CMSText, a mobile marketing company founded in Lexington, announced plans Thursday to add 135 workers.
"With the growth that we've had, we're in a position now to expand our operations," said founder Conrad Carney, who played football at the University of Kentucky in the 1980s.
Carney built CMSText from its roots with text message marketing utilized by industries including restaurants, and now the firm has designed a new platform that he hopes to launch in the first quarter of 2012.
Called Xooker, he said the platform is a step beyond social networks like Facebook and Twitter and is more akin to products like Groupon and Living Social in which people sign up for marketing with deals and so forth.
"If you like Groupon, it will be Groupon on steroids," he said, explaining, though, that Xooker encompasses lots more.
"It will also have mobile gaming involved," Carney said. "It's a complete mobile, social new media platform.
"The Groupon-esque aspect of it is only one small portion of the platform."
Carney said the company has already hired 20 additional employees as it built the platform and will be looking for more than a hundred more starting next year as it rolls out the platform in various markets. The jobs will range from computer programmers to marketers.
"A lot of the hiring depends on the markets themselves and how quickly we're opening those," Carney said. "We hope to be adding sooner rather than later."
"We feel that in the first two years, we'll be hitting those numbers," he added of the 135 jobs total.
As they become available, the jobs will be advertised on CMSText.com, Carney said.
The Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority on Thursday gave preliminary approval for CMSText to receive $2.5 million in state tax incentives if it indeed makes the hires. The state noted in documents that the expansion is expected to cost CMSText roughly $4.4 million.
In planning the expansion and securing the tax incentives, the firm worked with the state Cabinet for Economic Development and the Bluegrass Business Development Partnership, which includes representatives of Lexington's government, Commerce Lexington and the University of Kentucky.
"We're delighted to have been a part of the process working with Conrad Carney and his team," said Gina Greathouse, Commerce Lexington's senior vice president for economic development. "I think it speaks highly of Lexington's economy and our employment base that a technology company has started up in Lexington and is choosing to grow here."
Since graduating from UK, Carney has witnessed the evolution of mobile technology first hand in Lexington. He went to work initially for a cell-phone company and recalls how it celebrated its 40th customer in 1987.
When Carney founded CMSText in August 2007, his focus was primarily on text message marketing. The company specialized in restaurant marketing, having created an easy-to-use tool that allowed restaurateurs to text offers and other information to customers who opted in.
The company grew to seven employees in 2009, as Carney brought on sales managers in regional areas.
Building off that work, CMSText was named the exclusive mobile text marketing partner of the National Restaurant Association. Carney then expanded the company to focus on the health care industry, as doctors' offices began to utilize the text message marketing to remind customers of appointments or to take pills. Now it's evolved again, he said, with Xooker.
"It's about utilizing technology to market more efficiently and, more importantly, less expensive for businesses."