PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The welcome wagon was rolled out in earnest for Wayfair on Thursday as state and local leaders celebrated the "homecoming" of the Massachusetts venture to its founder's hometown.
The international home decor company's new $5 million call center will employ upwards of 300 people in the coming months in a newly renovated section of the Clock Tower Building fully furnished, of course, with Wayfair products.
"Today we're building a stronger city and we've all come together to give a great big, warm Pittsfield welcome to Wayfair, our new business and community partner," said Mayor Linda Tyer, before introducing a roster of speakers including Gov. Charlie Baker and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito. "With 300 new jobs, our residents will be able to strengthen their personal prosperity with good wages and benefits and provide for themselves and their families and have opportunities for training and advancement throughout the Wayfair organization."
Central to the decision to locate in Pittsfield was native son Niraj Shah, a Pittsfield High School graduate who went on to study computer science at Cornell University before founding the e-commerce company with a classmate. Shah remembered how the city had been with GE, where his father had worked, and the changes that have occurred since its departure.
"I'm particularly excited about just seeing how Pittsfield has started to really continue to develop the economy ... there's just some exciting things going on," he said. "And you can see it and you can feel it. And so I know that's because of the hard work that you all are doing. So we want to congratulate you and we're happy to be a part of it."
Tyer pointed out the building they were in had been the Eli Terry Clock Co. in 1880 and now, in 2019, Wayfair would be selling clocks around the world.
"We did consider other locations including the Williams Stanly Business Park and other properties around the city of Pittsfield. But this was the space that Wayfair said, 'it feels like home,'" she said, touting the advance work that had gone into landing Wayfair. The city had rolled out the red carpet, aka City Hall's "Red Carpet Team," to help Wayfair make the decision to locate in Pittsfield. It was, she said, Business Development Manager Michael Coakley's "big win."
"When we transformed the way that we advanced business development in Pittsfield, we were preparing ourselves for just this moment: we rolled out the red carpet," the mayor said. "And when Wayfair came to visit, our team spent days preparing because we knew that we were competing with other Western Massachusetts communities and other communities around the country.
"The first question that Wayfair asked is, where's the best place to get ice cream? That was when I knew that this was going to be a great alliance. It was a breath of fresh air to have a global ecommerce Fortune 500 company that could go anywhere in the world say to us, tell us about your community."
Wayfair has more than 13,000 employees with about 6,000 in the Boston area where it's headquartered. Last year, it was awarded $31.7 milloin in tax breaks by the Massachusetts Economic Assistance Coordinating Council to another 3,000 jobs and establish the call center in Pittsfield. The first of class of two dozen or so operators have been trained; as each training occurs, more will be added onto to the workforce with the expectation of reaching 300 workers next year.
Shah said his business has been successful because of the caliber of employees and a team effort to retain customers. Making sure they have a great experience leads them to come back and that repeat business is what has been fueling the company's growth.
"One of the things that I think will make Wayfair, a great member of the community is that we tend to look for really talented, ambitious, collaborative, friendly people," Shah said. "And so we care a lot more about the cultural traits that someone has than specific job experience."
One of those people is Steve Yuill, senior manager of the location, who found his way back to Pittsfield because of Wayfair. Also a PHS graduate, Yuill went to Berkshire Community College and then completed his computer science degree at the Rochester (N.Y.) Institute of Technology. He kept heading west and ended up in Michigan, where he's worked for the past 20 years.
When Wayfair was searching for employees, Yuill found a personal and professional "perfect fit" that would bring him home.
"It's wonderful to be back close to family," he said. "And it's wonderful to be here with Wayfair and all the opportunity for the community that they're providing."
The call center is spread over three floors at 75 South Church St. and is, naturally, furnished with Wayfair products. Long tables are set up to receive computers and phones and conference rooms are being used as training areas. The Berkshire setting is evident in the names of the rooms and areas — Shaker Village is the cafeteria, Jiminy Peak and Ventfort Hall conference rooms.
The light and airy glass-filled design of the 140-year-old mill is by Bradley Architects and constructed by David J Tierney Jr. Inc.; the landlord is Clocktower Partners LLC (David Carver).
A host of speakers at the welcome event reiterated the potential for Wayfair to make real improvements in the community and in the professional lives of its workers.
Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito highlighted it as an American success story where Shah chose the city where his history began; U.S. Rep. Richard Neal pointed to Wayfair's success in the reality that is global commerce; Secretary of Housing and Economic Development Michael Kennealy said the collaboration between the public and private concerns to make the day happen were on display; state Sen. Adam Hinds said it was about "bringing hope and excitement" to the region; state Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier stressed that it wasn't magic but hard work and strategic planning that brought the whole package together; and 1Berkshire President and CEO Jonathan Butler, on behalf of the business community, said, "thank you for giving us the opportunity to both support and share in the tremendous global success of your company."
"I remember when then Secretary [Jay] Ash, started talking to Wayfair about their plans in Massachusetts. And for Niraj, this was personal," said Governor Baker. "When he started talking about wanting to open up, I mean, I know you think you had to work for this one mayor. But I got to tell you, we kind of had him at hello."
Niraj Shah, CEO of Wayfair, and Gov. Charlie Baker at the opening of Wayfair call center in #PittsfieldMA.
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