Ann Arbor's future meets its past as Barracuda Networks moves downtown
If it is possible for Ann Arbor’s past to meet its future, that appears to be happening quite agreeably with the announcement that Barracuda Networks is moving into the former downtown Borders location.
Simply put, this is great news for the Liberty Street corridor and all of downtown Ann Arbor, helping to fill a long-time flagship location with a rapidly growing technology firm that says Ann Arbor is where it wants to be.
Barracuda Networks created a lot of anticipation and buzz last year when it announced plans to create a “Silicon Valley-type campus’’ in the Ann Arbor area. The company, which creates network security devices and email and web filtering products, currently employs about 180 workers at its Depot Street offices and could add as many as 200 additional jobs as it expands.
Melanie Maxwell | AnnArbor.com
Fortunately, it turns out it could. Last week, AnnArbor.com business reporter Lizzy Alfs broke the story that Barracuda has signed a deal to lease 45,000 square feet of office space in the former Borders location at East Liberty and Maynard streets. It is expected to move this fall.
The symbolism of this transition is rich. The closing of the former Borders flagship store was as much a blow to Ann Arbor’s psyche as to its economy. Borders was a home-grown company that grew and prospered right along with this community, but faltered when it couldn’t keep pace with changing technology and consumer preferences.
Much as we miss this local icon, whose passing is still all too recent, we can’t live in the past. We have to look to the future. In the knowledge economy, Ann Arbor has all the ingredients to attract and grow technology companies that bolster the local economy and create jobs that offer good wages.
Barracuda won’t occupy the former Borders retail space at street level on Liberty. Its offices will be in the adjacent space that formerly housed the Borders corporate offices before the company moved its headquarters to Phoenix Drive. But its presence in the building will not only increase the prospect of filling that empty retail space, it will give a boost to the entire area, particularly in combination with the recent move of Menlo Innovations into the nearby Offices at Liberty Square, formerly known as Tally Hall.
Liberty Street has struggled recently, losing a number of small, locally owned retail shops, as well as the Borders store. We have argued in recent editorials that downtown isn’t in decline, but rather in transition. The Barracuda announcement supports that contention. It said from the beginning that it wanted to be downtown if it could find the right space, and after looking at more than 100 locations, it found what it was looking for. Adding that many new jobs downtown will create additional demand for retail, dining and housing in an area that needed this kind of shot in the arm.
We welcome Barracuda’s commitment to downtown and to Ann Arbor. The company will be hiring for a variety of jobs, including engineers and employees in support, sales and customer service. Sean Heiney, the company’s director of new product initiatives, said the company is choosing to expand in Ann Arbor because of the talent that’s available here, or can be lured here.
“The main thing here is it has smart people,’’ he said. “Ann Arbor is also definitely an easier sell for someone out of state to come to than most cities.’’ That, we have to say, is an enviable position to be in, and one that bodes well for the future of our community.
(This editorial was published in today's newspaper and reflects the opinion of the Editorial Board at AnnArbor.com.)