on June 16, 2014 at 7:03 AM, updated June 16, 2014 at 9:09 AM
New York website designer Squarespace has hired its first 22 Portland employees and leased space in the Portland Development Commission's offices in Old Town to give them a place to work.
They're the first of dozens, perhaps hundreds, the company plans to hire in Portland as it establishes a large customer service outpost here. The PDC office is a temporary home until Squarespace moves into larger quarters in about six months.
Squarespace chief operating officer Jesse Hertzberg said the company is negotiating a lease in a downtown building, which he declined to identify, with space for dozens more employees. Earlier this year he said Squarespace was seeking between 30,000 and 50,000 square feet, and room to add more.
In the meantime, Squarespace is leasing 9,000 square feet on the PDC's fourth floor made available by progressing downsizing at the city's urban renewal agency. The PDC did not immediately provide terms of the lease, but described it as a "market rate transaction."
Squarespace confirmed in February that it plans to open a major customer service center in Portland, the latest in a string of out-of-state tech companies to set up an outpost in Oregon. Others include eBay, Salesforce.com and Airbnb, which has just opened a big customer service center in Old Town.
Squarespace won't reveal its Portland wage scale, but customer service work is at the low end of the tech industry's food chain. Customer service jobs paid an annual average of $36,115 in 2013, according to stage wage data, though tech work tends toward the high end of a range that tops out near $50,000.
In addition to the 22 employees Squarespace has already hired, Hertzberg said seven have relocated from its headquarters in New York. The company plans to continue adding 10 employees a month indefinitely, he said, putting each group through a three-week training process to familiarize them with the company's software, culture and approach to customer service.
"It's a sophisticated product with lots and lots of features," Hertzberg said. "So there's lots to learn."
Squarespace scouted other cities in the western U.S., including Seattle and Las Vegas, before choosing Portland. The company said the city has less competition for tech workers and is a good cultural fit with the freewheeling culture Squarespace has nurtured at its SoHo headquarters in Manhattan.
And Hertzberg said Squarespace's early experience in Portland has born that out.
"Both the volume and the quality of the applicants we're seeing are more than satisfactory," he said.