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No Apple, no Amazon, but Wake County still generated 14,000 new jobs since the search for HQ2 began

by Mandy Mitchell, WRAL reporter, and Dave Hendrickson, WRAL enterprise editor — May 30, 2019

When you walk into the lobby of Pendo in downtown Raleigh, you are greeted by a giant plastic T-Rex.

Downstairs, there’s a cooler full of free soda next to a ping pong table. Every Thursday lunch is served, for free, to the entire company.

These are the kind of perks that have become standard in modern technology companies, and they’re all part of working for Pendo, a 5-year-old software company.

“We help other folks who are creating digital experiences, software applications. We help them create better experiences for their customers,” said Todd Olson, Pendo’s CEO.

Pendo has been super successful in that arena. So successful that the company is growing at a rapid pace.

“We are about 333 people today and we are adding, right now, about 50 people a quarter,” Olson said.

This sort of growth has flown mostly under the radar during a time when the area was fully focused on behemoths like Apple and Amazon. Last summer, the Triangle was a finalist in Amazon’s hunt for an HQ2 and was rumored to be on the short list for a new Apple campus. Apple was promising 10,000 or more jobs. Amazon’s original estimate was 50,000.

But Apple went to Austin, where it already had its second-largest campus, and Amazon went to Northern Virginia and New York, saying each area would get 25,000 jobs. It pulled the plug in New York when local opposition grew loud. In already-expensive Northern Virginia, home prices are soaring in anticipation of Amazon’s arrival, even though no jobs have yet arrived.

Meanwhile, in the last 18 months or so — since Amazon first announced its HQ2 search — Wake County has quietly added more than 14,000 jobs, according to figures put together by the Raleigh Chamber of Commerce. It welcomed 50 new companies and saw 140 existing companies expand — a total investment of more than $727 million. Not bad for a “loser.”

“For us as a market and as a region, it’s the type of growth we anticipate,” said Michael Haley, executive director for Wake County Economic Development.

Olson, the Pendo CEO, understands the buzz generated by an Apple or an Amazon.

“Yes. I totally get that someone is going to be more excited about an Apple coming than a Pendo growing,” said Olson. “Because they’ve heard of Apple and they use their devices.”

Pendo’s products are B2B — business-to-business, behind-the-scenes stuff that helps other companies’ apps wow their clients. Forbes included the company on its list of “The Next Billion-Dollar Startups” and its list of “The World’s Best 100 Cloud Companies.”

It opened its first headquarters in November 2015, according to a company timeline, and moved into its downtown Raleigh home in February 2018. It opened offices in New York and San Francisco in 2017, and now has offices in London and Sheffield, England, and in Herzliya, Israel.

Among the other under-the-radar new arrivals and expanding companies:

TrialCard, a pharmaceutical services and analytics company, is adding 300 to 400 new jobs in Morrisville.

Feelgoodz, a Raleigh-based flip-flops and sandal maker, is adding 10 jobs in Garner.

Sensefly, a Swiss drone maker, has chosen Raleigh for its North American headquarters and will add 17 jobs.

Medfusion, a health care information technology firm, is adding 30 jobs in Cary.

Arch Capital, an insurance company, chose Wake County over Atlanta for a new division headquarters. It is expected to invest $12.9 million and create 365 jobs.

“For me, it goes back to why are you even being considered,” said Haley, the economic development director, “and to me it’s sort of the fundamentals of who we are as a market and I think that is the true opportunity for us, not a singular event.”

The current high-profile hope-for singular event is for the USDA to choose the Triangle for a 700-job office. Raleigh is one of three finalists and economic development leaders are giddy at the prospect. But recent history suggests the region will likely be fine either way.

Article Source: WRAL TechWire

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