Grand opening celebrates a step forward for employees
Roy W. Olivier, CEO and president of ARI Network Services Inc., knew his company was building something special with the makeover of a previously uninhabited office building in downtown Duluth, Minn.
So much so, in fact, that he refused to let ARI’s 125 employees take a sneak peak at the new digs until their unveiling in May on a Chamber of Commerce-type day along the shores of Lake Superior.
“We spent about six months and $500,000 refurbishing this space into the condition you see it now,” Olivier said. “In February, we moved all our employees here, but I made the decision early on that we would not let any employees see this space before it was finished. We only allowed six managers to see it. And I can tell you we literally had employees cry when they saw it for the first time.”
That’s because the old digs, housing mostly 50 Below employees before the purchase of 50 Below by ARI, were far from ideal. Now, nearly 18 months to the day since the acquisition, those same employees were thriving under ideal workspace conditions.
“They had been in four different buildings, and we had employees who had never met each other because they were so spread out,” Olivier said. “When we arrived here and walked into those offices, we were frankly taken aback by the working conditions. They were very old. The furniture in them looked like it was from the 1950s and we knew immediately we needed to reengineer the workspace to get better productivity and keep people happy about where they worked.”
Many corporate moves can entail productivity hiccups. Not this one.
“The productivity frankly has gone up, and normally when we move and office productivity drops for a couple of months. Moving into here, it immediately went up,” Olivier said.
The grand opening of ARI’s new Duluth office featured local dignitaries and hoopla, all the way down to the Olivier’s ribbon cutting with a pair of oversized scissors. Facility tours and product demos also were part of the event at the 25,000 square-foot gem. The workspace was built to fit 180 employees, part of a three-year growth prospect.
“This opening is a major milestone for us, demonstrating our commitment to creating a long-term presence in Duluth and paving the way for our future product development plans,” Olivier said. “We’re proud to be in Duluth, and our success in this community is credited in great part to our team of highly skilled, dedicated Duluth-based employees.”
ARI currently staffs approximately 125 employees at its Duluth location in positions ranging from software research, design and development to sales, customer service and technical support.
The shiny new cubicles and equipment left no doubts that ARI will be in Duluth for the long haul.
“We’ve had 15 acquisitions in 15 years, and we leave those offices in the cities where we acquired them,” Olivier said. “We’re acquiring talent, a skill set, and that talent and skill are right here.”
Duluth’s 125 employees actually outnumber the 80-90 in the Milwaukee office.
“I’m excited for the folks here who really dedicated a lot of time and energy to 50 Below and making it what it was. They built a phenomenal company from nothing to a multimillion dollar software company that was a leader in its space. They got themselves into trouble and went through some very dark days. I’m just happy we can provide these people with a place they’re proud to show up at.”
Collectively, they’re adding to the company’s growth. The 50 Below office was responsible for $8.9 million in business the year before it was acquired by ARI. This year Olivier expects the Duluth office to contribute close to $11 million.