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Social marketing firm chooses to grow here

By TROY L. SMITH - 1/18/2013

Brand Networks Inc. announced plans this week that could make it one of Rochester's largest marketing firms by the end of the year.
 
The social marketing service provider plans to add 75 jobs to its Rochester office, which currently has 46 employees, and invest $1.95 million to relocate from its office on South Avenue to a larger facility in the High Falls area.
 
Brand Networks has its headquarters in Boston and has more than 70 employees in total. The company focuses mainly on the development of Facebook applications for large national clients like Starbucks Corp., AT&T Inc., American Express Co. and Paramount Pictures Corp.
 
Brand Networks was founded in 2007 by CEO Jamie Tedford and Chief Technology Officer Mike Garsin. Tedford lives in Boston, while Garsin, a University of Rochester graduate, oversees Rochester operations.
 
Brand Networks has grown fast, doubling its revenue year-over-year since 2007, adding offices in New York City and Los Angeles, and almost doubling its Rochester workforce in 2012. However, the company's latest planned growth nearly was destined for somewhere other than Rochester.
 
Garsin said Brand Networks has never seriously considered leaving Rochester but looked at other areas of the country to house its most recent employee growth.
 
"We had surveyed other sites in different areas," he said. "I think in the end we were very committed to staying here and growing our Rochester operations, which is something that has always been important to me."
 
The majority of the 75 new jobs will be filled in 2013, but the expansion could spread over the next two years. The company is averaging one hire per week. Most positions are in software engineering, graphic design, brand strategy, analytics and project management.
 
Brand Networks plans to renovate  15,000 square feet at 61 Commercial St. and move in March 1. The facility is three times the size of its current South Avenue location.
 
Brand Networks' expansion has been aided by $700,000 in tax credits from Empire State Development Corp.'s Excelsior Jobs Program. The program makes tax credits available to eligible, strategic businesses in industries such as technology and manufacturing.
 
Brand Networks also was approved Tuesday for sales-tax exemptions totaling $61,797 by the County of Monroe Industrial Development Agency. The agency projects that the benefit to the community will be $348,912. The company plans to spend $772,460 on equipment, furniture and fixtures for the renovated facility.
 
Both Monroe County Executive Maggie Brooks and Rochester Mayor Thomas Richards praised Brand Networks for its contribution to the resurgence of downtown Rochester.
 
Garsin said Brand Networks' growth has coincided with the increased interest of companies in having a bigger presence on Facebook. Brand Networks offers a suite of Facebook applications that help its clients promote their businesses.
 
For the movie "The Tourist," starring Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp, Brand Networks created an app for Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc. that allowed Facebook users to create virtual tour books using their own Facebook photos. For JetBlue Airways, Brand Networks created an app allowing customers to earn special offers by checking into JetBlue Terminals on Facebook Places.
 
Last September, Brand Networks was one of 12 social marketing companies designated by Facebook Inc. as a Strategic Preferred Marketing Developer. Brand Networks' main competition includes companies like Adobe Systems Inc., which also offers a series of integrated applications for Facebook.
 
"Our success has been driven by a combination of factors," Garsin said. "Mainly it's been the growth of our existing client engagement and the new client engagement that makes us believe our current growth patterns will continue."
 
Kenneth Adams, president, CEO and commissioner of Empire State Development, said in a statement that he was glad his organization could help keep Brand Networks in Rochester.
 
"With social media usage on the rise, Brand Networks is the type of company that New York State wants to attract and retain," Adams said. "The project is crucial to the continued resurgence of downtown Rochester, while the company employs tech-savvy young adults and pays them well, bringing substantial money back into the city."

1/18/13 (c) 2013 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email service@rbj.net.