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Forever 128

Area hiring takes healthy turn

Life sciences, tech companies lead way

The job market along the Route 128 corridor is back. And it’s not just all about the corporate giants.

A bevy of small and midsize life science and high-tech companies are out front in this welcome trend, helping lead the way.

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We are talking a few dozen hires here, another dozen or so there. It’s not the kind of stuff that grabs big headlines, but it all adds up.

In Woburn, a major office market hub at the northern junction of Interstate 95 and I-93, Stephen Orenberg has seen Kaspersky Lab’s US subsidiary expand from a small outpost with a couple of dozen employees to an operation twelve times that size.

The antivirus and software security company is wrapping up a major hiring campaign and will employ 250 across the country by the year’s end, including 180 in its offices in Woburn’s Unicorn Office Park, said Orenberg, president of the company’s North American subsidiary.

The company has been hiring for a range of positions, from public relations and marketing to financial and legal, he said. “We were just a start-up subsidiary when we opened in 2005,” Orenberg said. “It was just me and a few other people from the industry I knew.”

Waltham-based Affinnova Inc., which makes software used by companies like Procter & Gamble and Unilever to design new products, plans to add another 25 software engineers and other specialists, a significant increase to its 100-person payroll. Located just off Route 128/Interstate 95 on Winter Street, the company recently opened up sales offices in Singapore and Chicago.

Still, the big players aren’t exactly sitting on their thumbs.

Shire PLC wrapped up a $500 million-plus project involving five buildings on its Lexington campus, said Jessica Cotrone, a company spokeswoman. Shire, with roughly a thousand employees in Lexington, announced plans last fall to add another 400 over the next few years.

For every company rolling out huge corporate campuses, there are several others hiring as well, but on a smaller scale.

Waltham-based Nova Biomedical, which produces self-monitoring glucose blood meters and similar products, plans to hire another 15 to 20 employees in Waltham and dozens more in Billerica, where it is adding a third shift to a new plant it opened two years ago, said Reno Nolli, director of treasury operations. The company now has nearly 700 employees in Massachusetts. “We are doing our share,” Nolli said.

Nova Biomedical is among nine life science companies along the 128 corridor planning to hire another 400 employees, according to the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center.

The companies will earn state tax credits aimed at spurring payroll expansion.

Some are big players, like PerkinElmer Inc., which plans to add 60 jobs to its Waltham operations, the industry center reports.

Others are like Synageva BioPharma Corp., a small Lexington-based outfit specializing in development treatments for rare diseases, which plans to hire another 32 employees, according to the center.

So why Route 128?

As is often the case in real estate, the highway has won over these fast-growing companies for three simple reasons: location, location, location.

Setting up shop in Waltham, right by Route 128’s interchange with the Massachusetts Turnpike, gives Affinnova the ability to tap into young talent in Boston and Cambridge as well as the suburbs.

“You can’t revolutionize the way companies innovate with anything less than an all-star team,” Al-Atraqchi, Affinnova’s chief executive, said in December at an Inc. magazine awards ceremony for fast-growing small companies.

And given skyrocketing rents in Cambridge and Boston, there is also a better chance of snagging a more reasonable deal on space as well.

The company, which already occupies a 22,000-square-foot level in a four-story office building at 265 Winter St. in Waltham, is working on a deal to double its space by taking another floor, he said.

For his part, Orenberg, head of Kaspersky’s North American operations, lives in Boston and does a reverse commute to Woburn.

He said he is not at all envious of the crush of commuters he sees every morning heading into the city.

“It’s really cool to be in Boston with some of the other new development,’’ he said, until you consider the office rents that their companies are paying.

Scott B. Van Voorhis can be reached at sbvanvoorhis@ hotmail.com.
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