The following article appeared in the Wilkes-Barre Citizens Voice on September 17, 2007.
WILKES-BARRE – Solid Cactus, the Internet-focused company that has grown to include 115 jobs downtown, will soon take its business to Shavertown.
Company President Scott Sanfilippo announced Tuesday the 6-year-old Web-marketing firm will begin relocating in December to the Westmoreland Business Center, 106 S. Lehigh St., Shavertown.
The move should be complete by March, Sanfilippo said. He said Solid Cactus will lease about 16,000 square feet in the building, the former Westmoreland Elementary School. It’s owned by Scott Ciravolo.
The other quarter of the building will continue to be occupied by Ciravolo’s firm Tree Design Inc.
“Since there really isn’t parking downtown – other than parking that the company or employees would have to pay for – we decided to look elsewhere,” Sanfilippo said.
Solid Cactus, established in 2001, has been based in the Jewelcor Building, 100 N. Wilkes-Barre Blvd., for nearly five years. This summer, the company was No. 255 on the Inc. 500 list of the fastest-growing private companies in the country. Inc. is a national business-oriented magazine.
Solid Cactus’ business involves marketing other Web sites. Some 3,000 customers have signed on, Sanfilippo said.
He said the Solid Cactus workforce has climbed from 72 employees last year to 115 today. And it’s on track to hit 252 by the end of 2009, he said.
Todd Vonderheid, president of the Greater Wilkes-Barre Chamber of Business and Industry, said he encouraged the company to stay in the downtown.
But “what was important for the entire region,” Vonderheid said, “is that Solid Cactus found a suitable building that makes sense for their operations.”
He said he encourages businesses to reuse existing structures – an approach Solid Cactus has used in signing its lease in Shavertown.
“It’s never great when companies leave,” Vonderheid said, “but companies are also coming all the time.”
Downtown office occupancy has been climbing for the past five years and has reached about 85 percent, he said. That’s “as good as it’s been in 20 years.”
About 14,000 people work in downtown Wilkes-Barre.
A pair of Solid Cactus workers were upbeat Tuesday about the move. They said the company is simply outgrowing its space in the Jewelcor Building.
Chris Williams, the director of solutions awareness, said his work space has moved seven times in a year.
“We embrace change around here,” Williams said. “And just knowing that this is going to be our new home, and that we are going to be prepared to handle that growth, is going to be very critical to our future.”
Sanfilippo said its lease agreement in Shavertown will run five years and includes an option for renewal.
Solid Cactus has its origins in an online pet store, Ferretstore.com. Its business grew 922.4 percent from 2003 to 2006, and revenue this year is expected to top $7 million, Sanfilippo said.
He said job growth at the company will center on Internet search marketing – that is, ways to drive online traffic toward clients’ Web sites via search engines such as Google and Yahoo!
New positions will include programmers, designers, sales people and call-center workers, Sanfilippo said. He said the average salary at the company is $37,000.
On Saturday, Gov. Ed Rendell announced that Solid Cactus is in line for state aid and tax credits together worth nearly $1 million.
Sanfilippo said the assistance will help finance furniture, equipment and job training.
“That played a key role in all this,” he said.