Tenable, the fast-growing cybersecurity company based in a Columbia office park, plans to relocate its headquarters to an urban-style campus in downtown Columbia and add hundreds of employees in the next few years.
The expansion, expected in 2019, will bolster the Baltimore-Washington region’s reputation as a cyber hub supported by government and federal contractor needs, university research and training, and a skilled workforce.
Tenable said it will hire hundreds of people over the next few years, making it a significant presence in Howard County and a key contributor to the state’s estimated 42,000-plus person cyber workforce. Most of the cybersecurity firms are located along the Interstate 95 corridor in Howard, Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Harford and Montgomery counties and Baltimore City, state Department of Commerce officials report.
Tenable officials said they considered other locations but settled on remaining in Columbia because there is space to grow in a centralized location that affords employees a lot of amenities — which could also attract job candidates.
“We’re continuing to expand our footprint all around the world, and where we plant our flag is Maryland,” said Steve Vintz, Tenable’s chief financial officer. “It makes a lot of sense,” he said.
“It’s a great area. There’s a large and skilled labor pool, and there continues to be more companies here and we’ll have to compete for talent. That’s good for us and good for the area.”
Tenable will move from its current offices in the Columbia Gateway corporate park off Interstate 95 to the Merriweather District, the project being developed by Dallas-based Howard Hughes Corp. near the concert venue Merriweather Post Pavilion.
The Howard Hughes Corp. has pitched the area to Amazon for its highly prized second headquarters. Tenable plans to occupy the top six floors, or 150,000 square feet, of a 12-story building on the so-called Crescent property.
To accommodate its growth, Tenable expects to add hundreds of jobs in the coming years, adding to its global total of about 900. The company said this summer that it employed more than 300 in the Baltimore region.
They will join one of the nation’s largest concentrations of cyber workers in the country, said Richard Clinch, director of the Jacob France Institute at the University of Baltimore, who has worked for Howard County officials on economic forecasting.
He said the Baltimore-Washington region is home to close to 6 percent of the nation’s information technology workers and 13 percent of the nation’s information security analysts, a category economists use to help estimate cyber jobs, which aren’t tracked separately from IT jobs by government officials.
Clinch said an analysis by his institute found that the public universities in the state produce about 23 percent of all cybersecurity-related degrees nationwide, adding a ready new pool of job applicants.
“Outside of Silicon Valley, we are really quite good at this,” Clinch said. “We have access to workers and talent, access to degree programs, cyber research programs, and a government and contractor hub. And Howard County is smack dab in the middle of it.”
He said the county, and specifically Columbia, will capture more of these types of businesses by transforming themselves to meet the needs of these skilled workers, who typically earn more than $75,000 a year. That means moving away from standard suburban office parks to more developments like what Howard Hughes is developing.
Gov. Larry Hogan said the expansion will help cement the state’s reputation as “the cyber capital of America.”
Founded in 2002, Tenable offers continuous network monitoring for businesses and organizations around the world, boasting more than 23,000 enterprise customers, ranging from Fortune Global 500 companies to midsize firms.
Tenable’s relocation and expansion will be a key piece for Howard County as it works with Howard Hughes to establish an urban-style downtown and redevelop the area around The Mall in Columbia.
“Tenable is a vitally important anchor business and source of energy and excitement as we continue to develop a vibrant, urban downtown and ensure that Columbia remains an important economic engine for years to come,” Howard County Executive Allan H. Kittleman said in the announcement.
The Merriweather District, where the Tenable building will rise, is planned to include 2,300 residences, a 250-room hotel, over 1.5 million square feet of office space and 314,000 square feet of retail with a central park.
It’s designed to appeal to the “creative class,” such as cyber workers and other high-tech workers, said John DeWolf, Howard Hughes’s executive vice president.
“Companies with this frame of mind are companies that we want to grab onto and provide them with this environment,” he said. That includes Tenable and Amazon, he said, adding, “We think big.”
The overall downtown Columbia plan calls for redeveloping 391 acres in the area with 14 million square feet of new mixed-use development with 4.3 million square feet of commercial office space, 1.25 million square feet of retail, 6,244 residential units and 640 hotel rooms. About 10 percent of the plan is under construction or complete.
“The redevelopment of downtown Columbia is a transformative development for our state, creating a true urban core in the heart of the celebrated suburban area, nestled between the city of Baltimore and the nation’s capital,” Hogan said.
Howard County approved a $90 million tax-increment financing, or TIF, deal last year to support Howard Hughes’ redevelopment plan. In a TIF, a municipality issues bonds — usually to pay for infrastructure such as roads and sewers — that are repaid by new taxes generated by the development.
The downtown Columbia TIF became controversial because it included $51 million for a parking garage in the Merriweather District. Two Howard County Council members sought to repeal it this summer, but the effort failed after Howard Hughes agreed to build and own the garage itself.
Tenable declined to say what incentives the county and state provided. State officials said the discussion of incentives is ongoing.