West

This company traded a Mass. office park for downtown Providence

Patricia Harris
Providence offers a mix of amenities, including a skating rink in the heart of the downtown business district.

A company that recently moved from Framingham to Providence celebrated this week with a ribbon-cutting at its new headquarters — another victory for Rhode Island officials working to attract more employers to their state.

Virgin Pulse, a software company that provides health-monitoring services to corporate customers, was lured to Providence by a mix of tax incentives and an opportunity to recruit from a growing pool of millennial workers.

The company has pledged to add nearly 300 full-time workers and remain in Providence for the next five years in exchange for tax credits. It may also qualify for additional credits by meeting hiring and other goals.

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Virgin Pulse, a local arm of Virgin Group, the organization cofounded by British entrepreneur Richard Branson, exchanges its previous headquarters in suburban Framingham for office space inside the historic Providence Journal building on Fountain Street.

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The downtown area will help to attract millennial workers with the city’s mix of lifestyle, education, and housing amenities, said David Osborne, Virgin Pulse’s chief executive.

“Being a software company in the suburbs is a bit of a ’90s thing,” said Osborne, while Providence is expected to make recruiting easier. “You can hire a younger workforce that can be the future of the company.”

Millennials have grown to become the largest single group in the nation’s workforce. In 2015, adults ages 18 to 34 made up more than one-third of American workers, according to the Pew Research Center.

More than half of Virgin Pulse’s 420 employees are millennials, and Osborne expects that number to grow.

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The move “made good sense from a business perspective and from a financial perspective,” he said.

Virgin Pulse, founded more than a decade ago, currently operates 10 offices worldwide. It had its headquarters in Framingham for about seven years before moving to Providence, Osborne said.

Its previous location occupied about two floors inside an Old Connecticut Path office building, and included about 200 workers, Osborne said. The company will continue to maintain a scaled-down office in Framingham.

The company officially opened its new headquarters on Nov. 20, according to a company statement. On Tuesday, company officials joined local leaders, including Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo, for a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

A move to Providence has been in the works for about a year, after Rhode Island officials announced Virgin Pulse had applied for tax incentives in that state.

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The company is eligible for nearly $6 million in tax credits if the company adds 292 new full-time jobs in Providence and remains in the city for the next five years, said Matt Sheaff, a spokesman for Rhode Island Commerce Corp.

Virgin Pulse will receive a $250,000 credit for having its headquarters in Providence, and will gain another $250,000 credit if the company adds about 120 new workers by the start of 2019, he said.

Raimondo, along with local business and government leaders, has focused on recruiting employers, Sheaff said. During the past 20 months, Rhode Island officials have completed 22 agreements with employers to either expand in the state or relocate there. The agreements include a total of about 2,100 new jobs, he said.

The latest agreement was announced on Monday, with India-based technology company Infosys Ltd. agreeing to open an office and bring at least 500 new jobs to Providence.

“It’s really all of us [who] have worked together to bring these companies here and get Rhode Island on the move,” Sheaff said.

Framingham may have lost a company’s headquarters, but that doesn’t indicate a downturn for the city or the Metrowest region, said Maureen Dunne, professor emeritus of business economics at Framingham State University.

Dunne, who also works at the MetroWest Economic Research Center, said the 13-community Metrowest region that includes Framingham is home to a highly skilled and educated workforce: In 2015, nearly 40 percent had a college degree, and nearly one-fifth had a post-graduate degree.

In Framingham alone, there were 49,700 jobs with an average annual wage of $76,800 last year, she said.

“If companies are looking for high educational attainment and high-skill [workers], this is where they are,” Dunne said.

Virgin Pulse
The reception lounge at Virgin Pulse.

John Hilliard can be reached at john.hilliard@globe.com.