Gov. Bobby Jindal and IBM Vice President Tim McLachlan were joined by Baton Rouge Area Foundation President and CEO John Davies and Louisiana Economic Development Secretary Stephen Moret in a topping-off ceremony, one in which the executives and guests signed a piece of structural steel to be installed near the top of the nine-floor IBM technology center now under construction and slated for completion in May 2015.
Part of a $55 million urban development in downtown Baton Rouge, IBM’s technology center represents the permanent home for a project that will create 800 new direct jobs serving major IBM technology customers. Louisiana Economic Development estimates the project will result in an additional 542 new indirect jobs, for a total of more than 1,300 new permanent jobs in the Capital Region of Louisiana. IBM began operations for its new Louisiana project in 2013, moving into an existing Essen Lane office in Baton Rouge, where the company already employs more than 200 professionals and is on target to reach full employment of 800. Next spring, those operations will move into the downtown IBM center, which will be joined on the same block by 525 Lafayette, a 10-story residential tower featuring CenturyLink smart-home automation in each of its 85 units.
Gov. Jindal said, “Today’s topping-off ceremony fulfills another milestone in our commitment to position Louisiana as a leader in the global technology sector. IBM’s Baton Rouge technology center will propel Louisiana on the cutting-edge of innovation, with Baton Rouge serving as a thriving landmark for major businesses and technology projects. It will also help train more of our tech students as LSU and IBM work closely with one another to equip our students to meet the growing demand for skilled workers in the tech industry. We look forward to the progress of more outstanding career opportunities with IBM as we continue to prepare a highly skilled, next-generation workforce right here in Louisiana.”
The IBM technology center project includes innovative, public-private partnerships to expand higher-education programs related to computer science and to construct the major new riverfront development that will accelerate the redevelopment renaissance underway in downtown Baton Rouge. For the IBM project, the State of Louisiana will provide $14 million over 10 years to expand higher-education programs designed primarily to increase the number of annual computer science graduates. At least 65 percent of those funds will be provided for expansion of the Computer Science Division of the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at LSU. IBM will employ a broad range of college graduates and experienced professionals with backgrounds in computer science and other quantitative-intense fields, such as engineering, mathematics and science.
“Since May 2013, a year-and-a-half later, IBM and the State of Louisiana are proudly showing the collaborative power of public-private partnerships,” said McLachlan, who manages the IBM technology center in Baton Rouge. “This innovative model is now working to build the next generation of capability and service for a multitude of U.S. clients. Today’s topping-off ceremony represents a major milestone in our committed journey together.”
In Baton Rouge, IBM will provide its U.S. clients with integrated solutions to successfully adopt and support solutions on cloud, analytics, mobile, social or security. The IBM technology center will deliver technology services that include application development, application management and system integration. IBM will work closely with local professors at LSU to create coursework focused on technology, math and software development, equipping students to meet the growing demand for business services in advanced analytics, process innovation and application development.
A key public-private partnership secured construction of the IBM center’s permanent site. Commercial Properties Realty Trust, a real estate investment trust, is building the $55 million urban development. CPRT manages and develops property holdings of the Baton Rouge Area Foundation, and the BRAF-affiliated Wilbur Marvin Foundation will own the IBM office building and the adjacent 10-floor residential building that includes 85 river-view apartments (available beginning October 2015) and an adjoining five multistory townhomes.
The approximately $30.5 million office building is being built with public funds, whereas CPRT, which estimates 600 construction jobs associated with the overall project, will privately finance the residential building. Bounded by Lafayette Street on the east, River Road on the west, Main Street on the south and North Street on the north, the development site is at the former location of The Advocate newspaper.
“We are beyond the tipping point for revival of our downtown, and now we are beginning the next chapter, returning to the river where our city was born more than 200 years ago,” BRAF’s Davies said.
LED offered IBM a customized, performance-based incentive package that also includes grants totaling $29.5 million over 12 years, including a $1.5 million contribution from the City of Baton Rouge/Parish of East Baton Rouge, to reimburse costs related to personnel recruitment, relocation, and other workforce-related costs; internal training; and facility operating expenses. The company also will utilize LED FastStart® for recruitment support, as well as Louisiana’s Quality Jobs program.
IBM represents the vanguard of what is becoming a rapidly expanding technology sector for the state. Digital media and software development investments by GE Capital, EA, Gameloft, CSC, CGI, Perficient and others have been accompanied by major corporate headquarters expansions by CenturyLink and Schumacher Group, with more than 5,000 new direct jobs expected to be filled in Louisiana’s software technology sector in the next few years alone.
In connection with the IBM higher-education initiative, LSU plans to double its computer science faculty and triple the number of computer science graduates in five years, which will place the LSU Computer Science program in the Top 10 to 15 programs nationally for the number of bachelor’s degrees in computer science awarded annually. To support the growth of technology graduates statewide, Louisiana has launched additional higher-education initiatives at Louisiana Tech University, the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and the University of New Orleans, in addition to a Geaux Digital Louisiana initiative that engages high schools, community and technical colleges, and other universities to promote interest in computer science-related careers and to enhance student recruitment.
“This formidable structure in the heart of downtown makes tangible the economic strides of the Capital Region,” said President and CEO Adam Knapp of the Baton Rouge Area Chamber. “It represents the strength, growth and diversity that characterize our economy.”
“With this significant milestone for IBM’s technology center, we are one step closer to Baton Rouge becoming a world-class destination for software and knowledge-based professions – a city full of opportunities to keep our sons and daughters home,” Baton Rouge Mayor-President Melvin “Kip” Holden said.
Additional details about IBM’s Baton Rouge project, visit www.ibmlouisiana.com/jobs.
IBM is a globally integrated technology and consulting company headquartered in Armonk, N.Y. With operations in more than 170 countries, IBM attracts and retains some of the world’s most talented people to help solve problems and provide an edge for businesses, governments and nonprofits. Innovation is at the core of IBM’s strategy. For more about IBM, visit www.ibm.com.