Avenir Inc., a software development and consulting firm based in New York City, will construct a 23,000-square-foot facility at Innovation@Prince William, and expects to move up to 166 employees into the space by October 2001.

The announcement makes Avenir the second high-tech firm to locate at Innovation this fall. Covad Communications Group Inc., an Internet access company, said recently that it plans to move a data center to Innovation next year, occupying 17 acres.

Avenir bought a 2.5-acre site in Innovation for $2 per square foot and will build a $2.5 million building, Prince William County officials said. Avenir secured an additional 7.5 acres at the park for future expansion plans.

The majority of workers at the Prince William site will be hired locally, said Matin Moosa, the company's chief operating officer.

"A location in the Washington, D.C., area is vital for our continued growth," James Jose, Avenir chief executive officer, said in a statement released this week. "Prince William County provides an ideal location for our company's future growth, with its outstanding employment base, lack of congestion, excellent amenities and positive business attitude."

Avenir already leased 2,000 square feet in the Battle Tech Building at Battlefield Business Park for its sales office, which opened Nov. 22.

Avenir has 145 employees in the United States, with offices in New York and New Jersey. The company also has a facility in Cochin, India, with 75 workers.

Having a center here and in India will allow the company to produce work 24 hours a day. "They will work here during the day, then ship that work to the India center at night," Moosa said.

The Prince William facility is to be similar to the Cochin branch. In both locations, employees will design software applications to solve specific client problems.

"It depends on the client, in terms of what they need," Moosa said. "They have a problem, and we try to solve that problem using technology."

Avenir's own software has consisted of solutions for human resources, payroll and e-commerce.

Moosa said the Prince William branch will require "a dozen or so transplants [from New York] to help set it up and help manage and train" workers here.

Although the company will not disclose revenue, profit figures or names of clients, Moosa said Avenir has more than 50 clients.

The negotiation to move to Innovation took about eight months, Moosa said. "We chose Prince William County because . . . we needed [an area] that is not cluttered. And we needed proximity to a region that has a business concentration and infrastructure" already in place.

The county Economic Development Department is asking the Board of County Supervisors to approve $62,000 in county opportunity funds, with the state providing an unknown amount of money for work force training, said John Schofield, the department's marketing and research director.

Avenir is expected to be put on the county's "fast-track" permitting process because it is part of the sought-after high-tech industry.

Innovation is a high-tech office park consisting of 529 acres that the county bought for $8.5 million about two years ago, hoping to attract high-tech companies.