Tech boom has companies moving all about Bay Area



The tech boom that’s got the entire San Francisco Bay Area sizzling right now is reflected in more than just hiring numbers, soaring stock prices and VC seed money.

It’s in the California pine beams and vertical moss wall at Zendesk’s new offices in San Francisco’s Mid-Market neighborhood. It’s in Lise Feng’s cubicle at CipherCloud, where wall-to-wall windows feature jet planes flying into and out of San Jose. And it’s in the meeting rooms at 1st United Services Credit Union in Pleasanton, where the company has moved back into expanded, spiffed-up offices.

“From a relocation and construction perspective, the area’s on fire right now,” says Megan Lovelace, an industry veteran whose consulting group FaciliCorp has been moving companies big and small around the region for 20 years. “And with everyone so busy and everything moving at Silicon Valley speed, things can get a little crazy at times.”

The Bay Area is not only booming — it’s moving all over the place. CipherCloud spokeswoman Feng says her cloud-security company has moved six times in the past four years. In a peripatetic reflection of the regional tech frenzy, well-funded startups from Oakland to Marin to Fremont are dumping more humble digs for larger spaces tricked out by trendy design firms. More established companies like Apple and Google are scarfing up addresses all over Silicon Valley to house their burgeoning work forces. And as the moving-and-storage professionals work, the clients and their employees grapple with the logistical and emotional fallout from this regional game of musical chairs.

“People get very connected to their space, and moving to a new office can be very discombobulating,” says clinical psychologist Tom Plante, a professor at Santa Clara University. “But all this moving around is symptomatic of life today in Silicon Valley, where you have to be used to change if you want to survive here.”

For Mark Beltramo, general manager of San Jose-based commercial movers Bartels Moving Systems, the current boom’s mostly expansionary nature sure beats the opposite. “We worked the dot-com boom and bust and the Great Recession,” he says, “and this is a lot more fun.

“The hardest moves are when you’re closing an office and you have a building full of people who are losing their jobs,” says Beltramo, who recalls tough economic times when his crews had to discreetly do the move in the middle of the night, often with security guards on duty. “That’s tough.”

For 1st United Services Credit Union in the East Bay, its post-recessionary move wasn’t dramatic — it relocated for a few years across the street and then settled back into its revamped and redesigned offices. But the move offered management a chance to address layout flaws in the old digs while giving employees a morale-boosting new work space in the process.

“The design of the new environment gave different departments more opportunities to collaborate,” said Ed Renteria, chief operations officer. “Plus, everyone likes moving into a building where all the furniture and cubicles are new, because it’s kind of like moving into a brand new house.”

Yet even when the move is embraced, a corporate relocation can be challenging, triggering all sorts of emotions among employees. There’s excited anticipation, but there’s also angst about not knowing where you’ll be sitting at the new address, often a key factor in a company’s political hierarchy. There are concerns about navigating a new commute route and about losing your favorite restaurants and businesses near your old haunt. And there’s nostalgia and even a sense of mourning about leaving a place after working there for years.

“People don’t typically like change,” Lovelace says. “They tend to resist it and will want the same things at the new place that they had at the old. But that’s a mistake to hold onto the past, because a move represents a huge opportunity to make a real difference in how people work and interact with one another.”

Of course, moving a company office can also be expensive, especially when new construction is involved. Rick Patten with FaciliCorp estimates those costs alone can range from $20 to $100 per square foot. Throwing in things like new furniture, computer systems and security can add up to hundreds of thousands of dollars, say relocation specialists.

While the rare company will make a move based largely on the personal preferences of its CEO, most consultants and HR managers consult beforehand with both management and staff. Laurie Dahlgren, a senior director with Meltwater Group, says the global marketing company considered the most important part of last year’s move into the Standard Oil Building in downtown San Francisco “was to appreciate what the employees wanted in their workplace, which after all is their home away from home.”

Surveys revealed that most of the 100 employees wanted to stay in the financial district, be close to public transportation, restaurants and gyms, and be in a safe location. Dahlgren echoes many moving consultants who say an office is “the face of a company,” a space that should reflect the corporate culture while creating a place that people are excited about.

Rebecca Guerra, vice president for human resources with network-management company Infoblox, went a step further when her firm moved into brand new corporate headquarters in Santa Clara to accommodate its growing presence in the valley. Infoblox looked at the move “as an opportunity to engage employees,” she says. The company set up model workstations on the bare slab of the new office, Guerra says, “and even hosted lunches in the new parking lot and invited people to walk through the space, to sit down and experience the new seating because we were moving from high cubicle walls to lower and more collaborative spaces.”

Collaboration is often mentioned when a company is planning a new site. As one employee who made a recent move put it, relocation often means a new office design, which in turn can mean a whole style of working. Harsh Jawharker, who’s with Zendesk’s product marketing team, said he and his colleagues were “excited about moving into a new space and making it our space. The old building had a wider footprint,” he said, “but the new one is more vertical, with those elevated desks you can stand around and meet with colleagues. Because of that, the energy in the place is amazing.”

The moving game continues at a blistering speed. Tech behemoths are gobbling up more and more office space around the region, starting with Google, which some real-estate insiders say intends to hire 5,000 workers in the Bay Area each year for the next five years. Those employees will be settling into brand new or newly leased offices all over Silicon Valley, expanding the search giant’s corporate footprint by millions of square feet.

That’s creating a ripple effect, forcing smaller companies to make way and find new office space of their own. Two years after cofounding Seedchange in his remodeled Burlingame garage, Kevin Smith’s investment-advisory firm recently opened a 10,000-square-foot space in San Francisco’s financial district where he also leases out offices to young startups.

“We’re doubling our space this fall,” he says. “Our initial concern was whether tech startups would come to this part of town. But we’ve had a waiting list from early on, and we’ve seen a whole office culture evolve right before our eyes.

“It never ends,” Smith says. “We’ve got more companies moving in by the end of this month.”

Contact Patrick May at 408-920-5689 or follow him at Twitter.com/patmaymerc.

Article source: http://www.orovillemr.com/business/20141212/tech-boom-has-companies-moving-all-about-bay-area/1

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