Stories indexed with the term ‘Barracuda Networks’

Column: Connecting Barracuda, Coin Flips

Early in October, Barracuda Networks invited a bunch of University of Michigan students to a “hackathon” at the computer science and engineering building, where they programmed computers to play games against each other.

Barracuda Networks game

Figure 1.  Participants in Barracuda’s hackathon programmed their computers to play a game based on a 7×7 grid of squares. The game can also be played between human beings using pen and paper. The basic idea can be described as trying to join two opposite sides of the grid with a connected path consisting of squares you “own.” This image depicts the state of a game board resulting in an agreed-upon draw between an Ann Arbor city councilmember (pink squares, horizontal) and Chronicle editor Dave Askins (green squares, vertical). (Grid by The Chronicle.)

And 24 hours later, the winning team of programmers was handed one of those goofy Publishers-Clearinghouse-style giant checks – for $3,141.59. Second place was $1,414.21. And third place was $602.21.

Those dollar amounts might strike you as funny – because you think they make no sense, or because you think they make perfect sense. But a regular Chronicle reader might look at those numbers without laughing, and calculate as follows: The sum of the prize money is $5,158.01 – which divides perfectly (12 times) into the estimated 61,896.12 total value of a five-year tax abatement recently granted by the city of Ann Arbor to Barracuda. Uncanny, no?

It’s the tax abatement that has resulted in relatively frequent mentions of Barracuda in The Chronicle over the last few months. The process for granting such an abatement includes four separate actions by the city council. So it was the council’s action that The Chronicle was covering, more than anything Barracuda itself was doing.

Now, I confess that I fudged the estimated value of the tax abatement, to get the math to work out. The numbers provided by the city of Ann Arbor’s financial staff pegged the value of the tax abatement at around $61,000 – nothing so precise as $61,896.12. Still, there is an actual connection between the tax abatement and the roomful of UM students who were participating in Barracuda’s 24-hour competition.

That connection relates to a condition of the tax abatement. To receive the tax advantage, Barracuda must add another 144 employees (a perfect square? seriously?) to its Ann Arbor operation. And to make room for all those additional employees, Barracuda’s operation is moving from its current Depot Street location to the old Borders corporate headquarters in downtown Ann Arbor – off Maynard Street, under the parking structure.

The hackathon event was part of the company’s strategy to recruit new employees. [Full Story]

Barracuda Gets Tax Break from Ann Arbor

Following a public hearing on the topic, the Ann Arbor city council has granted a tax abatement to Barracuda Networks in connection with its relocation from Depot Street to the old corporate headquarters of Borders in downtown Ann Arbor, off Maynard Street. The total tax break for the 5-year period of the abatement is expected to be worth $61,000. That’s less than the originally estimated amount of $85,000. The council’s action came at its Oct. 1, 2012 meeting.

Barracuda is a computer network security company. On its application for the abatement, Barracuda indicates that it currently has 155 employees who will be retained due to the abatement. The firm expects to add 144 employees by July 1, 2014. The property on which Barracuda is requesting … [Full Story]

Zoning, Transit Focus of Council Meeting

Ann Arbor city council meeting (Sept. 4, 2012): The council handled a mixed bag of items at its most recent meeting, ranging from land use to community events funding.

One item was apparently not handled the way that the majority of the council wanted, due to the absence of two councilmembers – Carsten Hohnke (Ward 5) and Marcia Higgins (Ward 4).

Left to right: Tony Derezinski (Ward 2), Jane Lumm (Ward 2), Christopher Taylor (Ward 3).

Left to right: Ann Arbor city councilmembers Tony Derezinski (Ward 2), Jane Lumm (Ward 2), Christopher Taylor (Ward 3). (Photos by the writer.)

That item was a $60,000 appropriation – the city’s portion of a $300,000 local match for continued study of the Plymouth/State corridor, from US-23 and Plymouth southward along Plymouth to State Street, extending south to I-94. The local match is needed for a $1.2 million federal grant that has been awarded for the study. This alternatives analysis phase follows a basic feasibility study. The current study is supposed to result in a preferred choice of technology (e.g., bus rapid transit, light rail, etc.) as well as identifying stations and stops.

Because the $60,000 transfer from the general fund was a change to the city budget, it needed the votes of eight members on the 11-member city council. When Mike Anglin (Ward 5) led off the roll call by voting against it, it was clear that the council would have no more than seven votes in favor – because Jane Lumm (Ward 2) had already made plain during deliberations that she’d be voting against it. So some councilmembers voted against the resolution in order to be on the prevailing side. That gives them the right under parliamentary rules to bring back the item to the council’s next meeting for reconsideration. At that meeting it’s possible, but not certain, that supporters of the funding will have the necessary eight votes.

Several items on the agenda dealt with land use. The council gave final approval to a rezoning request for Knight’s Market, which will allow for expansion of the market at Spring and Miller streets. Winning initial approval was a rezoning requested by the developer of proposed townhouses on Catherine Street – from its current planned unit development (PUD) zoning to R4C (multi-family residential). Rezoning for part of a parcel in connection with a planned Speedway gas station at Maple and Miller also got the council’s initial approval. A related site plan for the station got its one and only required approval.

Also connected to land use was the council’s addition of two more properties to the greenbelt, using about $0.5 million in city funds from the open space and parkland preservation millage. The land from the two properties totals around 226 acres. Lumm cast a lone vote of dissent.

The council also authorized disbursements of community events funds to 13 organizations totaling $44,778, the bulk of which went to the Ann Arbor Summer Festival’s Top of the Park.

And the council set a public hearing for Oct. 1 on a tax abatement for Barracuda Networks. The firm is relocating to downtown Ann Arbor from its current location on Depot Street, in part to accommodate an additional 144 employees it expects to hire by July 1, 2014. [Full Story]

Hearing on Barracuda Tax Abatement Set

The third of four steps associated with a tax abatement for Barracuda Networks was taken by the Ann Arbor city council at its Sept. 4 meeting – setting a public hearing on the tax abatement, to be held Oct. 1, 2012.

The council had previously set a hearing on the establishment of an industrial development district (Michigan’s Act 198 of 1974) at 317 Maynard St. in downtown Ann Arbor and voted to establish that district at its Aug. 9, 2012 meeting. That set up the opportunity for Barracuda Networks to apply for a tax abatement as it moves from its current location on Depot Street to the downtown site. [.jpg of parcel map showing 317 Maynard] [.jpg of aerial photo ... [Full Story]

Council Meeting: Floods, Fires, Demolition

Ann Arbor city council meeting (Aug. 9, 2012) Part 2: Ballot initiatives for the Nov. 6, 2012 election – two about parks and one on public art – were the dominant theme of the council’s meeting. Those are covered in Part 1 of the meeting report.

Mayor John Hieftje and city administrator Steve Powers

From left: Mayor John Hieftje and city administrator Steve Powers before the start of the Aug. 9, 2012 council meeting.

But the council transacted several other pieces of business as well, some of which could be grouped into the general thematic pattern of land and property use. Most obviously connected to land use was the council’s initial approval of a rezoning request in connection with an expansion proposal from Knight’s Market, at the corner of Miller and Spring streets. The rezoning would allow a house to be converted into a bakery. It would also allow for eventual approval of a site plan to build a 1,200-square-foot addition to the existing grocery store and to expand, reconfigure, and improve the existing parking lot.

The council also passed a resolution to deal with an issue stemming, in part, from land use decisions made decades ago that resulted in residential development in the area of the Malletts Creek drainage district. Recently, residents in the area have been faced with severe localized flooding. The council’s resolution directed staff to start negotiations with the Washtenaw County water resources commissioner to identify “opportunities for stormwater conveyance and stormwater quality improvement in the area of the Malletts Creek drainage district.”

Related at least tangentially to land use at the level of a specific parcel was a resolution the council passed establishing the property at 317 Maynard in downtown Ann Arbor as an industrial development district. The move sets the stage for an expected application from the future tenant of the space, owned by First Martin Corp., for a tax abatement that would be worth around $85,000. The tenant is Barracuda Networks.

And the council took another step in implementing a strategy to eliminate blight. The city had previously set aside funds that could be used to demolish blighted buildings – if the city is unsuccessful in getting property owners to demolish them. The council’s action last Thursday authorized the city to sign contracts with four different companies to do such demolition work on an as-needed basis. It was announced at the meeting that the houses on North Main – at the site of the planned Near North affordable housing project – will likely be among the first to be demolished under the contracts authorized by the council.

To the extent that transportation systems have an impact on future land use, another item related to land use was a reapproval of the articles of incorporation for a possible new countywide transportation authority. The articles of incorporation are part of a four-party agreement to establish a framework for possibly expanding the governance and service area of the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority.

The four-party agreement is between the cities of Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti, Washtenaw County and the AATA. The Ann Arbor council changed the minimum threshold of votes required on the proposed new 15-member transit authority board, an action that brought the council in line with a version that the Washtenaw County board of commissioners had approved earlier this month. That threshold was increased from a 2/3 majority (10 votes) to a 4/5 majority (12 votes).

In other business, the council authorized the hiring of three additional firefighters for the next two years, using a federal grant. It also authorized the purchase of a new aerial fire truck.

Nominations to city boards and commissions made at the meeting included reappointment of Sandi Smith, Roger Hewitt and Keith Orr to the board of the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority. And Sally Petersen, who won the Ward 2 Democratic primary on Aug. 7, was nominated for the city’s commission on disability issues.

The council also heard public commentary on a range of topics, including smart meters and the idea of corporations as people.  [Full Story]

Development District OK’d for 317 Maynard

A new industrial development district has been established for the downtown Ann Arbor property at 317 Maynard St., which sets up the opportunity for Barracuda Networks to apply for a tax abatement as it moves from its current location on Depot Street to the downtown site. The vote establishing the district was taken by the Ann Arbor city council at its Aug. 9, 2012 meeting after a public hearing. The council’s vote was unanimous.

Under Michigan’s Act 198 of 1974, the next step for that abatement, on application from Barracuda, will be for the city council to set a public hearing on the abatement. After the public hearing, the council could then grant the abatement, which is estimated to be valued at around $85,000.

At … [Full Story]

Sustainability Permeates Council Meeting

Ann Arbor city council meeting (July 2, 2012): The council’s agenda was relatively light, consisting of several apparently unrelated items. But for some agenda items, “sustainability” was a common theme.

Eunice Burns, former city councilmember and DDA board member, introduces herself to city administrator Steve Powers before the council meeting started. Burns was on hand to receive a proclamation for Huron River Day, which falls on July 15 this year. Burns, along with Shirley Axon, is cofounder of the event.

Eunice Burns, former Ann Arbor city councilmember and Downtown Development Authority board member, introduces herself to city administrator Steve Powers before the July 2 council meeting started. Burns was on hand to receive a proclamation for Huron River Day, which falls on July 15 this year. Burns, along with Shirley Axon, is co-founder of the event. (Photos by the writer.)

Most obviously fitting that theme was a resolution passed by the council directing the city’s planning commission to incorporate 16 sustainability goals into the city’s master plan. The 16 goals, which were compiled from existing planning documents, had worked their way through a community engagement process and were adopted by several city commissions before arriving before the city council. The goals fall into four categories: climate and energy; community; land use and access; and resource management.

Clearly related to land use and access (the goal of “preserve our natural systems”), as well as resource management (“eliminate pollutants in our air and water systems”) was a resolution directing city staff to develop a “green streets” policy. The policy would formalize an approach to stormwater management that would allow city street projects to incorporate various technologies to mimic natural processes, to reduce the amount of stormwater runoff that goes directly into the city’s stormwater pipes and on into the Huron River. Features like bioswales, for example, would filter stormwater through natural systems so that pollutants from street surfaces would not flow directly to the river.

The river itself was part of the meeting’s sustainability theme as it was highlighted with a mayoral proclamation in honor of Huron River Day, which falls on July 15 this year.

Among the specific sustainability goals in the category of “community” is one that addresses economic sustainability: “Develop a prosperous, resilient local economy that provides opportunity by … rewarding investment in our community …” In that spirit, the council took the first step toward awarding a tax abatement to Barracuda Networks, a company that recently announced it’s moving from its Depot Street location into downtown Ann Arbor as part of a planned expansion of its workforce.

Another agenda item could be analyzed as part of the “integrated land use” and “economic vitality” sustainability goals: final approval of a rezoning request for the Shell station on the northeast corner of Ann Arbor-Saline and West Eisenhower Parkway.

Fitting into the “community” sustainability category was a resolution that made Ann Arbor a member of the Washtenaw Health Initiative (WHI) by authorizing a $10,000 annual membership fee. The goal of the WHI is to help local health care providers handle an influx of an estimated 50,000 newly insured patients when federal health care reforms take effect in 2014. The specific sustainability goal is to “provide services that meet basic human needs of impoverished and disenfranchised residents to maximize the health and well-being of the community.”

The council also approved appointments to three city commissions that are connected thematically to the sustainability goals – environmental, greenbelt advisory, and planning.

Making the city of Ann Arbor more financially sustainable is not an explicit part of the sustainability goals adopted by the city council. Yet financial sustainability could be seen as an outcome of the council’s ratification of three different union contracts. All three contracts increase the retirement benefit vesting period for new hires from five to 10 years, and increase the period for the final average compensation calculation to five years from three. The three labor groups that had their contracts ratified were the police professional assistants, civilian supervisors, and the deputy police chiefs.

Some of the public commentary also featured a sustainability theme – as former Allied Bendix engineer Kermit Schlansker outlined the energy efficiency benefits of cisterns. Also weighing in during public commentary were opponents of the new “smart meters” that are being installed by DTE Energy in Ann Arbor and other Michigan communities.

In other business, the council approved a weapons screening contract with the Washtenaw County sheriff’s office – for the 15th District Court, located inside the new justice center along with the Ann Arbor police department.

During communications time, city attorney Stephen Postema updated the council on legal action related to the Dream Nite Club, which had its liquor license revoked earlier this year. He said four significant court rulings on lawsuits filed by the club’s owners against the city had gone the city’s way.

The council’s communications also included mention of two ballot questions that voters might have to decide in November. One is a renewal of the park maintenance and capital improvements millage. The council is almost certain to place that millage renewal on the Nov. 6 ballot. Another question is less certain – one that would change the city charter to require a voter referendum, if the city were to lease parkland. The charter already prohibits the sale of parkland without a referendum. [Full Story]