Mike Smith had his doubts when AccuWeather Enterprise Solutions moved into the Bank of America Center at Douglas and Broadway five years ago.
“I thought, my gosh, how will we ever fill this up?” he says of the firm’s 7,000 square feet on the seventh floor.
Now, he says, “things are filling up rather quickly.”
The company, a wholly owned subsidiary of State College, Pa.-based AccuWeather Inc., recently acquired two Oklahoma City firms – WeatherBank and Hazard Notifications – and moved most of their operations here.
“While we are keeping one office open in Oklahoma City and some of the employees will work there, we are transferring all of the data to the Wichita office, and we are hiring people here to handle part of the work that was being done in Oklahoma,” says Smith, who is senior vice president and chief innovation executive.
WeatherBank is a weather and data analysis company. Smith says it provides a service to retailers that helps them know what merchandise to feature depending on the weather. For instance, one part of the country may have moved on to planting season while another part may still need snow shovels.
“We’re finding out it isn’t just bricks-and-mortar retailers,” Smith says. “The online retailers have found that their sales are very strongly driven by weather.”
Four people with the company will remain in Oklahoma City, three are now doing analytics in Wichita, and Smith hired two programmers here to work with it as well. He says the employees analyze weather and its effect on sales.
Then retailers “take our forecast and use it to plan advertising, marketing and running their day-to-day business.”
Hazard Notifications is a company that Smith says created “a unique computer model … that in many situations can forecast extreme weather hours in advance.”
“I can hardly believe that I’m saying these words,” Smith says.
For instance, he says Hazard Notifications forecast the Dec. 23 tornado in Columbia, Miss., six hours in advance.
Smith says a number of businesses, such as hospitals, “need a lot more time to prepare for a tornado.”
“We believe we can really help them save lives,” he says.
He says more accurate forecasting can also save money.
Three Hazard Notifications employees will remain in Oklahoma City. Smith says he’s hired a couple of programmers in Wichita to move the company’s data to new servers. He also hired a new meteorologist here.
“These purchases are resulting in more jobs in Wichita,” he says. “No question.”
Smith says there are more new jobs to come.
“We have positions open at the moment.”
That includes at least a couple of slots for meteorologists and a programmer.
Though he doesn’t need more room right now, Smith says, “We are certainly keeping an eye out on space.”
He says AccuWeather Enterprise Solutions is a business-to-business company that, while serving other companies, is entrepreneurial itself.
“This company is growing so fast … we’re almost like a start-up.”