For entrepreneur Tony Civitella, Thursday afternoon was like Christmas morning. The president and CEO of Transfinder kicked off the opening of his company’s brand new headquarters with a ribbon-cutting, hors d’oeuvres and champagne, listened to the mayor proclaim Oct. 10 Transfinder Day in the city, and accepted a surprise Patroon Award, the highest honor one can receive in the city of Schenectady. And he got to celebrate it all with friends, family and co-workers.
“Wow,” he said into a microphone fixed to a podium outside 440 State St. “What do I say after all that?”
Civitella, who was born in Italy, has made Schenectady proud since he immigrated here at the age of 9, said Mayor Gary McCarthy. He attended Schenectady schools, graduated from Mont Pleasant High School and nearby Siena College with a bachelor’s degree in computer science.
In 1988, he founded Transfinder, a logistical software company that provides scheduling solutions and optimal routing for those in the student transportation industry. The business saw success with each passing year, even during the tough times of the recession. Since the company was in the business of saving school districts money, Transfinder actually thrived during those years — adding employees, clients and footholds across the U.S., Canada and the Caribbean.
By 2011, Civitella’s business had outgrown its headquarters on Erie Boulevard in Schenectady. He said he knew he would have to relocate if he wanted Transfinder to keep growing, so he purchased 440 State St. and fought city preservationists to demolish the former International Order of Odd Fellows Hall next to the Hampton Inn and build a three-story, $7 million headquarters in its place.
On Thursday, the public got to see the culmination of those efforts. The 30,000-square-foot building currently houses 75 employees, but has room for an eventual 125, Civitella said.
“When you come inside, you’ll see the many collaboration areas,” he said. “The building is built in a way that will make it a launching pad for us to go global. It is an environment for us to thrive in. Before, we had people all over the Capital District. This gives us the opportunity to bring them all to one place.”
Transfinder is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. The company now serves more than 1,500 school districts and is gaining more at a pace of about 150 clients a year. Last year, it saw revenue of $7.85 million.
“Here is a company that could have relocated anywhere,” said Schenectady County Legislator Marty Finn at the ribbon-cutting. “Our county economic development team worked closely with Transfinder and the city of Schenectady to keep this home-grown tech company here in Schenectady County, creating new jobs and bringing new investment to our community.”
The Schenectady Patroon Award typically goes to someone who has given back to their community in some way, McCarthy said.
Last year, Civitella purchased and renovated the First Niagara Building on lower State Street and launched NYBizLab, a business accelerator designed to help startup software and technology companies get on their feet. Civitella said the lab is attracting interest from startups all over the world, and he hopes to eventually see that foreign influence on downtown Schenectady.
He’s found other ways to give back to the city where he grew up. This past spring, Civitella created a $1,000 scholarship in his late father’s name to be presented to a high-achieving graduating senior at Schenectady High School who has been accepted into a computer science program in the U.S.
On Thursday, Transfinder employees and local officials congratulated Civitella on his award and enjoyed a panoramic view of downtown Schenectady from the building’s rooftop terrace.
“We wanted people to know not just who we were, but where we were,” said Civitella. “When we were on Erie Boulevard in that smaller space, nobody knew where we were. People were always like, who the heck are these guys? We wanted to claim a local presence. Now, we’re right here on the main street of Schenectady.”