Startup darling Indigo Ag announced that they will be bringing hundreds of new jobs to Downtown, Memphis.
Michael Schwab, Memphis Commercial Appeal
MEMPHIS — By the end of the week, an agriculture technology startup could be approved for millions in grants and tax breaks from Tennessee and local economic development entities in return for moving its North American headquarters from Boston.
The move would bring about 700 Indigo Ag jobs to Memphis with average pay topping $90,000, a coup in a city where the U.S. Census Bureau puts per capita income at less than $24,000 and median household income is a little more than $38,000.
“It’s the biggest new headquarters announcement in Memphis in my memory,” Mayor Jim Strickland said.
On Monday, the Tennessee State Funding Board considers $4.5 million in incentives for Indigo Ag, which began in 2015. On Wednesday, company officials will be seeking a $150,000 grant, $110,000 in property-tax savings and commuting incentives from Memphis-area agencies.
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“We chose to establish and grow Indigo’s headquarters for North American commercial operations in Memphis because of the proximity to our customers and Indigo Research Partners, the pro-business climate, access to world class talent, and the collaborative relationship between state and city government leaders,” David Perry, Indigo president and chief executive, said this past Wednesday in a news release.
As the interest in healthy food rises, Indigo is positioning itself to be a global leader in that industry while making crops more productive for growers. Memphis has been the largest city in the heart of the farm-rich Mid-South for at least 150 years.
Technology from the company, which said it won’t be cutting any jobs in Boston and plans to expand research and development there, coats seeds with naked-to-the-eye microbes such as bacteria and fungi. These friendly microbes help protect crops against drought, pests, and disease, among other plant killers.
A coating of beneficial microbes on cotton seeds yielded its first commercial success — 10 percent more harvest, including in drought conditions — Indigo Ag said in July 2016. The treated seeds also can lessen the need for pesticides.
So far, the company has seeds on the market for corn, cotton, rice, soybeans and wheat, according to The Boston Globe. The private company has raised $650 million from venture capitalists in four years, is valued at $1.4 billion and is gearing up for $10 billion in projected worldwide sales.
Indigo first began its operations in Memphis in 2016, and since August 2018, the company has increased its employees in Tennessee from 60 to 175.
When its North American headquarters in Memphis is officially established at what is now called Toyota Plaza, the highest paid employees — 90 managers — will earn an average of $180,960. The lowest paid positions — 358 office employees — will earn an average of $64,480, according to an application submitted to the Economic Development Growth Engine for Memphis and Shelby County board.
Indigo’s Memphis headquarters will include finance, human resources, legal, general and administrative staff; plus sales, logistics, information technology, research & development, marketing and operations. Top executives also will be based here.
The company also has offices in Buenos Aires, Argentina; Sydney, Australia; São Paulo, Brazil; and Durham, North Carolina.
Anonymous Indigo employees on Glassdoor, an online job board and company review site, regularly noted the company feeds its employees healthy meals several days a week and offers excellent health insurance. Glassdoor also ranked the company No. 47 in its 2019 Best Places to Work list.
The company plans to fill the 700 jobs within three years.
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