20 years later, Microsoft Reno keeps growing and creating new jobs | nnbw.com

20 years later, Microsoft Reno keeps growing and creating new jobs

Local high school students demo the Microsoft HoloLens during a visit to the Microsoft campus in Reno.
Courtesy Microsoft

By the numbers

Fewer than 50: Number of Microsoft Reno employees in 1997

More than 500: Number of Microsoft Reno employees in 2018

900 percent: Rough increase in local jobs at Microsoft the past 20 years

Source: Microsoft Reno

RENO, Nev. — Over the past five years, the Reno-Sparks area has seen a surge of global tech companies stake flags in the region.

From Tesla’s 5.8 million-square-foot Gigafactory east of Sparks to Apple’s planned $4 million warehouse in downtown Reno — amid plenty of other major companies and projects — it’s clear that big tech has a place in the Biggest Little City.

However, those new to Northern Nevada and its recent tech explosion might not be aware that arguably one of Reno’s biggest tech pioneers first opened shop here more than 20 years ago: Microsoft.

The Bill Gates-founded corporation expanded to Reno in 1997, planting one of only three Microsoft Regional Operation Centers in the world right in the heart of Northern Nevada. The other two regional operation centers are located in Dublin and Singapore.

“We were looking for somewhere that had a business tech friendly environment and Northern Nevada has that,” Owen Roberts, general manager at Microsoft in Reno, told NNBW in a phone interview.

The surrounding landscape and access to recreation didn’t hurt, either.

“When we’re recruiting very senior-level people here, it is useful to have the beauty and environment that we live in,” Roberts said. “We take people and show them how close Lake Tahoe is, we show them the ski slopes, we show them the great outdoors.”

Since Microsoft moved into its location on Neil Road in Reno, it’s grown from less than 50 employees to — 21 years later — upwards of 500. In the process, the company has significantly expanded its business divisions operating out of Northern Nevada.

“We keep growing,” Roberts said.

So, what exactly goes on inside the walls of Microsoft Regional Operations Center in Reno? There, the tech company’s business divisions include commercial operations, original equipment manufacturers, entertainment and devices and advertising. In addition, the center is supported by its finance department and World Wide Credit Services.

“The close-to $100 billion that we sell every year — all of that is managed out of Reno,” Roberts said. “Reno is one of the few places in the world where you can look left and look right and have everything that you need to run a business and thrive.”

Microsoft: Constantly in ‘hiring mode’

As a company, Microsoft is focused on a building a diverse and inclusive workforce and growing great leaders, said Roberts, adding that he’s taking that to heart in Reno.

“One of the great things about Reno for us is it’s almost become an incubator for the rest of Microsoft,” he said. “That’s the beauty of Reno, it’s the one place in Microsoft where you can get to experiment in a whole bunch of different businesses and build your resume. And that’s part of our leadership focus here — to make sure that we grow people and make sure that they have meaningful careers long-term.”

To that end, Roberts said Microsoft in Reno is constantly in “hiring mode.”

Additionally, Microsoft has made an imprint on the community. David Taylor, communications manager at Microsoft, said the company’s community impact is more than $3 million over the last five years, coming through various projects, gift giving, volunteering and more.

One of the projects the company recently launched is its high school engagement program. Hosting local schools identified by the Washoe County School District’s Signature & CTE Program, Microsoft provides insight into potential careers in technology and enables students to participate in hands-on team building and demos.

“We talk to them and motivate them about careers in tech and show them what Microsoft is all about in Reno,” Taylor said.

Further, last month, Microsoft kicked off its 10th annual IT Makeover Campaign in partnership with IQ Technology Solutions. The companies are providing a combined $20,000 in funding and services to local nonprofits. The deadline for nonprofits to submit applications for consideration is April 10.