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Forever 128

Hiring picks up along Route 128

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.

Take Organogenesis Inc., for example, a Canton biotech company that has said it will add 35 employees.

It’s part of a steady expansion that saw the company, which has developed treatments using living tissue to help heal chronic wounds, severe burns, broken bones, and other maladies, move into a new, $65 million headquarters and research complex last spring. The four-building campus in the Dan Road business park off Route 138 includes the “largest living cell manufacturing facility,” according to the company.

In Randolph, BFS Pharma Inc., a pharmaceutical products manufacturer, last year was granted credits to add 10 jobs at its plant.

And a bit off the highway, DePuy Orthopaedics Inc. plans to add 70 workers to its Raynham facility, also using tax credits from the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center.

In Waltham, Affinnova Inc., which makes software used by companies like Procter & Gamble and Unilever to design new products, plans to add 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.

“It’s across the board,” Waleed Al-Atraqchi, Affinnova’s chief executive, said of his company’s hiring plans. “We are going global.”

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

Shire PLC has just wrapped up a $500 million-plus project involving five buildings on its campus in Lexington, 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.

Not far from the 128 corridor in Natick, software developer MathWorks Inc. is in the midst of hiring another 400 employees this year. Most of them will be in Natick, where the company controls hundreds of thousands of square feet of office and research space, according to spokesman Len Dieterle. To make room, the company recently bought the Boston Scientific campus nearby, he said.

And Newton-based Trip­Advisor Inc. is also expanding fast, with a big need for software engineers. The company plans to hire another 200 employees over the next two years, bringing the total at its headquarters to more than 700.

To accommodate its growth plans, the company is finalizing plans to move to a new, 280,000-square-foot headquarters complex next door in Needham, also alongside the highway, said Tyler Young, vice president of finance.

“Our intention is to stay out here on the 128 loop,” Young said. “It sets us apart from all the competition in Cambridge. We believe there is an advantage to staying put out here.”

Yet for every Shire, MathWorks or even TripAdvisor rolling out huge corporate campuses, there are several other companies out there hiring as well, just on a smaller scale.

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

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.

In Affinnova’s case, setting up shop in Waltham, right by Route 128’s interchange with the Massachusetts Turnpike, enables the company to tap into 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.

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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