January 8, 2005 in Business

Microsoft wants to add offices for up to 12,000 more workers

Associated Press

SEATTLE — Microsoft Corp. plans Monday to file a proposal with the city of Redmond that would allow the software giant to build offices at its headquarters complex for another 10,000 to 12,000 workers.

To deal with the added congestion that would likely come with such expansion, the company is proposing committing about $30 million toward road and utility improvements in the area, Chris Owens, the company’s director of campus development, said Friday.

The development agreement, which outlines potential growth on Microsoft’s main campus for the next 10 to 20 years, affects land Microsoft owns near its existing offices on either side of State Route 520. The company owns about 400 acres in that area, including the former headquarters of clothing retailer Eddie Bauer.

But the company cautioned that the development proposal should not be taken as an indicator of how many jobs it plans to add in the region over the next two decades.

“No one can therefore say that growth is guaranteed, but certainly if we have the kind of success that enables us to fill every one of these additional offices, then I think we and this entire region will be excited about that and will benefit from it,” said Brad Smith, Microsoft’s senior vice president and general counsel.

As of June 30, 2004, Microsoft had about 28,000 employees in the Puget Sound region, and about 57,000 worldwide. The company has said it plans to hire between 6,000 and 7,000 workers worldwide during its fiscal year that ends next June, with about half of those hires in and around Seattle.

Owens said Microsoft would help pay for improvements to roads around SR 520, but not to expand the congested freeway that connects Seattle with its eastern suburbs. It also doesn’t call for money to improve public transportation in the area.

Smith said public transportation is a priority in Washington state, but one he thinks it is more appropriate to fund through public money or fares.

The development agreement is subject to approval by Redmond city officials and its City Council. Rob Odle, policy planning manger for the city of Redmond, said Microsoft’s proposal appears to be consistent with the amount of development the city was expecting for that area.

The development agreement is unusual in that it lays out a long-term plan for Microsoft’s real estate development. In the past, Odle said Microsoft has usually filed individual applications each time it sought to add a building to its campus.

This longer-term plan would protect Microsoft if city development rules change over time, Odle said.

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