CHAMPAIGN — Yahoo plans to add 80 positions in the University of Illinois Research Park in the coming year, bringing employment at its Champaign office to nearly 200, a top company official said.
The Internet giant already is recruiting UI students for employment after graduation this spring, Senior Vice President Scott Burke said.
Plus, it's seeking professionals, generally with computer science degrees, to join one of the most innovative teams Yahoo has, Burke said.
Even a few Yahoo employees in Bangalore, India, are expected to transfer to Champaign as a result of the expansion, he added.
"We didn't tell them about the weather, though," Burke said, alluding to blowing snow and dropping temperatures that threatened to disrupt ceremonies heralding a new office here.
Yahoo broke ground Wednesday for a two-story, 40,000-square-foot building at First Street and Hazelwood Drive that it will lease from Fox-Atkins Development. That will replace the 24,000-square-foot office Yahoo now occupies at 2021 S. First St., C.
The Champaign office focuses on online digital advertising, which Burke said is a high-growth market critical to Yahoo's success.
The team here does work on all data systems powering Yahoo's "advertising ecosystem," he said.
Some Yahoo employees in Champaign work on Hadoop, a software system enabling the storage and large-scale processing of data.
Praising the creativity of the local office, Burke said the Champaign team won the company's annual "Hack Day" event, which gives teams 24 hours to implement an idea.
Employees in the Champaign office have filed for more than 50 patents, he said, and several hold "master inventor" status with the company, he said.
Burke said he was "really impressed with the loyalty" of Champaign employees, saying "we essentially have zero attrition here."
During lunch ceremonies at the I Hotel and Conference Center, UI Chancellor Phyllis Wise said Yahoo is the research park's largest full-time employer. She thanked Burke for the company's "true engagement and confidence in this community."
Yahoo was drawn to Champaign-Urbana in 2007 after Motorola, which employed many highly experienced software engineers, announced it was closing its local office.
Wise said the disappointment over Motorola's closing yielded to "greater excitement" over Yahoo coming here.
The chancellor said although she wasn't here at the time, the optimism about Yahoo's coming was certainly "well-placed."
Yahoo's investment in Champaign created a model for other companies to consider, provided internships for UI students and job opportunities for spouses of faculty recruited by the university, she said.
"We can't thank you enough for your confidence in what we are doing," Wise said.
The new Yahoo building, at 1908 S. First St., C, will be immediately south of the I Hotel.
"The goal is to be operational this fall, so there's a lot of work between now and then," said Laura Frerichs, director of the research park.
The new building will be "more densely populated" than Yahoo's existing office and will have smaller work spaces allowing for more "agile project management," she said.
Yahoo's local site director, Cathy Singer, described her team as a "smart, diverse group of people who work hard and have fun in the process."
A band made up of Yahoo employees played at Wednesday's ceremonies, and a video of local employees mentioned ping-pong tournaments, ice cream socials and Halloween parties for children of employees.
Sixty percent of local staff members are UI graduates, but the local office also recruits and employs people from all over the country, Singer said.
In addition to city incentives provided for the Yahoo expansion, the state of Illinois offered $2.8 million in tax credits through the Economic Development for a Growing Economy (EDGE) program and $120,000 in worker training through the Employer Training Investment Program (ETIP), said Andrew Moyer of the state Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.
Welcoming Yahoo's expansion, Champaign Mayor Don Gerard called the city "a great place to live" with "great entertainment" including street festivals with magicians and belly dancers. He also boasted that the community has "more potential per capita than anyplace else in the United States."