State Farm, one of the country’s largest insurance companies, is betting big on transit in three cities by building or expanding regional hubs on sites with good access to public transportation, reflecting a clear strategy to attract and retain talent who increasingly want to live and work in locations connected by transit.
A State Farm Insurance executive told a crowd in Tempe, AZ, that the company’s decision to build a huge new hub there was directly tied to the nearby availability of light rail and other transportation options that are attractive to recruiting talent.
“We’re designing these workplaces to be the future of State Farm,” chief operating officer Michael Tipsord said at an Arizona State University event. “We’re creating a live-work-play environment that will give employees easy access to their work from the neighboring communities.”
The new hub in Tempe will give State Farm enough space to expand their Phoenix-area workforce from 4,500 to more than 8,000, and will be a ten-minute walk from a Valley Light Rail stop right by Sun Devil stadium at the edge of the Arizona State University campus.
In Atlanta, State Farm is at the center of an enormous 2.2-million-square-foot development at Perimeter Center, already one of the biggest job hubs in the entire metro region, located immediately adjacent to a MARTA heavy rail station. State Farm’s plan to lease more than 500,000 square feet in a larger development has been making waves in economic development circles in Atlanta. They’re planning to hire another 3,000 employees to augment the 5,000 already in metro Atlanta, bringing new jobs to this region as well.
It’s likely to be part of consolidating workers presently at other sites in far-flung Atlanta suburbs that State Farm has already sold. In a region with notoriously bad traffic and jobs scattered all over the metro area, it’s hard to overstate the significance for Atlanta.
North of Dallas in Richardson, TX, State Farm is building a new hub from scratch on the main north-south light rail line that will anchor an enormous new mixed-use development. This site, with room to expand further, is so close to the light rail stop that the executives could probably hit golf balls off the roof of the new buildings and hit the tracks. And at over 2 million square feet of office space, the Dallas Business Journal called it “the largest lease in North Texas history.”
State Farm is just one of many companies coming to the realization that a key part of recruiting and retaining talented workers is having convenient access to public transportation and being better integrated into nearby communities rather than isolated in a 1970’s style office park.
Though plenty of companies are still located in those office parks and will continue to be, other notable employers are looking to move to the kinds of locations more in demand by their workforce.
Just last week, Marriott hotels, a major employer in the Washington, DC, region, announced they’ll be looking for a new headquarters in the area when the lease expires on their existing suburban campus. And one of the most important things they’ll be looking for in a new HQ as they try to keep up in the race for attracting talent?
“I think it’s essential we be accessible to Metro and that limits the options. I think as with many other things our younger folks are more inclined to be Metro-accessible and more urban,” chief executive Arne M. Sorenson told the Washington Post.
Expect more news like this in the coming months and years as more companies realize that locating in vibrant, walkable areas with good transit options are not only good for business, it’s critical for the companies trying to stay competitive.