Last week, New Jersey talent-acquisition and management Software-as-a-Service company iCIMS, represented by Chairman and CEO Colin Day, signed a lease for 350,000 square feet at Bell Works, the iconic Bell Labs building in Holmdel that is being completely redeveloped.
The addition of iCIMS provides Bell Works with an anchor tenant and continues the consolidation of the tech industry at this historic building, which is deeply rooted in innovation. At present, iCIMS has about 550 employees, and expects to hire an additional 300 in the near future.
“Our CFO and I stepped foot into this building about two years ago, when we were looking at the options of what we were going to do as the next phase when we outgrow the current location in Matawan,” said Day. “I can tell you that, from the first day, we looked at each other and said ‘I don’t know how we are going to do it, but we’ve got to make this happen.’”
He said that, along with the history and aesthetics of the building, he and the CFO were attracted to the vision of the building’s developer [Somerset Development(Holmdel)], which “came directly from Ralph [Zucker, Somerset president].” Speaking directly to Zucker, Day added, “We really appreciate your sticking to that vision, and not wavering.”
Zucker has envisioned Bell Works with a pedestrian “street” within the building’s existing quarter-mile long atrium. The promenade area will connect tenants and visitors to a host of dining and entertainment venues, health and wellness services, renovated office space and educational facilities, a hotel and conference center for both employees and visitors. The space will also host community, cultural and business events.
“It’s not just about moving a company to an amazing location in a building with a great tradition, and feeling like you are a part of a rebirth of a great technology hub right here in New Jersey,” said Day. “This is actually more than a move for us.”
Day explained that he started his career as a technology recruiter. The CEO of the company he worked for, George Liou, who had hired him straight out of school, had worked out of the former Bell Labs building for ten years. When Day was 23, Liou “was the one [who] listened to my business plan of spinning out and starting a software company, and said, ‘Great, let’s do it.’” Liou funded iCIMS to the tune of $2.5 million, to get the company off the ground, and he’s now chairman of the iCIMS board.
When Day was a young recruiter, he often came to the building because his major clients were AT&T, Lucent and Telcordia. “I used to hire software developers and testers and DBAs [data base administrators] for this building.” He would accompany the candidates to their interviews, and could see that they were in awe when they entered the building. “This is more of a homecoming for George, myself and the team,” he added.
Day said his company is committed to bringing New Jersey back to the greatness that he had experienced when he visited the building, and he hopes to play a part in shepherding more tech companies to the site.
Zucker asked, “What does it take to redevelop the largest vacant office building in the United States?” It takes vision, guts, determination and dedication, he said. You can’t do it alone. It took guts on the part of the township committee, as the leadership of Holmdel had to take on the naysayers. He also thanked the New Jersey Economic Development Authority for providing more than $50 million in incentives for the companies relocating there. Zucker reminded the attendees at the lease signing that this was just the beginning, as it would take continued partnerships to make his vision complete.
U.S. Congressman Chris Smith (R-Hamilton) remarked that that it was wonderful that these companies were making sure that the treasure of Bell Labs would be preserved for future generations. Speaking to Zucker, he said, “You knew how to take a prudent risk, and do it in a way that brings” the parties together. This represents “many jobs, much innovation. … It’s just a great day for Holmdel and a great day for Monmouth County.”
Following Smith, State Senator Joe Kyrillos (R-13) called the day an important success story, not just for the Bell Works building, Holmdel and the community at large, but really for the state of New Jersey. “This great company… started in a little office space in Union Beach,” he said. “It could go anywhere. Let’s face it. We live in a big flat wide world.”
Kyrillos praised the New Jersey EDA for helping to make the deal work, calling it one of the most effective parts of the state government. “They successfully put together the right kind of package to make up for the other high costs that are part and parcel of living in a big, busy, crowded state like New Jersey.”
He noted, as did others, that this is an important event for the historic building. Kyrillos recalled passing the building as a child and thinking that it was very cool. And he noted that the repopulation of the building could cause a housing boom in the area, as great companies with great jobs move into it.
Speaking for Holmdel, Mayor Eric Hinds said that this was a day for optimism, and he recalled how six years ago he had been on a committee to deal with a problem. “We had the largest piece of commercial property in the United States,” and it was empty. But Ralph Zucker wanted to redevelop it. “As we sat with Ralph and outlined the challenges, as each challenge came up I was blown away by his eternal optimism.”
Hinds said that Day “had to have some optimism when he started [building his business] in the basement. … I can’t thank him enough for his vision, leadership and entrepreneurship just to build a company. Then we got lucky that this company that wants to continue to grow, caught us at the right moment.
“This is the Silicon Valley of the East Coast. This will become a tech hub. This will create jobs. This will create all kinds of ancillary benefits way greater than anything as small as increasing the commercial tax base.” Hinds said that he loved the stories of the scientists who walked backwards through the halls to help themselves think differently. “Today’s about walking forward. Today’s about the next eight awards that come out of this building.”
New Jersey EDA President Timothy J. Lizura said that job creation and economic development are about letting employees build a family and a community. New Jersey is the second most densely populated state with communications and technology workers in the country.
Bell Works, once home to tremendous discoveries, “is again going to be home to discoveries, and it is going to be home to businesses that form around those discoveries and innovations.” Lizura noted that he expected foosball championships to be held in the building, but that’s the way “New Jersey’s future has to be. We are a technology state.”
“We have always been a technology state; iCIM’s decision to stay in the state of New Jersey, versus leaving, ratifies New Jersey’s leadership in the technology community,” said Lizura. He then noted that keeping New Jersey as a top place for communications and technology workers will depend on creating projects like Bell Works to attract the next generation.
Lizura said that the Grow NJ assistance program, under which iCIMS was granted $38 million over ten years in tax breaks, makes New Jersey real estate competitive with that of virtually any other state in the country.
The Garibaldi Group (Chatham) represented Somerset Development as Bell Works’ exclusive office leasing agency. CBRE (East Brunswick) represented iCIMS.