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02 IBM adds jobs

IBM Rochester employees

• 2006 - 4,400

• 2005 - 4,400

• 2004 - 4,400

• 2003 - 4,500

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• 2002 - 4,600

• 2001 - 5,000

By Jeff Kiger

jkiger@postbulletin.com

IBM has quietly been adding hundreds of people to a financial services group in Rochester that now serves all of the company’s U.S. locations.

In March, about 300 people were working in the group called a Center of Excellence. About 190 of those employees were hired in 2006, said Mike Billmier, a 17-year IBM veteran who heads up the center.

"There could be some additional growth coming, but there is not a specific number," he said. "This is not an event. This is more of an evolution."

IBM had 4,400 employees in Rochester in January, the same as it has had since 2003. In 2006, IBM had 128,000 workers in the U.S. and 350,000 worldwide.

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Billmier explained that his group is part of a new effort by IBM to centralize some support services, like financial planning, human resources and communications.

The goal is to get all the area using the same tools and same approaches, he said. And so far, it is going well.

His staff supports all IBM units in the U.S., Canada and Latin America. It provides planning support like help with budgets, forecasting and capital requirements.

"The lion’s share of jobs are entry-level," he said, which means many are recently out of college.

"It’s good to have an infusion of young people," he added.

These employees are proving to be very technically oriented, and they are finding ways to automate tasks to reduce the time needed from weeks to minutes.

"When that happens, we can really be analysts as we should be, instead of gathering data," he said.

Many of these new employees grew up in southeastern Minnesota and attended colleges in Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin.

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To help retain those employees, Billmier said he’s working with the employees to develop an engaging and yet efficient workplace.

"We just finished a ping-pong tournament," he said. "We are trying to have some fun and get the work done."

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