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French firm plans Waltham campus

Software company will consolidate some operations

Dassault Systèmes has 800 employees in Concord and Lowell. It intends to consolidate those operations in Waltham. Dassault Systèmes has 800 employees in Concord and Lowell. It intends to consolidate those operations in Waltham.
By D.C. Denison
Globe Staff / September 17, 2010

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A new corporate campus is coming to Route 128 in Waltham.

Dassault Systèmes, a French product design software firm, is expected to say today that it is establishing an Americas campus on a prominent 27-acre site along the northbound side of the highway that will feature two new buildings, a 1-acre courtyard, and a stylish cafeteria in a Harvard Yard-like setting.

Jones Lang LaSalle, the real estate firm that brokered the deal, said the project represents the largest lease per square foot in Greater Boston this year, but it would not reveal financial details.

Dassault Systèmes, based outside Paris, already has 800 employees in Massachusetts, spread between locations in Concord and Lowell. The company intends to consolidate those operations at the Waltham site by the middle of next year. Worldwide, Dassault Systèmes has 9,000 employees, including 3,000 in the United States.

Al Bunshaft, managing director of Dassault Systèmes’ Americas organization, said the campus will “drive more collaboration and cooperation across more of our groups.’’

The site, which will be the center of the company’s operations in North and South America, will also be used for sales and training, Bunshaft said. He added that the company hopes to establish relationships with potential employees at local colleges and universities.

Founded in 1981, Dassault Systèmes began as an engineering software provider catering primarily to the aerospace and automotive industries. But the company has recently been winning over consumer products companies such as Procter & Gamble Co. and apparel companies like Under Armour Inc., selling them software packages that enable the computer-aided design of products, collaboration among globally-distributed groups, and increased ability to add and track new product features.

The software and services that Dassault Systèmes sell comprise a category known as product lifecycle management, or PLM, which refers to software tools that allow companies to manage products from conception through design and manufacture, to updates and improvements.

PLM is currently a fast-growing segment of the high-technology field, fueled by increasing computer power and the globalization of design and manufacturing. Many companies now use PLM software, for example, to connect designers in the United States with manufacturers located offshore.

Needham-based Parametric Technology Corp. is another major player in the PLM sector.

“Boston is fortunate that it’s becoming a center for PLM,’’ said Sanjeev Pal, an analyst with the Framingham technology research firm IDC. “Firms like Dassault Systèmes and Parametric started out in manufacturing, but they are rapidly expanding into industries like life sciences, financial services, and banking. There’s a lot of growth there.’’

Dassault Systèmes entered the Boston region in 1997 with the $316 million purchase of SolidWorks Inc. in Concord, a developer of PC-based CAD simulation and data management software.

In 2006, Dassault Systèmes paid $408 million for MatrixOne in Westford, which now sells collaboration software under Dassault Systèmes’ Enovia brand. Dassault Systèmes also has a unit in Concord, 3DVIA, that is developing 3-D collaboration environments and gaming software. Those units will all be brought together in the Waltham campus.

Bunshaft said the company decided to consolidate its Massachusetts operations more than a year ago, hiring the Boston office of Jones Lang LaSalle to assist.

Brendan W. Callahan, of Jones Lang LaSalle, said the search was a “intensive 12-month process’’ that considered properties from the Boston waterfront to the western suburbs.

Callahan said the Waltham development, which was recently built by owner Hobbs Brook Management LLC, has a number a features that appeal to Dassault Systèmes, including a sustainable design (both buildings were built according to LEED Gold standards set by the US Green Building Council); easy access to Boston and Logan International Airport; and a layout that will allow the company to create interior and exterior spaces that allow its various software groups to interact easily.

“We want to encourage more joint development,’’ Bunshaft said. “A Boston area campus seems like the best environment to do that.’’

D.C. Denison can be reached at denison@globe.com.