Adobe’s Big Move to Utah

Adobe Systems Corporate Office, Lehi, Utah

Adobe brings San Francisco to Utah, Utah to San Jose


By Sharon Simonson

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]hree years ago, San Jose-based Adobe Systems Inc. embarked on the daunting task of remaking itself. The traditional software company, which licensed its products and sold them in shrink-wrapped boxes, launched a company-wide move to the cloud and adopted a monthly subscription model for its family of software applications. With its 2009 acquisition of Utah-based Omniture Inc., it expanded its offerings into analytics.

Adobe is downtown San Jose’s most important corporate resident. With three traditional and beautiful office towers measuring a million square feet together, the company has been integral to bringing stability to the South Bay’s urban center since 1996 when it began its first building.

Since its 1982 founding by Charles Geschke and John Warnock (it is named for Adobe Creek, which flowed behind Warnock’s Los Altos home), Adobe has grown to an international company with nearly 12,000 employees. Its brand symbolizes digital communications with ubiquitous technologies such as its portable document format, better known as the PDF, the Adobe Reader and the Adobe Flash Player that allows the creation of interactive Web sites and mobile content.

[quote]“When you look to the northwest, it is a river of cars. When you turn 180 degrees, it is the mountain range and a beautiful green lawn. It is almost surreal.” Bryan Shiles, partner, WRNS Studio[/quote]

Now the company is embracing anew the power of place to engrain and enlarge its corporate culture. And with the lessons it is learning, it is remaking its downtown San Jose home base. Following its acquisition of Omniture, Adobe undertook the creation of a new corporate hub in Lehi, Utah, in rugged Rocky Mountain territory outside Salt Lake City.  The 280,000-square-foot, wing-shaped building designed by San Francisco’s WRNS Studio is the first of three proposed phases totaling 680,000 square feet. WRNS is now designing an additional 120,000 square feet and a 640-space underground garage.

The four-story building, which straddles an entry road, offers stunning views of Mt. Timpanogos and the Wasatch Mountain State Park. Lake Utah is within sight. The building, in turn, has become a local reference point, perched prominently next to Interstate 15, the main freeway that leads south from Salt Lake City through Lehi into neighboring Provo. The more than $100 million investment (thus far) symbolizes Adobe’s desired place and stature in the local community and is an open invitation to the technical talent that peppers the region. Since buying Omniture, Adobe has grown its Utah workforce from about 620 to 900 people. The first phase of the campus is big enough to be a home to 1,100 employees.

“It has really made a statement,” said Jonathan Francom, senior director, global workplace solutions for Adobe. “My barometer of success is that 90 percent of the people who visit here say they want to work here, even if that means the cafeteria.” A handful of callers daily ask him about landing a job, Francom said.

Utah, with its 2.8 million residents (somewhat more than Santa Clara County) has more computer programmers per 1,000 residents than any other state in the country, including Washington and California. In fact, California does not even rank in the top 5, according to the Economic Development Corp. of Utah. Besides Adobe, tech-heads including Novell Inc., NetApp Inc., Oracle, Xerox, Microsoft, EMC, eBay, and all have headquarters or offices in Lehi or the neighboring towns including Sandy, Orem, Provo and, of course, Salt Lake City. Each company employs anywhere from 200 to 1,200 people.

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Photo by Tim Griffith

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