Scott highlights Mindtree at ribbon cutting


Governor Rick Scott visits MindTree's ribbon-cutting ceremony in the Ayers building at 720 SW 2nd Avenue in Gainesville, Fla., Tuesday, November 13, 2012.

Erica Brough/Staff Photographer
Published: Tuesday, November 13, 2012 at 2:01 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, November 13, 2012 at 2:01 p.m.

Gov. Rick Scott returned to Gainesville on Tuesday for the second time in three weeks to highlight another company creating jobs as well as the state and local efforts to lure such companies.

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Governor Rick Scott visits MindTree's ribbon-cutting ceremony in the Ayers building at 720 SW 2nd Avenue in Gainesville, Fla., Tuesday, November 13, 2012.

Erica Brough/Staff Photographer

Scott was on hand for a ribbon cutting Tuesday morning at India-based Mindtree Limited's first U.S. Development Center at the Ayers Building in Innovation Square.

Mindtree develops software for Fortune 2000 companies and independent software vendors, with 245 client companies in 31 countries. The company has more than $400 million in annual revenues and more than 11,000 "Mindtree minds," as the company refers to its employees.

In March, the company announced that it would locate its first U.S. development center in Gainesville for clients that want technical services in the U.S., with plans to create 400 jobs over the next five years paying an average salary of $80,000.

Mindtree is ahead of its original hiring schedule as a result of an expanded contract with an existing Fortune 500 client, according to Scott Staples, Mindtree's president of the Americas. Mindtree had planned to fill 35 jobs by the end of the year but has already hired 47 and expects to be ahead of next year's goal with 150 instead of just over 100, he said.

Although committing to 400 jobs, the company would like to bring at least 1,000, according to CEO Krishnakumar "KK" Natarajan, who was in from Mindtree headquarters in Bangalore, India.

He called Gainesville the "beachhead" of Mindtree's plans to build three or four more U.S. development centers as more customers require immediate access to its services.

After a tour of Mindtree's office, Gov. Scott talked about what a great place it was to work, "but the most important thing is this is great for Florida families. If you're a family here, you care about a job, you care about education for your child and you care about keeping the cost of living low, and if you look at this community it does all those things."

He referred to an email from Staples crediting local entities for coordinating as a community to help pave the way to bring them here.

"The city of Gainesville has made ‘community' a part of their economic development vocabulary," Scott said. "You have demonstrated your commitment to being a business-friendly community and companies around the world are noticing."

In an interview with The Sun after the morning event, Natarajan said they meet with local governments all over the world.

"Very rarely do we find governments that move at such speed," he said.

He also credited state government help in sealing the deal.

Gov. Scott referred to the role of the University of Florida in preparing graduates "for jobs of the 21st century" as a key component in the success of companies such as Mindtree and Prioria Robotics.

He singled out Tara Parkins, 22, one of the first of three UF graduates hired by Mindtree in July.

Scott visited Prioria — which makes unmanned aerial vehicles — during a similar event Oct. 19. The company plans to create 40 jobs over the next three years.

The governor presented Mindtree founders Natarajan and Staples with Governor's Business Ambassador Awards.

"It's individuals like KK and Scott that have really built jobs," he said. "They're the ones who are out hiring people and changing people's lives, so it's a real honor to be with them today."

The morning ribbon cutting was one of two on the day for Mindtree, with the morning event added to accommodate the governor's visit.

An evening event included speeches by local dignitaries — and the entire Gator marching band marching into the lobby of the Ayers building, playing a couple songs and marching out.

Staples introduced another co-founder, Anjan Lahiri, president of IT services, who was also in from India.

Lahiri described how his first visit to the United States came 21 years ago to attend the University of Florida master's of business administration program. Having worked for Natarajan prior to attending UF and later working with Staples, Lahiri was instrumental in bringing together the company's 10 founders to form Mindtree in 1999.

Staples said he kept Lahiri out of the site location process to avoid his bias for Gainesville.

Gainesville Mayor Craig Lowe listed assets that the community has to offer companies — a commitment to innovation, world-class education, the arts, the environment, active citizens "and a local government that places a high priority in investing in our community's future. In short, we're combining the necessity of a thriving business climate with the desire of those businesses employees' for a high quality of life."

Former mayor and Alachua County Commission Chairwoman Paula Delaney said, "The redevelopment efforts of the area between campus and downtown represents significant transformational public-private investments and this is a dream come true for those of us who have been committed to redevelopment and economic development in Gainesville and Alachua County."

Local businessman Mitch Glaeser, chairman of the Gainesville Council for Economic Outreach, said Mindtree fits in with the local culture of innovation and the Innovation Gainesville economic development effort.

"Mindtree is joining this Innovation Gainesville ecosystem of companies changing the world in life sciences, logistics, customer service, startups, high tech, clean tech, agriculture and medical research," he said.

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