The benefits of a move to the city

NetPlus cofounders Denise Zimmerman (left) and Robin Neifield. Their firm has moved from Conshohocken to Seventh and Arch.
NetPlus cofounders Denise Zimmerman (left) and Robin Neifield. Their firm has moved from Conshohocken to Seventh and Arch. (DAVID M WARREN / Staff Photographer)
Posted: October 14, 2013

PHILADELPHIA Roman Zubarev probably deserves a finder's fee from Philadelphia.

The 27-year-old hectored his bosses at NetPlus Marketing long and hard to trade their roost in sleepy Conshohocken for a more happening one in the heart of the city.

"I just love the energy of the city," said Zubarev, a director of client strategy for the digital marketing firm. "There is nothing like it."

Well, now Zubarev can enjoy that energy every day. NetPlus' founders, Robin Neifield and Denise Zimmerman, uprooted their firm and its 20-plus employees in June and relocated to 718 Arch St.

On Thursday, NetPlus held a belated open house to celebrate the move, which Neifield and Zimmerman say has been a boon to staff morale, the firm's image, and the quantity and quality of job applicants.

All of which is music to the ears of city officials charged with bringing more jobs to Philadelphia. NetPlus, they say, is part of a trend in suburban tech-related businesses following employees into the city rather than the other way around.

"NetPlus is the latest company we are hearing the same story from: They are in the city to access talent," said Luke Butler, chief of staff to Alan Greenberger, the city deputy mayor for economic development. "And they feel they need to be here."

NetPlus, then, is following an example set by firms such as Brand.com, which manages the online reputations of its clients; First Round Capital, which invests in tech firms; and Bentley Systems Inc., a software company, all of which concluded they needed a presence in the city. In recent years, Philadelphia has become home to some of the region's best and brightest 20- and 30-somethings.

"Being in Conshohocken limited our job candidate pool," Neifield said. "Some people just did not want to spend an hour and a half commuting on various buses to get to our office, and who can blame them."

Neifield and Zimmerman launched NetPlus from their homes 17 years ago when digital marketing was all but in utero. Eventually, the firm grew to more than 20 employees and an office in Conshohocken.

NetPlus offers full-service online marketing for companies. Its client list runs the gamut - from Black & Decker, maker of power tools, to SpongeBob Vitamins for children.

Consho-what?

In time, as NetPlus grew, particularly nationally, its two founders began to fall sway to the city's siren song.

"When you are dealing with national brands, and if you're not in New York, Chicago, or L.A., there is something to being able to say you're in Philadelphia," Neifield said. "If you say you're in Conshohocken, you get: What is that?"

And employees such as Zubarev were longing for the city as well.

"We heard it from the staff. They wanted to be in the city," Neifield said. "A lot of the staff wants to live downtown. They want to work downtown. They want to party downtown."

Once NetPlus committed to changing zip codes, it made a refreshing discovery: The city government was remarkably amenable.

Pleasant surprise

"Everyone was extremely accommodating and excited to have us," Neifield said. "They provided incentives, worked with us in finding space, and helped outline what we needed. It was a pleasant experience all the way along. Certainly not what you would expect from a city bureaucracy."

NetPlus is able to take advantage of Philadelphia's job-creation tax credit of $5,000 per position for companies that create in excess of 25 new jobs in the city.

And has the move lived up to expectations?

Even more so.

"We have found it a lot easier to hire and retain employees in just the few months we have been here," Zubarev said. "When we have openings, we get two and three times the number of applicants we used to get."

Neifield shot him a look of mock horror as if he had revealed a state secret.

"All our competitors out in Conshohocken are going to come here now," she said.

So the city hopes.


chepp@phillynews.com

215-854-2594

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