PRG will move into Main Street building, add 60 jobs by this DecemberAny doubt that the economy of North Adams is on the upswing was likely dispelled Monday afternoon with the announcement that a home-grown Web firm would be relocating its corporate offices to the long-vacant building at the corner of Main and Marshall streets.
Publications Resource Group Inc. (PRG), the Web's leading market intelligence provider, announced April 3 the relocation of its corporate headquarters from the Windsor Mill in the city to the former Roberts Company department store building which, along with the Holiday Inn Berkshires across the street, anchors the west end of Main Street.
"The reason that we are going to be relocating is because of the enormous growth that our company has gone through in the last couple years and will continue to go through in the upcoming years," said Ozzie Alvarez, PRG's president, CEO and founder.
The new office space is five times larger than the old Windsor Mill headquarters. The former Roberts Company building has been empty for nearly 10 years.
PRG currently employs 40; by December the company anticipates having 100 employees working in the building. The types of jobs the company will be adding include sales positions, marketing, business development, and quite a few administrative jobs. Technology positions are available as well, he said.
Alvarez said one of the greatest parts of relocating into the former Roberts Co. building is that his company will play a role in the revitalization of downtown.
"With 100 employees in here [and] hopefully in a year or two even more than that, we will play a significant role in having ... the downtown community re-energize itself," Alvarez said. "And as a native of North Adams, that means a tremendous amount to me, and I really, really am moved by having that opportunity."
In upcoming months PRG will have a number of announcements to make, not only about the move: "There's a lot of exciting news that we anticipate in the next few months," Alvarez said.
PRG was founded in North Adams in 1992 as a catalog and direct mail purveyor of market research reports. It has evolved into an Internet business-to-business e-commerce company with a much broader product line and customer base.
"In the past three years the Internet has led to explosive revenue growth," said Doug Peterson, vice-president of sales. "We've expanded our reach into new industries and markets worldwide."
PRG is an early leader in transforming a fragmented information market, providing a central point for clients to access more than 6,000 reports, newsletters, directories, and databases from nearly 250 publishing partners.
"We are a primary marketing channel for our publishers and a critical resource for clients in 28 major industries," said Dan Riff, vice president of product marketing and strategy. "We are taking the lead in shifting this $22 billion industry from paper-based products to insight delivered over the Web to the client’s desktop."
Alvarez's mother, father, wife, son, sister and two brothers, as well as PRG's employees attended the announcement and press conference held in the building.
"I started in my sister's basement and grew the business from there, basically stayed in the basement for two years," Alvarez told a reporter.
Initial estimates of renovation costs run between $300,000 and $400,000. PRG will be leasing the building, Alvarez said.
Alvarez thanked North Adams Mayor John Barrett III, PRG's employees, and Matt Harris of Berkshire Capital Investors (BCI), which invested in the company over a year ago.
"Matt's been instrumental in helping to shape where PRG can go in the future, helping us to raise the capital that we needed to move into this building," Alvarez said.
A very special announcement
Barrett said the announcement was as special or important as any he has made in 16 years as mayor. He said he's been hopefully predicting that such a company would come to the downtown area.
"But never did I suspect it would come from one of our own," Barrett said. "And this individual — I can't say enough good things about him. He stayed here; he stayed committed to the area."
"One individual had a dream. He had a commitment with a few others to make it all happen," he said. "In a very short period of time we’re going to have this building, which has [been] dormant now for nearly 10 years, full of workers, full of vitality, and most of all it’s going to mean good-paying jobs for the people of this area."
Said Harris, "PRG in many ways is different from our traditional investment at BCI. First of all, they have revenue and profits, which is a marked departure from our typical investment.
"Second of all, most companies come to us looking for capital. We went to Ozzie and basically auditioned to be part of his team,” he said. “We knew we wanted to be part of his success story."
He added, "This is not a favor that anyone's done for North Adams; this is North Adams building something from itself and of itself and for itself."
Barrett said he was pleased that David Carver of Scarafoni Associates made the deal happen. This "shows that the public-private relationship can work when we put our minds to it," he added.
"This project is another fit for our downtown redevelopment strategy that has been discussed and planned for many years by the downtown business community and city government," Carver said. "These efforts are now being given momentum by the success of the new e-commerce businesses and MASS MoCA."
McMahon Architects, Boston, a firm that specializes in building out work environments for fast-growing entrepreneurial companies, is working with PRG to redesign the new office space.
Rob Adams, PRG's senior manager of operations, said there will be a three-to-four-month buildout time. While the building is made ready, PRG will temporarily use 6,000-square-feet of office space on the third floor above the Berkshire Bank.
"We're going to be doing one move there in a couple weeks, then a permanent move here in about three months, give or take," he said.
The first floor is about 6,700-square-feet; the top floor is about 11,000-square-feet. (The size discrepancy is because the Berkshire Bank drive-through runs behind the first floor and under the second floor).
The company is looking to house three major departments on the first floor, with about 30 to 35 employees. The main entrance of the building off Main Street will be a reception area. On the Marshall Street side will be the main employee entrance. The escalator is going to be removed.
Upstairs, some 28 windows will be installed; these windows will be identical to those in the adjacent part of the complex. There will be eight or nine offices on this floor; between 80 to 100 people will work on the second floor. It will also include an employee lounge and break area.
"We want to have this entire area very open and very airy, so there won't be a lot of walls blocking the sunlight coming through," Adams said.