As Red Hat Inc. (NYSE: RHT) prepares to move its headquarters to downtown Raleigh and expand its operations, the company is also trying to build an open-source community in the city.

Chief Executive Jim Whitehurst said Friday that he has already persuaded another open-source software development company to open a 12-person office in Raleigh, but he declined to identify the firm.

Whitehurst and Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane held a news conference to formally announce that Red Hat would be moving by early next year from its headquarters on North Carolina State University’s Centennial Campus into a downtown office tower which now serves as the headquarters of Progress Energy Inc. (Watch WRAL video here.)

Progress plans to vacate the tower upon the completion of its merger with Charlotte-based Duke Energy. Federal regulators have asked for more consumer safeguards from the combined utility before approving the merger, but Progress recently signed a 23-year deal with Red Hat to ensure the software company would take over the office tower.

Red Hat has already starting gutting one floor of the building to prepare for the move, Whitehurst said.

The company employs about 750 people in Raleigh, but he said it’s unclear how fast the local payroll will expand. He recently said the company would add at least 1,000 jobs globally in 2012.

McFarlane and former Mayor Charles Meeker, who worked to keep Red Hat’s headquarters in town, declared Raleigh an “open-source city,” both for its growing use of Red Hat software to run government and to reflect their desire for a more collaborative local culture.

 

“Open source means a different, more collaborative approach to business,” Meeker said. “While there are few pure open-source companies like Red Hat, there are many companies that have open source as part of their business plan today. As with Raleigh’s partnership with Cree for LED lighting, the city views open source as a better business model.”

Raleigh can use that mindset to recruit more open-source firms to the city and build on Red Hat’s success, he and Whitehurst said.

“If we look at the winners in this age, especially in the technology space – Google, Facebook, Amazon, Twitter – all of their development work, all of their work in the technology side is done on open-source software,” Whitehurst said. “I think there’s an opportunity for us in a public policy perspective to look at those companies and where they’re locating their next facilities.”

Reporter: Stacy Davis
Photographer: Terry Cantrell
Web Editor: Matthew Burns

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