Akron-based OuterBox’s growth — and its search for tech talent — is prompting it to expand again, and this time outside of the Rubber City.
The digital marketing and website design company announced Wednesday, Nov. 14, that it is looking to open a site outside of Akron and “is currently in the process of touring and reviewing proposals from cities they have pegged as leading candidates for the opening of their second office,” according to a news release
OuterBox, which recently expanded its Akron office that now employs about 53 people, is looking for a second location to attract new tech talent and tap into a new pool of customers, the company said.
On the company’s short list are Cleveland; Columbus; Detroit; Ann Arbor, Mich.; and Pittsburgh.
Attracting talent to the Akron area has been a challenge as the company continues with a steady hiring pace, adding about five employees in the past couple of months alone, said founder and CEO Justin Smith.
While OuterBox hasn’t had a lot of trouble hiring folks from near Akron and to the south of the city, many potential employees near Cleveland and its east and west side suburbs don’t want to make the drive to Summit County, he said.
Launching in a new city might help alleviate the talent-attraction problem, the company said. Smith said he hopes the new site initially will employ 15 to 20 people. It may be all new hires or a mix of new hires and transfers. All of that has yet to be worked out, he said.
OuterBox wants its new office to be located in a suburban or urban area of more than 1 million people and with access to a major airport. The proximity to Akron is important as well. While the company plans to use things like video conferencing to keep its two sites connected, officials want the new location to be within a relatively easy drive of Akron.
The company hopes to have a decision by year’s end and the new site up and running by the first quarter of 2019, Smith said.
While OuterBox’s search isn’t quite the scope of Amazon’s recent HQ2 pursuit, the Akron firm, which specializes in search engine optimization, is certainly growing. In June, the company, which was founded in 2004, announced it was expanding into an additional 2,500 square feet on the second floor of downtown Akron’s Kaiser Building, where it already occupied 6,000 square feet on the third floor.
And in the summer, Smith told Crain’s the company expected to do $5 million in revenue this year. He said in an interview Wednesday that OuterBox has “far exceeded” that mark.
“Our growth this year was over 100%,” he said.
The company attributes much of its growth to its own ability to harness SEO and its extremely high rankings when people type words such as “e-commerce web design” or “e-commerce SEO company” into search engines.
“We practice what we preach,” Smith said, adding that OuterBox is able to attract customers when they see how effective the firm is in its own digital marketing.
He also said that investing in the best talent, and retaining those people, has helped it to grow.
How the company grows in the future just might depend on where it can continue to find that talent, Smith said. If OuterBox can find the hires it needs in Akron, that office will grow. If there’s a more available talent pool at the new location, that site will see more hires.
And company officials hope this new site is just the first outside of Akron.
“We want to prove out this model and ideally take that to another city,” Smith said.