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February 4, 2013

New Gateway Building Reflects Evolving Culture For Siemens

PHOTO/MATT PILON Siemens employees, from left, Shane Marlin, Bruce Shand and Steve Turley review a schematic drawing in the Bancroft “neighborhood,” one of nine employee clusters in the company's facility in WPI's Gateway Park in Worcester.

When German conglomerate Siemens AG bought the 120-year-old Morgan Construction Co. in 2008, Siemens introduced its corporate changes slowly to the Worcester company.

At the time, Siemens referred to it as "integration lite," recalled Russell Vanderbaan, Siemens' head of human resources.

"They sort of went in a phased approach," Vanderbaan said.

But the building is taking on a new look, now that Siemens didn't renew its lease at Morgan's longtime 15 Belmont St. headquarters — which was recently sold to the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Life Sciences University — vacated one of its two Crescent Street facilities and moved nearly 200 of its 530 local employees in its metals technologies division into a newly constructed building in Worcester Polytechnic Institute's Gateway Park.

Its high-speed rolling mill manufacturing operation remains in its highly visible Crescent Street location, but many of its employees — including those in sales, finance, procurement, project management and other areas — are working in a uniquely laid-out space comprising nearly two full floors at 50 Prescott St., the second building in Gateway Park, which also contains WPI laboratories and Massachusetts Biomedical Initiatives incubator space.

Siemens is leasing nearly 40,000 square feet of space in the building, but one thing was conspicuously absent during a recent tour of the facility: offices.

That's because Siemens requires that all its new or remodeled facilities have an open layout with few barriers between employees. There are only four offices at Siemens in Gateway Park.

The majority of the space is laid out in "neighborhood" clusters of desks. And workers can switch desks every day, if they choose.

"It's a much different environment," he said. "This is a Siemens environment, not a Morgan environment."

Of course, Siemens hasn't forgotten its Worcester heritage. First off, the company chose to remain in the city when one of its leases expired. Proximity to its manufacturing was the most important factor, Vanderbaan said.

The company named its conference and meeting rooms after colleges in the city. And the desk clusters are named after the hills of Worcester.

Another factor that helped drive the move to Gateway Park was Morgan's long history with WPI. Various Morgans have chaired or sat on the school's board of trustees over the decades, dating all the way back to the late 1800s.

"We've had a 100-plus-year relationship with them," Vanderbaan said. "We hire a lot of WPI grads."

That collaboration between higher education and industry is one of the core ideas behind Gateway Park, said Sharon Deffely, WPI's director of corporate engagement.

"We're thrilled (Siemens) saw the value of staying in Worcester and the value of getting involved at Gateway Park," Deffely said.

She became acquainted with Morgan Construction about seven years ago when president and CEO Philip R. Morgan — a WPI trustee — wanted to develop a program for mid-level employees aiming for the corporate level.

The program, the Morgan Leadership Institute, was modeled after one put in place by Nypro Inc. of Clinton.

Deffely said the relationship between WPI and Siemens seems to be picking up steam again after a bit of a hiatus.

Since the move to Gateway Park, Deffely said she has been talking with Siemens about participating in upcoming events and internship programs.

"Other companies are looking at the same talented people we are, so we're trying to make this an attractive place to work," Vanderbaan said.

Correction: The original version of this article incorrectly stated the ownership of 15 Belmont St. Until recently, the property was owned by CHM Realty and was sold in January to MCPHSU.

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