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Unlike Its Neighbor, Microsoft Opts to Stay Home in Washington State

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By NICK WINGFIELD
© 2017 New York Times News Service

SEATTLE — While Amazon is hunting for a second headquarters away from its hometown, its neighbor in the Seattle area — Microsoft — is doubling down on the region, with plans to invest billions of dollars in redeveloping its existing campus.

The project, which Microsoft plans to announce at its annual meeting of shareholders Wednesday, amounts to a major overhaul of the company’s 500-acre campus in Redmond, Washington, the Seattle suburb that it has called home since 1986.

The company will take a wrecking ball to 12 buildings, replacing them with 18 taller ones with more open work environments. The construction will add about 2.5 million square feet of space to the roughly 15 million it has in the area, enough room for an additional 8,000 employees.

Microsoft’s redevelopment, which will take five to seven years to complete, would not ordinarily stand out — lots of technology companies outgrow their offices and need new space. But this is Microsoft, a company that spent years fumbling new initiatives, laying off employees and retrenching from key markets. The bet on a bigger, more modern campus is a symbol of its resurgence over the past few years under its chief executive, Satya Nadella.

It is also hard not to notice the contrast to Amazon, the area’s younger and buzzier technology company. After Amazon announced its plans for a second headquarters, cities and regions laid out tax breaks and other promises to lure the planned 50,000 high-paying jobs to town.

Amazon said it received 238 bids from across North America and is whittling down the list to a group of finalists, with a winner to be announced next year.

Microsoft’s decision to stay put at its Redmond campus flies in the face of a trend among technology companies to gravitate closer to cities. The abundance of amenities, night life and public transportation in urban areas has led to thriving tech scenes in San Francisco, New York and other cities.