Websense officially moves headquarters to Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — It’s no secret many tech companies are picking up and moving to Austin and there’s another business to add to the list.  Websense, a tech company that deals with cyber attacks and data theft, has moved its headquarters from San Diego to Austin.

“There were so many things that we looked at when we were moving our corporate headquarters.  One of the main reasons though is obviously the amazing community, cost of living, but having the tech community here the University of Texas system with all of their cyber security there made a great technology base and a really great place for us to call home,” said Websense Chief Marketing Officer Neville Letzerich,

In February, the Chamber of Commerce announced the data security company would call Austin home.  It helped Websense through Opportunity Austin, a public-private economic development initiative to bring job-creating investments to the Austin area.

The state awarded Websense a $4.5 million grant from the Texas Enterprise Fund to relocate and the City of Austin approved an incentive estimated at $438,000 over 10 years.

The company is expected to create 470 jobs and more than $9.9 million in capital investment over the next two to three years.  The company’s chief financial officer, James Hagan told KXAN News that less than 10 percent of their employees came from California.  They’ve hired a little more than 200 people from the Austin area since February, but are still looking to fill almost 300 spots.

“Anytime you move a corporate headquarters, that’s a big move and the Texas Enterprise Fund really did play a big part for us because it really helped defray some of the costs of making that move,” said Letzerich. “We didn’t just open a branch office in Austin and so that cost offset was a very big factor for us.”

Websense is leasing out a 90,000 square-foot facility off of Stonelake Blvd in North Austin.  Even on the company’s grand opening day, crews were still remodeling the building, making IT upgrades and adding office amenities in the building.

Right now, Websense is present in 35 other countries and employs more than 1,500 people worldwide.  Last year, Vista Equity Partners,which has offices in Austin, Chicago and San Francisco, bought Websense for about a $1 billion.

The state created the Texas Enterprise Fund in 2003 as a way to attract businesses and investments to the state.  Since then the state’s awarded $487,409,696 to about 106 different projects.   A state report analyzing the fund said a total of 66,094 direct jobs had been committed through different businesses because of the fund.

The Texas House Speaker, Joe Straus, created a Select Committee on Economic Development Incentives to look at the funding program and make sure it’s effective and efficient.

State Rep. Eddie Rodriguez (D-Austin) is the vice chair of the committee.  He said incentives are a valuable tool, but he wants know where the money is going, what benefits there are to the state and are they being used for the right reasons.

“I don’t want to get too political, but at the same time there’s been obviously accusations looking at who is getting the funds tracking it and sometimes some of those funds can be tracked to companies that are giving contributions to certain candidates and things like that, so we need to look at that closely,” said Rodriguez.

KXAN’s partners at the Texas Tribune reported in January that executives, political committees and investors have connection to companies that received Enterprise Fund awards. 

The committee also wants to make sure there’s a clear standard for how companies are awarded the grants.  Currently the governor, Lt. governor and Speaker of the house have the final say on who gets the money.

Rodriguez went on to say that he believes the fund is good, but think there are other factors that will draw in companies to Texas besides the fund.

“When a company moves to a state, they look at the education system how good is that? What is the work force going to be like? What are the roads going to be like? You don’t think about it, but water, if you have a water problem is a company going to want to come here.” said Rodriguez.  “If we really, really want to be the top in the country, in terms of economic development, we have to invest in all of those things.”

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