For years companies have been moving out of Trenton into office space in Princeton, but for JFK Communications the exact opposite is true.
In February JFK, a strategic communications firm for the science, healthcare, and technology industries, moved into 2,500 square feet of space in the EFK building at 1027 South Clinton Avenue. The company, founded in 2004 by CEO John F. Kouten, had gotten so busy that the shared office it was operating out of at 5 Independence Way was no longer suitable and it needed room to grow.
“Shared office space is very efficient when you are a company of a certain size,” says Kouten. “But there comes a tipping point when it’s too expensive to have all those services shared. We got to that point, and we needed a space of our own. It was something we had always wanted to do but we were never big enough.”
Earlier this year the company signed a year-to-year lease for the space, which is located on the building’s third floor, according to David Avitabile, president, who joined Kouten as the firm’s as co-partner in 2005.
Kouten, a 1989 graduate of Rowan University with a degree in communications, was manager of corporate communications at Sanofi from 1994 to 1996, and then worked on Bristol-Myers Squibb’s oncology, immunology and anti-infective franchises through 2002. Kouten founded JFK after working as a director at Johnson & Johnson’s Global Pharmaceutical Communications group.
“I started my career in Manhattan working for PR agencies, and I always had a dream to own my own agency someday,” says Kouten. “Around 2004 I had the opportunity to separate from J&J and start my own business.”
“I didn’t realize there was going to be so much work so fast,” he adds. “In May of 2004 we started with no clients and by June we already had three. A short time after that I met up with David and it was a good match. We’ve been partners ever since.”
Avitabile, whose father was in public relations and owned an agency in New York City, has more than 20 years experience in communications, including senior-level roles at companies in Europe and the United States. Before joining JFK he was senior vice president of global strategic development for AXIS Healthcare Communications.
Prior to AXIS, Avitabile established the London office of ApotheCom, a global medical communications company. He also worked at OCC Europe managing global communications programs for clients including Johnson & Johnson, AstraZeneca, Pharmacia, and Shire Pharmaceuticals. He has also worked at agencies including Medicus Intercon, Nelson Communications, Van Vechten & Associates, and Mammoth Communications. He is a graduate of the State University of New York at Stony Brook with degree in English literature.
Both Kouten and Avitabile said the fact that the building was owned and occupied by EFK — an ad agency with whom they often collaborate, was one determining factor in choosing to locate JFK’s office there. “The fact made it a natural move for us,” says Avitabile.
The building also offers a combination of cost, business, and environmental factors that make the location an attractive one. “The building is ideally designed for a creative company,” says Avitabile. “We’re in a creative business and the space was really aligned with the culture of our firm and the direction we want to go in.”
“It also enables us to grow substantially,” he says. The company, which currently has six employees, is currently looking to hire more. “Our ideal size would be to grow to 15 to 20 people. We want to increase the work we do for science-oriented organizations,” Avitabile says. “We have an aggressive business development initiative in place, and we are expanding our client list as we speak,”
According to Avitabile, Clients that JFK has worked with include GE Healthcare, Novartis, Catalent Pharma Solutions, and Paris Lifesciences.
Kouten says that in addition to giving JFK room to grow, the new office is effectively less costly than what they were paying in Princeton. “We’re getting more space for less money where we’re at now.”
“I’m also excited about having an office in Trenton,” he says. “Even if it’s in some small way, I feel good about being part of the renaissance that’s going on in the city.”
JFK Communications, 1027 South Clinton Avenue, Trenton 08611; 609-456-0822. John F. Kouten, CEO. www.jfkhealth.com.