IBM has been reducing its number of Rochester employees for many years, but that trend may have reversed in 2017.
While the technology giant has not publicly reported its local worker numbers since 2008, IBM is required by Occupational Safety and Health Administration to calculate an average of employees that work on site every year. That number is included on the OSHA 300A log summary of workplace injuries and illnesses that businesses must post every year for its employees.
This year's posting, dated Jan. 17, shows 2,791 as the "annual average number of employees" working for IBM on its Rochester campus.
That's 364 more employees than the 2,427 IBM posted in 2017. This is the highest Rochester IBM number, since 3,189 employees were reported in 2013 on the same OSHA form.
While this is a large increase, the total number is still significantly down from Big Blue's previous milestones in Rochester. It hit its peak of more than 8,000 in early 1990s. In 2008, IBM stated that it had 4,200 employere in Rochester. That was the last employee number confirmed by the company.
When a photo of the OSHA posting surfaced this week, the company declined to confirm the increase or discuss where the numbers are up.
"IBM does not comment on employee population at a site level," stated IBM's local media contact, Jennie Lemire.
In recent years, IBM had lost its longtime spot as Rochester's second-largest employer behind Mayo Clinic, the city's largest employer. Rochester Public Schools edged into the second place spot with 2,727 employees in the leading local employers list complied by Rochester Economic Development Inc. RAEDI's list shows IBM as third with "2,500 (estimate)."
This latest OSHA posting looks to edge IBM back as No.2, with 64 more employees than the Rochester schools.
Local insiders are speculating that IBM's increase could be due to IBM moving many remote or work-at-home employees back to the campus.The OHSA form specifically asks for the number of employees that work on site.
Big Blue reversed its longtime tradition of allow people to work from home in 2017 and reeled thousands of employees company-wide back into the office.
If the remote workers coming back to the office theory is correct, then the employee number jump wouldn't be due to an actual increase in hiring.
Adding to the surprise is that IBM recently consolidated its employees into eight of the 34 buildings once occupied by Big Blue. The entire 486-acre property is in the process of being sold.
A "final plat" permit was filed with the city in early November to divide the campus at 3605 North U.S. 52 into two chunks — a 60-acre east parcel and a 430-acre west parcel. The new name for the campus listed on the permit is Rochester Business Park.
The future owners are listed as Rochester East Campus LLC and Rochester West LLC, though no other details about them were included in the document. No companies by those names have incorporated in state of Minnesota.
IBM has declined to discuss the expected sale.