By Steve Zoski, Daily News Editor
Published July 6, 2012
A downtown Ann Arbor street that’s home to shops, restaurants, a parking garage and the vacant once-was Borders store will soon be the new home of a technology business that hopes to grow to 400 employees.
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Last month, Barracuda Networks signed a lease for the 45,000-square-foot former Borders headquarters office building located behind the former Borders bookstore at the corner of Maynard and Liberty streets.
Barracuda Networks — a Silicon Valley-based company that offers information technology services including content security, data protection and network security — will move its research and development department from a 12,000-square-foot building on Depot Street.
On June 27, the Michigan Strategic Fund Board of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation approved $1.2 million for Barracuda’s move to the new building.
However, Ann Arbor must decide whether to approve an $85,150 tax abatement for Barracuda that will last five years during the coming City Council meeting on August 9.
Last month, AnnArbor.com reported that the company will provide its employees with parking at the nearby Maynard Street parking garage by purchasing discounted parking passes through an initiative with the Downtown Development Authority.
Sean Heiney, Barracuda Network’s director of new product initiatives, said Barracuda plans to be a more stable tenant for the location than Borders.
“We’ll be in Ann Arbor for the long haul,” he said. “The company is definitely committed to Ann Arbor and what we’re doing here at the R and D office.”
Heiney said the company has bounced around the city since 2007.
“We started off with a location on Main Street with seven mostly Umich grads,” Heiney said. “We expanded that location to an office where we’re now at about 180 (employees), and we’re expanding to downtown where we hope to have about 400-plus in the next few years.”
Heiney said the research and development department had grown to the point of needing more space.
“We did an experiment and we hired a handful of smart guys and tasked them with building one of our products, which became a multi-million-dollar product within the company,” Heiney explained.
Heiney added that the company looked elsewhere but decided downtown Ann Arbor was the right fit.
“It would have been easy for us to expand near Silicon Valley headquarters … we looked at cities like Portland (and) Boulder, but Ann Arbor made the most sense for us.”
He added that the company sees working in the same town as the University is a major factor in staying in Ann Arbor.
“Being in Ann Arbor gives us access to a talent pool that’s typically very loyal, very smart and hungry to do exciting things that affect real people,” Heiney said. “We found a good group of people to draw from, in Ann Arbor specifically, and in Michigan.”
Heiney said the former Borders headquarters will be unrecognizable after Barracuda moves in, with the potential for a workout facility, an outdoor eatery and a retail area.
“It’s got large, 30- to 50-foot ceilings, three floors, a large central staircase,” he said. “I think we’re going to be able to do some cool things with it … we’re really going to light up that Maynard Street parking corridor that’s kind of dreary right now.”
Correction Appended: A previous version of this article mistakenly said Ann Arbor City Council would decide whether to approve a tax abatement for Barracuda at a July 16 City Council meeting. The meeting is actually August 9.