Merkle into Howard

Database firm to move headquarters to Columbia, increase work force

February 21, 2007|By Stacey Hirsh | Stacey Hirsh,Sun reporter

Merkle Inc., a Lanham-based database marketing agency, said yesterday that it would move its headquarters to Howard County and hire more than 550 employees over the next five years - bringing its local work force to about 900 by 2012.

The company has about 350 workers at its Lanham headquarters who will be relocated and about 1,000 employees nationwide. Merkle also has offices in Hagerstown, Atlanta, Boston, Denver, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Seattle.

"We've been located in [Prince George's] County since about 1972, and we're attracted to that halfway point between Baltimore and Washington," said David Williams, Merkle's president and chief executive. "We love the proximity to the airport, we love the amenities in Howard County."

Williams, who has lived in Howard County for nearly two decades, said the company's employee base has grown in that area. The county's schools and other amenities are attractive qualities as the company recruits nationwide, he said.

Founded in 1971, Merkle does marketing for Fortune 1000 companies and for nonprofits. Its services include marketing strategy, database management, data analysis and media targeting. Clients include Procter & Gamble, Dell and the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Merkle says it expects revenue to reach about $190 million this year.

Williams said in a statement that the company had looked at "many locations inside and outside Maryland" for its new headquarters.

When Williams - who is also the majority shareholder of privately held Merkle - joined the company in 1989, he was its 24th employee. Today, Merkle employs 997. The company said it plans to hire 84 workers next year; 93 in 2009; 107 in 2010; 125 in 2011; and 144 in 2012.

"It's another one of those very very positive endorsements of Maryland's business climate," David W. Edgerley, secretary of the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development, said of Merkle's choice to stay in Maryland. "We're just delighted with their decision."

Merkle plans to build a $65 million campus to house its operations in the Columbia Gateway business park. It is to include a five-story, 120,000-square-foot building of Class A office space, which will house a 10,000-square- foot data center and have room for up to 550 workers. That building is expected to be ready in June of next year.

Merkle also has bought 4 acres where it expects to build a 70,000-square-foot building to accommodate another 350 workers. Based on the Merkle's growth estimates, the company expects to have the second building ready by the summer of 2010.

"It is an excellent corporate address," said Richard W. Story, chief executive officer of the Howard County Economic Development Authority. "They needed to move from where they were, and a short-distance move always makes sense."

The company's incentive package with Howard County has not been finalized, but Story said Merkle is expected to receive a tax credit from the county of more than $300,000 over four years.

Edgerley said the state will be giving Merkle a $3.3 million loan to help fund eligible project costs, which include construction.

The state also has offered Merkle a grant of up to $150,000 over three years, to be matched by the company, for employee training.

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