Exago Inc., a privately held business information software company with two major locations, Shelton, Connecticut, and Kingston, New York, added 18 jobs last year for a company total of 64. At a panel discussion celebrating the opening of its newly renovated 8800-square-foot workspace at The Fuller Building on Pine Grove Avenue in midtown Kingston, Exago CEO Mike Brody said last Friday afternoon that he expected his company to add another 26 jobs this year for a total of 90. In 2021, he said, 50 additional jobs were planned. In 2022, another 35 positions would be added, for a total of 175.
“That’s the plan,” Brody said.
Conversations with Exago executives made clear that they expected a lot of the firm’s new hires would work in the spacious Kingston location to which the company had moved to from uptown Kingston only the prior week. A one-page leaflet entitled “Exago is Hiring!” listed ten positions, eight of them engineering jobs in Kingston.
Light streamed through the rows of windows of the rehabilitated 1906 former shirt factory. Young employees from both Kingston and Shelton wore Exago t-shirts and mixed with dark-suited visitors. Data-filled computer screens rested bright but untouched. Bountiful trays of hors d’ouevres made the rounds. A plaintive low-pitch whistle from a passing West Shore Line train complemented the visual picture.
Exago board chairman Oni Chukwu touched briefly on a couple of the major themes of the presentations: how important company culture was to a firm’s success, and how the participation of an engaged community couldn’t be separated from business success. Coming from Chukwu, an investor with deep experience in providing software services to enterprise businesses in multiple industries, these views were significant. In December 2016, his company, Frontier Acquisitions, had made a major investment in Exago. For what purpose? “The company intends to use the funds to accelerate growth.”
There’s nothing unusual about Exago’s employment projections, said Ulster County legislator Abe Uchitelle after the meeting. “That’s the kind of growth that’s normal in New York City and Silicon Valley in the kinds of businesses they’re in,” he explained.
Uchitelle himself, who resigned as president of Dragonsearch in Kingston this past December, tweeted on March 5 that he had decided to join a non-profit organization that does software training called Albany Can Code full-time. Watch for the birth of Kingston Can Code, which is likely to host training sessions at the nearby SUNY Ulster facility on Mary’s Avenue in Kingston.
There’s so much energy in Kingston,” Exago chief technology officer Stew Meyers, who had moved from New Paltz to Kingston last year, earnestly told the audience. “There’s so much going on here. We see what’s happening here…It’s amazing how many of you want the same thing.” Meyers had asked himself how Exago could contribute to making Kingston more prosperous while retaining its present diversity.
Not every community cared about community, Kingston mayor Steve Noble said. Kingston cared. Kingston was engaged. “Businesses can locate anywhere,” the mayor said. “We want them to locate here.”
It was time for the ebullient Kale Kaposhilin to introduce the panel he had gathered. The organizer asked them to introduce themselves. Ashley Knox is director of Go Beyond Greatness, which does leadership and professional development training in the region. Matt Stinchcomb, a former Etsy executive, is involved with the Good Work Institute and other Just Transition community-building organizations. Ulster County executive Pat Ryan has a background in software development. Annmarie Lanesey is founder and CEO of Albany Can Code.
The conversation was mostly about developing talent. Anyone with the aptitude can be a talented software engineer. There’s a lot of talent around. Aspiring trainees can be matched with development professionals.
The takeaway was that a positive culture and a supportive community feed off each other. They allow retention of the human element in work activities. A vibrant community provides a connectedness in which a healthy work culture can take root and prosper.
The Exago opening had been a celebratory afternoon. Considerable enthusiasm and optimism had been expressed.
“How do we keep the momentum going?” asked Stew Meyers.
It was the same question that had been asked at the end of the popular ‘unconference’ at the George Washington School entitled “Surviving the Future in Kingston” last year. What came next? In the case of the unconference, co-organizer Evelyn Wright, now a deputy county executive, had hoped the biggest next steps “would emerge organically among all the participants.” Meetings are held every second Wednesday morning of each month at The Greenhouse at 65 St. James Street.
Kaposholin said that the important thing was to keep the group participation going. “That’s what we’re doing today,” he said.
Pat Ryan, whose remarks had focused on job creation, service initiatives and workforce development, acknowledged the desirability of mutual support between local business and local government. “We are working together,” he said, “though we’re just getting started.”
Ryan urged focus on a single common goal to begin with. “Let’s pick one thing we’ll do this year.”
Apply for a job at https://apply.workable.com/exago.