Urban Science Expands Detroit Headquarters to Accommodate Growth

12/7/11Follow @XconomyDET

Urban Science, a Detroit-based company founded 34 years ago to help bridge science and marketing functions primarily for automotive clients, recently announced it has expanded to a larger and completely renovated 100,000-square-foot space. The new digs, at 400 Renaissance Center in Detroit, will accommodate Urban Science’s growing business and work force.

“People think of the Renaissance Center as GM’s headquarters, but we were there first,” says company founder and CEO Jim Anderson with a laugh.

The company got its first break in 1977, when Anderson was still a professor at Wayne State University. He got wind that Cadillac was in search of better technology to deal with the problem of mapping potential dealer locations. Anderson pioneered the concept of using a mainframe computer to generate dot mapping and the discipline of automotive network planning.

“It caught on like wild fire,” Anderson says. “Today, you can get a map for free on the Internet, so we’ve had to grow into other areas of our clients’ business. We bring sophisticated analytics to clients who are data-rich. Science plus marketing is better than marketing itself.”

Through the years, Anderson has taken Urban Science from a $50,000 company to a $125 million company with offices in the United States, Spain, the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, France, Australia, China, Mexico, and Japan. Previously located in Tower 200 in Renaissance Center, Urban Science is now occupying four floors in Tower 400 with the option to add another floor next year. The move accommodates a 69 percent increase in staff over the last five years, which has brought the Detroit office workforce to more than 300. The company has more than 750 employees worldwide.

Anderson says the main goal with the expansion was to increase collaboration and connectivity with its other offices across the globe.

“The office is now almost littered with large screens that we use to connect with other offices,” Anderson says. “It used to require tens of thousands of dollars to get everyone in one place. Now it’s free thanks to the Internet and video conferencing.”

Urban Science also has the only office in the Renaissance Center with an interior staircase. In the middle of the four floors is a large, open area where employees can eat their lunches while gazing at the Detroit River. Anderson says that, too, is meant to be another opportunity for collaboration, though on a more informal level.

So now that Anderson has doubled down, so to speak, on Urban Science’s Detroit headquarters, how does he feel about Michigan’s prospects for the future?

“Urban Science has been through four recessions, three wars, and one oil embargo, and our revenue has increased every year,” Anderson says. “That’s because we offer to help our clients sell more stuff and save them money. But I wouldn’t have made the decision to expand here if I didn’t get the sense that things are turning around for Detroit and the state in general. We like doing business here. The quality of people we’re able to attract (as employees) is outstanding.”

Sarah Schmid is the editor of Xconomy Detroit. You can reach her at 313-570-9823 or sschmid@xconomy.com. Follow @XconomyDET

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