Business

Avalara, Island Gateway make a perfect match

Avalara CEO Scott McFarlane (left) and founder Rory Rawlings hope that their third move during the last six years to accommodate their burgeoning firm will be a charm. - Dennis Anstine/Staff Photo
Avalara CEO Scott McFarlane (left) and founder Rory Rawlings hope that their third move during the last six years to accommodate their burgeoning firm will be a charm.
— image credit: Dennis Anstine/Staff Photo

It has taken a considerable amount of time and dialogue, but the Island Gateway development finally has its ideal anchor tenant under contract.

Nearly all of the commercial space available in the large building sandwiched between the existing Kids Discovery Museum and the anticipated Bainbridge Art Museum has been leased to Avalara.

The dynamic, island-based company has grown rapidly to become an industry leader in providing web-based sales/use tax compliance solutions for small and mid-sized businesses.

The 17,500-square-foot office space will soon be home to 85 employees who work in the tech firm’s Bainbridge headquarter. An additional 17 are expected to be hired by the time Avalara moves from its current two-buildings home on Ericksen Avenue to Gateway in late May or early June.

The new digs will be quite a step up from the company’s humble beginnings, which began when island resident and founder Rory Rawlings created the software on a computer in his daughter’s bedroom six years ago.

From there, the company, which now has 200 employees working in offices located in several states and India, moved its headquarters to the San Juan Building on Ferncliff Avenue and then to Ericksen Avenue.

Founder/CEO Scott McFarlane said the company has needed to move for more than year and has been looking on the island without success. The space has become so cramped that employees have been sharing desks and sitting on countertops.

“We have 80 percent of our Bainbridge workforce living either on the island or elsewhere in the county,” he said, “so we’ve wanted to find something here – preferably close to the ferry because we also have employees living in Seattle. But nothing fit until this came up.”

McFarlane said the new building is large enough for “our creative, hard-working employees to have a little fun and be able to relax at work. We basically try to keep a family atmosphere at work, and this will help us retain that goal.”

Avalara’s employees will even have access to their own exercise room in the building.

“It’s just a dynamic event for us... moving to a great work space and still being able to work close to home,” he said. “It’s the best of both worlds for us.”

It’s also a good deal for Bill Carruthers and the other principles of the project’s developer, Asani LLC.

“Scott always wanted to have Avalara on Bainbridge so we looked at designing a special space for them,” Carruthers said. “It took some time for us to make the adjustments and to negotiate concessions on both sides. But I can’t tell you how pleased we are having them on the island in the first place, and now in our building.”

McFarlane said having a secure lease was important for both parties.

“We know now that we can stay here as long as we want to, which is a good thing for us and the island,” he said. “Besides us continuing to work downtown, we also bring hundreds of people to the island each year for training. So it’s great for the island’s economy, too.”

Carruthers said the building’s retail space has all been claimed, too. The restaurant “Radish” and a natural cosmetics store called “Pretty Stick” have signed leases. He said a women’s clothing store has signed on but has asked to remain anonymous for now.

“We’ve had to work at it,” Carruthers said, “but we’ve been surprised at the level of interest we’ve had during such tough economic times.”

The next building project for Asani, Carruthers said, is the two-story building that will front Winslow Way just west of the art museum, which is on its own time-frame.

There was very little interest in the building at first, he said, but it has picked up since the beginning of this year. Construction will begin next month.

“We have people interested in the building on Winslow Way, but they want to see the space before starting to negotiate seriously for an agreement,” he said.

He said the plan is to have a restaurant on the second floor overlooking Winslow Way and retail at street level. He said there have been conversations with owners of three potential shops.

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