THE STORY’S BEEN brewing for months, and it’s now been confirmed.
The upstart $7.6 billion software firm BrainZap is leaving its home in El Chiste, a small community outside San Jose, California, and relocating to a 20 acre plot of land just purchased in Chocolay Township.
Dee Loozien, the executive director of Michigan’s Department of Technology Recruitment, says the BrainZap move is a major coup for the Upper Peninsula.
“We’ve been courting them for almost a year now,” she explains, “and it’s good to see our efforts paying off in a big way. We’re just really thrilled to bring high tech to the U.P.”
BrainZap had been considering two other locations for its new facility–in Pedo, Arizona, and Nalgas, New Mexico. But the U.P. won out.
BrainZap will be receiving tax abatements totaling $12.6 million a year for the first ten years of operation. In addition, the state has agreed to construct a half mile, four lane road through undeveloped, forested land to provide access to the BrainZap headquarters. Further, the state’s Soil Allotment Agency will fill in Horseshoe Dip, a one acre pond that’s currently located near the center of BrainZap’s property.
“There’s a few fish and water fowl out in the pond,” Oozien says, “but nothing major. They should be able to find another home nearby.”
The move is expected to bring 600 high-paying jobs to the U.P. in the first two years. It’s estimated that 360 of those will be filled by BrainZap employees relocating from California. Another 180 will be hired from other high tech hot spots around the nation, and the remaining 60 will likely be local hires.
BrainZap’s founder and CEO is 28-year-old Jack Dupp. He’s notoriously reclusive and eccentric. The photo above is one that we were able to snap just before he entered the Landmark Inn on a hush-hush visit to Marquette earlier this week. Not a friendly guy.
However, we did manage to get him on a brief (54 second) phone call, which we recorded, earlier that morning. The full transcript follows:
WOTS: Mr. Dupp, could you tell us when you expect to be moving your company here.
Dupp: When we’re ready.
WOTS: A possible date? Because people would like–
Dupp: That’s our business, not yours.
WOTS: Well, can you tell us why you chose to build your headquarters here because–
Dupp: Land’s cheap. Cheaper than California. Everything’s cheaper here. It’s colder than s–t here but we’ll figure it out. Maybe stay inside all f—–g winter.
WOTS: Have you been able to take a look around Marquette County yet?
Dupp: A little bit. Not much to see. Too f—–g cold.
WOTS: We’re hearing that only 60 of the jobs will go to local residents. Why not more because we’d–
Dupp: It’ll be 60, at the most. Listen, we’re not some welfare agency. We need people with skills. From what I hear, there’s not much to choose from around here. So don’t waste our time.
WOTS: But for someone who’s interested in possibly getting–
Dupp: Don’t even start with that, all right? That’s the least of our concerns. We got bigger fish to fry. And…who the hell are you with again?
WOTS: Word on the Street. It’s a blog. A local blog. We–
Dupp: A f—–g local blog? Gimme a break! Why the hell am I even talking to you?”
Like we said, not the most charming of guys.
He’s had three sexual harassment lawsuits filed against him in the last two years but all were settled out of court. BrainZap’s former vice president, Bea Leagurd, admits that Dupp can be a hard man to work for.
“Yeah, he treats women like crap,” she says, “but he treats everybody like crap. Men and women. It doesn’t matter. But the fact is, the man’s a genius.”
Edward Duzzitt, who goes by the nickname E. Z., sold the Chocolay property to Dupp. He concedes that Dupp is different.
“He wanted to pay me in something he called bittle coins or bat coins or something,” Duzzitt says. “I said, ‘No thank you. I’ll take cash.’ And you know what he did? He pulled out his wallet and counted out $160,000 in cash. Craziest thing I ever saw!”
As for BrainZap itself, it’s built its reputation on two revolutionary devices it’s introduced into the marketplace over the last three years. The first, SPYKID, is a tiny chip that can be implanted on an arm or leg. It allows parents to track the locations of their teenagers.
BrainZap’s biggest seller, introduced just last year, is DEEPSLEEP. It’s a microchip that’s implanted just below the left ear, and it regulates sleep patterns. Users can set the device for six, seven, or eight hours of uninterrupted sleep. At sleep’s end, the chip sets off a soothing buzz that acts as an alarm.
DEEPSLEEP has proven especially popular in China. Over seven million units sold in just the last four months.
“It’s effective device,” says Yu Soh Dumh, the Chinese Labor Minister. “Very effective. Wake workers up. Make them sleep. We get maximum work from workers.”
In a recent magazine article, however, Dupp expressed doubts about the use of DEEPSLEEP in the United States. “Americans are too damn lazy,” he said. “Hell, they’d sleep through the alarm. Maybe if we equip it with 2000 volts, that’d wake them up.”
Dupp, himself, reportedly gets by on three hours of sleep a night. He’s told associates that, with a private plane at his disposal, he has no intention of spending any nights in the Upper Peninsula, if he can help it.
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