is expanding its American hiring and software development operations.
The India-based global information technology company has 13,000 employees and a client list that includes industry giants like Microsoft, Unilever and Volvo. It has more than 200 clients and offices in 14 countries. The company, though, wanted a more pronounced U.S. presence.
It chose Gainesville.
“We have seen a large number of our customers interested in having some of their development work done here in the U.S., as opposed to overseas,” says Joelle Smith, general manager for Mindtree’s U.S. Delivery Center. “To get ahead of that curve, we wanted to make an investment in the U.S. … and give our current customers [and new ones] the option to have this work done locally.”
In 2012, Mindtree committed $2.92 million toward establishing its first major U.S. Delivery Center (USDC) in Gainesville’s Ayers Plaza just across the street from the University of Florida’s Innovation Hub. The IT product engineering company has pledged to create 400 jobs over the next five years.
The primary drivers for the new USDC: quicker delivery time and improved data protection.
The Florida center allows Mindtree to avoid the time zone difficulties that often plague off-shore companies and serve its U.S. clients without delay. The center also enables the company to satisfy government security regulations that limit where some sensitive data can be located. Mindtree explored locations in South Carolina, Louisiana and Pennsylvania before tying the knot with Gainesville.
Access to qualified engineering talent was a crucial element in the site selection process. “First and foremost, we wanted a large research university that had double-digit growth in its engineering department. And the University of Florida absolutely provides that,” Smith says.
The university’s strong alliance with city and state groups, and its consistent commitment to economic growth, was the linchpin behind Mindtree’s decision to build there. “Some of the other areas had a couple of alliances … but Gainesville was the only one, by far, to have all three [entities] aligned at every single level from the top down,” she says.
“No matter where we went, no matter who we spoke with, every single person had the same answer when they talked about Innovation Square and what we’re trying to do here: They all said they wanted to create jobs.”
With nearly 150 new employees to date, Mindtree is right on schedule with their hiring plan. Notably, while some of their hires are recent college graduates, Mindtree has had success recruiting “bounce back” Gator alumni who want to move back to Gainesville for the opportunity.
Unlike most universities, land-grant universities have a unique commitment to economic development, according to Cammy Abernathy, dean of the UF College of Engineering. “It’s part of our mission just as much as research and education are,” Abernathy says. “We’re very focused on blurring the lines between business and academia.
“Mindtree has not only made it possible for UF students to stay in the Gainesville area and pursue opportunities in IT, it has also helped open doors to other companies that will create even more opportunities for our graduates.”
The company’s move symbolizes a kind of renaissance for the Gainesville software sector. A few months after Mindtree’s 2012 decision, Mobiquity—a mobile solutions provider for business—chose Gainesville as its next expansion site, promising to create 260 jobs over the next three years. Technology firms IngagePatient, Azalea Health and Optym have followed suit and pledged to create more than 140 jobs cumulatively.
“We’re beginning to build a cadre of talent,” Abernathy says. “I think this is the nucleus of something much bigger down the road.
“Our graduates are among the most sought-after by industry, and over the past decade we’ve seen a huge jump in the number of jobs that our graduates have been able to find without leaving town.”
Gainesville is on the rise.
“There’s a very positive, upbeat feeling in the community,” Abernathy concludes. “There’s a sense that this is a growing place with a strong upward trajectory. People want to be a part of that.”