St. Louis has landed the newest office of Square, which plans to hire more than 200 people in the hometown of the mobile payment company’s co-founders Jack Dorsey and Jim McKelvey.
Square’s St. Louis office in the Cortex district in the Central West End is its eighth office worldwide, the company announced Wednesday. Others are in San Francisco; New York City; Atlanta; Tokyo; Melbourne, Australia; Toronto and Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario.
The San Francisco-based company told the Post-Dispatch that it will hire 40 people locally initially for compliance operations, customer support, IT and recruiting, and grow to 200 jobs over the next five years.
The deep pool of talent at St. Louis’ universities, research centers and training programs prompted the opening of the office, which will serve as a hub to help it better meet customers’ needs in the Midwest, the company said.
“We looked all over the country to put this office,” Dorsey, Square CEO, said in a phone interview with the Post-Dispatch.
Tech entrepreneur Dorsey, who also is a co-founder and the interim CEO of Twitter, grew up in St. Louis and has family here. In 2009, Dorsey and McKelvey introduced a square-shaped credit card reader that could be plugged into a mobile device such as a smartphone to process credit card transactions.
McKelvey, who owns the Third Degree Glass Factory on Delmar Boulevard, once employed Dorsey in one of his tech ventures. When McKelvey couldn’t process a credit card for a sale at his glass art business, he worked with Dorsey to develop Square.
Square has since added chip card readers, a point-of-sale system used by retailers and services such as analytics and customer relationship management. The company now processes about $30 billion in transactions annually.
While the company’s founders’ roots are in St. Louis, that’s not why the city was chosen for the new office, Dorsey said.
“Fundamentally, it’s just a great city to build in,” he said, adding he used to live in the Central West End neighborhood. “There’s a lot of great energy there, and Jim’s business is right around the corner. It’s a really good intersection of the city, close to Washington University and close to downtown. It just felt right to us.”
Square has a handful of existing employees in the St. Louis region, but no dedicated office space until now.
The Wall Street Journal reported in July that Square has confidentially filed plans to hold an initial public offering of its stock, but Square and its executives would not comment on an IPO.
While he runs Square, Dorsey also was tapped earlier this year to lead Twitter on an interim basis while Twitter searches for a replacement for former CEO Dick Costolo. Asked Tuesday whether he had any plans to leave the top job at Square, Dorsey said, “I will remain CEO of Square.”
St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay said the growth in startups and other technology companies in the city in recent years served as a magnet for Square.
“What it shows is we do have a lot of talent here and a lot of brain power that is attractive to businesses,” Slay said. “We have made a conscious decision as a community to build the infrastructure to retain, attract and grow tech companies here and support entrepreneurship. It’s one of our strongest economic drivers.”
The state of Missouri is offering incentives for Square’s expansion. Square is eligible to receive up to $2.5 million through Statewide Works incentives for its expansion in St. Louis and $375,000 through the Missouri Works Training program if it meets job creation and investment criteria, according to a Missouri Department of Economic Development spokeswoman.
Missouri Governor Jay Nixon said he met with McKelvey in April to discuss opening the St. Louis office and growing Missouri’s tech workforce.
“Square’s decision to create 200 jobs in St. Louis is a huge win for the region and our state,” Nixon said in a statement. “As a high-tech company with a global reach, Square’s growing presence in St. Louis further strengthens Missouri’s position as a hub for next-generation jobs and innovation.”