Thursday, October 22, 2009

MindLeaders ready to grow anew

Business First of Columbus - by Matt Burns

When online training provider MindLeaders Inc. made a high-profile move to Dublin from Grandview Heights in 2004, the company envisioned growing its work force more than 50 percent by now.

Half a decade, one prolonged recession and 80 fewer jobs later, the firm is hitting the reset button, and it appears to have the city of Dublin on board.

MindLeaders is up for a five-year, 18 percent income tax abatement valued at up to $155,448 over the term as it plans to build its 98-person work force to about 130 employees by 2015. Dublin City Council put the incentive up for a first reading this week and could lock it in after a 30-day waiting period that will follow its second reading Nov. 2.

The company has signed a 66-month lease at its 5500 Glendon Court headquarters that will take it through November 2015. That’s after briefly flirting with moving back to Grandview, where it left as the suburb’s largest employer.

Driving plans for future growth, President Paul MacCartney said, is a deal MindLeaders closed this year for new software it’s rolling out to its customers next year. The program allows employers to digitally organize talent-management functions such as recruiting, goal-setting and succession planning.

“In the longer range, this will accelerate the growth of our business,” he said. “It’s fairly significant, and that’s why we need to stay here.”

MindLeaders made the move to Dublin lured by an income tax abatement and technology grant valued at a combined $458,000 over six years. The company pledged to grow what was then a 180-person work force to 280 employees by 2009. That long-range view came after a dot-com boom that once helped swell its payroll past the 200-worker mark.

What followed is history for the Web world.

“Every business in our space has seen the same kind of contraction,” MacCartney said. “The dot-com (boom) came and it went.”

The company responded by working to boost its bottom line, leading to dozens of cuts that caused it to lose out on its $183,000 income tax abatement. Missing job-creation targets also cost $125,000 of an approved $275,000 grant. Two years ago, MindLeaders was acquired for $18 million by ThirdForce Plc, a Dublin, Ireland-based competitor, and head count has held steady since.

Dana McDaniel, Dublin’s economic development director, said the new incentive is an act of resetting what might have been high expectations for growth at the time.

“They went through a restructuring, a merger and obviously this deep recession,” he said. “We’re hopeful to see some growth in the future, but these lowered expectations on growth are more fitting with the economic environment as it is.”

MacCartney said MindLeaders’ job-creation plans skew conservative considering the company plans to make an acquisition in the future. The firm occupies about 33,000 square feet at its Glendon Court headquarters and could easily expand into a vacant 15,000 square feet.

“If we need more space, we can get it,” MacCartney said.

MindLeaders parent ThirdForce has about 250 employees and lost about $1.4 million (2.3 million Euros) on $37.4 million (26.9 million Euros) in revenue last year, based on the exchange rate at the end of 2008.


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