Grow NJ Works to Keep Businesses and Talent in State

NJ Spotlight News | May 17, 2017

By Briana Vannozzi

It sat vacant for years after housing some of the world’s most innovative engineers. The former Bell Labs, now Bell Works campus, is re-imagining a historical building as a workplace of the future. Today, securing its final anchor tenant.

“We want to make our space a great space where people really get excited about working in. The Bell Works building itself provides a whole other level of attraction for people,” said Chris Sullens, president and CEO of WorkWave.

WorkWave is the latest business to call Bell Works home. The cloud-based software company did the official ribbon cutting today, though its employees already set up shop. Sullens says they were bursting at the seams in their old location 10 miles down the road. They could’ve relocated to one of their other sites in Hawaii, Boston or Italy. But the state incentive program, Grow NJ, sealed the deal.

“Cost obviously is a big factor and we had a lot of employees here and you never want to leave if you don’t have to. But the cost of doing business here was tough and with the EDA stepping up and kind of helping us make it more palatable, frankly,” Sullens said.

“At its heart, the goal of Grow NJ was to make New Jersey a more competitive location and to convince companies to grow and invest in New Jersey. This company was looking to relocate its entire operation to St. Louis, where they have an operation today. That location had advantages,” said President and COO of the New Jersey Economic Development Authority, Tim Lizura.

WorkWave received $15 million from the state in return for retaining 150 jobs and creating another 200 or so.

“It’s easy to criticize them. We’re giving away the store, corporate welfare, whatever. This is what it amounts to: none of these companies would be here today without this great New Jersey incentive program,” said Sen. Joseph Kyrillos.

Holmdel Mayor Greg Buontempo says there’s a rebirth here. “We’re actually proud of this building for what it’s created over the many,many years and I think we’re on the verge of something great happening here again,” he said.

Some are calling it New Jersey’s own Googleplex. The office spaces are young and vibrant. Three other tech companies are already on board with plans to make this a real hub.

“Oftentimes the way to re-position, redevelop it is to bring in multi-tenant it. To bring in multi-uses. There’s not too many companies around that are looking for a million and a half square feet of office space all at once,” Lizura said.

“We’ve also been able to draw talent of people who’ve been commuting into the city to look for those tech jobs in the cool spaces and cool environment who now are starting to find that here they’re able to stop the commute,” Sullens said.

Now that the fourth and final anchor tenant is in place, the rest of the pieces to transform this former innovation hub are falling into line. By fall, the Holmdel Public Library will move in along with several other, smaller tech startups.