Site selection is not an exact science.
Sometimes the right location is more serendipity than written plan.
Such was the case when Mindtree Limited, a global IT and product engineering company co-headquartered in Warren, N.J., and Bangalore, India, began seeking a site for its planned U.S. Development Center.
“We were looking for a certain mix,” says Scott Staples, Mindtree’s president, Americas, “an affordable city with ties to a major research university with a good engineering program, in a business friendly state and a community that would support us.”
Surprisingly, the place that Mindtree would ultimately choose — Gainesville, Florida — wasn’t even on its radar yet.
But since engineering school enrollments were particularly strong in the South, Mindtree launched its site search with letters to the deans of engineering schools at major southeastern universities. “We needed a place that would ensure us a steady supply of employees over many years to come,” says Staples, noting that although the University of Florida was on that list, Mindtree’s site selection team knew very little about its college of engineering. When the reply came, he says, “we were absolutely blown away.”
Not only did UF’s engineering program have a sizeable enrollment — thus ensuring a steady flow of engineering grads and tech talent — its researchers were securing patents and attracting significant dollars, not to mention that other tech companies and startups were already flourishing in the region.
Gainesville, it seemed, had everything Mindtree needed, and so in fall 2012 the firm opened its U.S. Development Center at Innovation Square, the “Live, Work, Play” community linking downtown Gainesville and the UF campus, with 80 employees and the promise of up to 320 more within five years.
“It’s a great environment for ‘Mindtree minds,’ as we like to call our employees,” says Staples. “They can live locally and walk or bike to work. Plus we’ve been able to develop close relations with the engineering school. We can hop over anytime, meet with the researchers and professors, serve on advisory boards.”
Another Gainesville plus, says Staples, is that UF graduates seem to want to stick around. “We encountered a lot of university situations in which the kids graduate and they’re gone.” Not so in Gainesville. “We found a very big population here that wants to stay,” he adds, “and that was huge for us because we’re going to need a steady supply of talent.”