Where to Move My 110-Year-Old Company
Todd Murphy, CEO
Universal Information Services
Yes, you read this headline correctly and it is not “fake news.” After doing business in downtown Omaha for 110 years, I’m moving Universal Information Services.
After an exhaustive search that considered any space from the Missouri River to Interstate 680, between Center Street and Blondo, I found the perfect spot for our new global headquarters. On April 1, or maybe the 2nd, we’re going to move…across the street.
With all the beautiful office parks scattered throughout the greater Omaha landscape, why would I choose to move across the street?
First obvious reason: bandwidth. The telemarketing industry was effectively invented in the Omaha area, along with our strategic military placement, which both gave rise to some of the nation’s best connectivity. Major phone and data connectivity lines were in the ground and connecting Downtown Omaha before the rest of the world. Basically, our client users want faster information, and Downtown Omaha sits on some of the fastest connections in the world.
Second obvious reason: cost. The commercial real estate market in Omaha is very competitive. After crunching all the numbers for any viable A or B class property, lease rates in downtown Omaha net out at a point that makes the “towers” as cost effective as the “low” buildings out west.
The new reason: robust, fun public transportation.
We live in a time when employees are asked to invest more of their creativity and perform at their highest level. Providing amenities that people want is important if we expect this level of effort and want to retain the best people on our teams. So yes, my decision was strongly influenced by the interests and needs of our employees.
About 25 percent of my team uses public transportation to get to and from work either all the time or part of the time. I too enjoy letting someone else drive me from 108th & Center to downtown Omaha, just so I can get a head start on my emails for the day. Keeping our headquarters on a major bus line proved to be a determining factor, but there’s more.
The city of Omaha is considering the addition of a modern streetcar that would run in front of our new location along Farnam Street. The addition of this public transit system would provide our team with direct access to the most entertaining parts of our city. Although this project is still being debated, having the opportunity to locate our staff on the next wave of public transportation was very compelling.
The new reality is that the younger members of Omaha’s workforce want, rather demand, their employers locate offices in places that are conducive to a more active and fun lifestyle. But this is not an age issue, nor another dreaded attempt to cater to the millennial demographic. In fact, our oldest employee has been with our company for 40 years, and Dorothy still uses the bus to get to work.
Historically, when we move we look at it as a long-term decision. No five-year leases for us, no seven-year lease — we usually end up staying 20 years or more in our offices. But it is 2018, and moving a company involves far more than just moving furniture and people. Today, moving a company includes relocating your culture, core values, retaining the team you’ve worked so hard to assemble, and trying to balance the wants of your personnel with the financial needs, or limitations, of your business.
So, we’re moving across the street! We are staying downtown so our team, myself included, will be able to catch a streetcar to midtown for meatballs, great coffee, or simply to shop for a new record. At night I look forward to the day when at 5 p.m. my company can leave our cars in a secure garage while we head to the arena for a Creighton University basketball game.
2018 is already shaping up to be a very big year for Universal Information Services. We’ve launched new services and we’ve reinvested in our people and infrastructure. I could have moved our company anywhere but moving across Farnam Street just made the most sense — for everyone on my team.