MTX Group Inc., with offices in Albany, N.Y., and Frisco, Texas, already lists multiple state of Vermont agencies and departments among its many governmental contracts. Last year it was in Vermont news as the firm the Vermont Department of Labor turned to in the early days of the pandemic to build a new unemployment insurance claim system.
The company was on the Waterbury Select Board’s July 6 agenda with a request to town officials for a letter of support as it seeks state economic development incentives for its potential plans to locate a regional office in the state. MTX is in the process of applying to the Vermont Employment Growth Incentive program run by the Agency of Commerce and Community Development.
The program is geared to encourage new or existing companies to make investments that result in new, full-time, permanent Vermont jobs. The financial award is paid out over several years and the amount is based on a formula using the company’s own performance goals and the resulting revenue the business development creates for the state.
Applications for what’s referred to in short as the VEGI program are reviewed by the Vermont Economic Progress Council which meets monthly. The MTX request will be considered at the council’s July 29 meeting, said Megan Sullivan, the council’s executive director.
A promising fit for Waterbury
Municipal Manager Bill Shepeluk, in introducing the item to the select board this week, said the MTX proposal would involve 100 employees to start with the potential to more than double that to 250 over a 7-to-10-year period. The company is considering space in the Pilgrim Park commercial complex in downtown Waterbury left vacant after Keurig Dr. Pepper dramatically scaled back its presence here in recent years.
For its part, the select board authorized Shepeluk to send the town government’s support for the MTX request. His draft letter says that the proposal is worthy of the maximum award from the program and that the town would look forward to working with the state and the company to make the project happen.
Shepeluk frames the interest of a potential new, large employer as a step toward returning lost economic activity to the community. “Waterbury and our surrounding community have been working to recover, first from Tropical Storm Irene’s impacts and subsequent loss of State employees, and secondly from the closure of the Keurig Dr. Pepper manufacturing facility. The loss of jobs in our downtown had a significant impact on the viability and health of many of our small businesses,” Shepeluk writes. “MTX’s plan to locate close to the downtown will provide a major boost to the local economy, and provide quality jobs for area residents.”
Local officials familiar with MTX’s interest in Vermont cite the company’s high-paying jobs as a positive. An online search for job openings with the company turns up positions in numerous locations including software engineers and business intelligence analysts earning $85,000 to $100,000 a year; project manager positions paying $100-$200,000; and data officers earning around $200,000.
Lunch, coffee and a haircut
James Stewart, executive director of the Central Vermont Regional Economic Development Corporation, cautioned that the proposal for Waterbury represents one option that MTX is considering. The company is looking at the entire region, and Vermont – with Waterbury as its preferred spot – is just one of several potential locations for offices that would serve New England and New York, he said.
“They are very much being recruited by several other states,” Stewart said. “This is somewhat of a competition.”
He said he understands the company’s timeline is to make a choice soon after it has details of Vermont’s incentive offer as other states have already weighed in. Stewart added that he believes other factors that don’t have a dollar value will also be important to MTX decision-makers. “Quality of life, lifestyle. They’d like their people to be in a downtown where they can walk to get lunch, coffee, their hair cut, or their car fixed,” Stewart said, pointing out that Waterbury village can check those boxes.
Echoing Shepeluk’s mention of state and manufacturing jobs lost locally in the last decade, he added, “This could be an opportunity in one shot to get a lot of that back.”
Among the criteria used for the VEGI program is community support, hence the request to the select board. Stewart said that both the Central Vermont Regional Economic Development Corp. and the Central Vermont Regional Planning Commission were expected to offer letters of support as well.
The fact that the firm already is on retainer with the state of Vermont could work in Waterbury’s favor. According to documents online with state government, MTX had a $2 million contract for a myriad of information technology services prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. That was revised upward twice and now stands at $10 million through June 14, 2022.
Those factors are set aside, however, when state officials review the VEGI application. The determination on an award must meet specific criteria pertaining to job growth and financial impact the business will have. Companies need to carefully craft their proposal to not over- or under-sell their potential. Both Stewart and Sullivan stressed that the VEGI program will not pay out more than the state receives from a project, and if it falls short of its projections, it doesn’t get paid.
Sullivan said that specifics of the MTX application are not public at this time. The Economic Progress Council meets in executive session to review VEGI proposals given the proprietary and preliminary nature of the information companies share. The council takes its action in public and the terms of the VEGI agreements are made public, she said.
‘Happiness, health, and the economy’
MTX was co-founded in 2008 by Das Nobel, now the chief executive, and his wife Nipa Nobel, the company’s chief marketing officer.
In its corporate communications, MTX describes itself as a global technology consulting firm powered by the Maverick Quantum Artificial Intelligence platform. “With data as the new currency, MTX helps organizations transform their long-term strategy with outcomes in mind around happiness, health, and the economy,” it states.
Its systems designs rely on cloud technology from other companies such as Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud, and Salesforce. Before COVID-19, its projects covered a wide range of online government service delivery. Much of its work in 2020 and this year has had some connection to the pandemic including creating systems for symptom monitoring, contact tracing, vaccination management, as well as non-medical applications such as emergency housing assistance and child care information management systems. Now as the pandemic recedes in many places, MTX has rolled out a “Safe at Work” app designed to assist large offices, stadiums and public gatherings as they reopen
An inquiry from Waterbury Roundabout to the company for more details about its operations and Northeast expansion plans was referred to the MTX media relations staff. More information is expected ahead of the VEGI application review.
Answering government’s call for fast expertise
MTX lists numerous governmental, business and academic clients on its website including state governments from Maine to Georgia to New Mexico; cities include Washington D.C., Chicago and New York City; others include industry and Ivy League universities such as Harvard and Brown.
Vermont state government offices listed as clients in addition to the Labor Department include state agencies of Digital Services, Human Services, Transportation, Education, the Secretary of State, and the Health Care Quality Control office.
Last week, the company announced it had hired a new chief revenue officer, Mike Baraiolo, who noted that the company has worked with more than 30 states through the pandemic.
In its corporate blog, MTX touts its experience working with the Vermont Department of Labor in 2020 among its success stories. It notes how the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program made many Americans eligible for unemployment insurance early in the pandemic, but how in Vermont, “the paper-based application process was not making the cut.”
It then goes on to describe how MTX stepped in to modernize the process, creating an online application for individuals to apply for benefits and for state workers to review and process the claims. The new setup communicated with the Department of Motor Vehicles and banks for verification purposes. “This new system established a streamlined process in which the Vermont Department of Labor could process this sudden influx of unemployment claims more quickly and efficiently than ever, allowing them to serve their constituency to the best of their ability,” writes MTX account executive Jill Brabender in a particularly rosy recap of the project.
In Texas last year, a government contract had a rockier rollout. The Dallas Morning News reported that MTX edged out a number of larger, better-known companies such as IBM and AT&T to win a $295 million state contract to build a COVID-19 contact tracing system last year. That award came under fire from state lawmakers there for its size, the speed with which it was decided, and the choice of a relatively new player.
The contract was renegotiated in January, according to the newspaper, and it now will likely end up at $65 million. An audit of the project turned up no major issues and a Texas state health services spokesman summed it up: “The bottom line is, they did what they said they were going to do.”
MTX co-founder Das Nobel, took the criticism in stride telling the Dallas Morning News: “We expect scrutiny. It’s taxpayers’ money.”
Exponential growth during COVID
In 2019, when Das Nobel was named CEO, he leaned into innovation, growth, and a goal of making MTX a billion-dollar business. “MTX’s DNA is culture-based and everything we do to innovate keeps culture at the top. Having such an amazing culture allows us to focus on intentional innovation during hyper-growth,” he said in a company news release. “I have several ideas to fuel explosive growth in all aspects of the organization in 2019 and 2020 to ensure our broader 2025Billion vision is realized.”
According to its latest Dun & Bradstreet business profile, MTX had approximately 45 employees at its New York and Texas locations and sales of just under $25 million. Those figures, however, likely do not account for its 2020-21 business that mushroomed during the pandemic.
“We grew exponentially. Innovation enabled us to hire hundreds of MTX family members at a time when the unemployment rate was greater than it was during the Great Depression,” MTX Chief Financial Officer Christina Bailey says in a video on the company website. “Creating jobs was one way for us to help the economy recover, and we’re not done yet.”
So far Nobel’s plans for “hyper-growth” appear to be on track. In March, MTX opened 20,000 square-foot offices in a complex called The Offices Two at Frisco Station. In a news release, Nobel said: “Creating high paying tech-jobs in Texas is one of the top priorities.”
Just last month, MTX announced expansion to Australia with plans to add 500 jobs within the next five years focused on Asia-Pacific clients.