col RAEDI salutes IBM Rochester for 50 years of innovation\
By Mark E. Utz
Fifty years ago, Rochester Area Economic Development Inc.'s predecessor, Industrial Opportunities Inc., initiated a $200,000 fundraising campaign to bring new industry to Rochester.
It was a success. On July 31, 1956, a groundbreaking ceremony was held for an $8 million plant, comprising 400,000 square feet of floor space, built on a 397-acre site near Route 52, which at the time was two miles northwest of Rochester!
By 1958, the site employed 1,500 people to manufacture simple and standard electronic accounting machines. Today, IBM has 4,400 employees in Rochester. The site has grown to the size of 76 football fields on a 480-acre campus comprising 36 buildings, 3.5 million square feet and eight miles of corridor. It remains today the largest IBM facility in the world under one contiguous roof.
Since IBM began in Rochester, its employees have been a group of talented and dedicated individuals, breaking ground in technology. From numeric collators to the world's fastest supercomputer (Blue Gene/L), IBM Rochester has gone from sorting punch cards at a rate of four per second to performing calculations at a rate of 280 trillion operations per second.
; IBM Rochester has consistently been recognized as one of IBM's highest performing centers in relation to its productivity, low cost development, and profit margin contributions. This success was acknowledged by President George H. Bush, who in 1990 presented IBM Rochester with the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, the highest award in the United States for quality and achievement. This was a milestone and a first for any IBM location.
In the early 1990s, IBM faced a worldwide slowdown of business. IBM Rochester made fundamental changes, and while painful, emerged by redirecting their work force to develop value for its global customers. These fundamental changes in the creation of value to customers remain case studies today in business schools around the globe.
IBM Rochester has a keen ability to identify and anticipate the challenges in the global marketplace and inspire its work force to compete against foreign competition. One example was the formation of IBM Rochester's Customer Solution Center, is a single source to develop, manufacture, configure, and ship customized solutions. Also, the Rochester manufacturing organization, Integrated Supply Chain, innovates and delivers efficient solutions to manufacture IBM's System i mid-range systems and System p UNIX-based systems, retail self-checkout systems, and high speed printers.
Today, Rochester can boast it's home to both the world's fastest supercomputer and the world's fastest printer. Developed and manufactured in Rochester, the Blue Gene/L supercomputer remains the fastest in the world. Blue Gene can handle unprecedented amounts of data through thousands of microprocessors that give it the capability to perform complex computations in the area of life sciences, scientific research and financial and climate modeling.
Finally, we wish to commend IBM Rochester employees for their charitable contributions to our community dating back to the late 1950s. This past year alone IBM Rochester employees contributed more than $1.5 million to an annual campaign.
IBM Rochester plays an important role in improving K-12 education and has benefited thousands of area students through volunteerism in the classroom, gifts of technology, and employee participation in IBM e-mentoring programs and technology camps. Last year, IBM Rochester volunteers helped area schools and nonprofits by contributing 113,000 volunteer hours valued at $1.8 million of in-kind support, in addition to $750,000 of technology grants made to the same organizations. We embrace IBM's current program for encouraging the development of math, science, and technology curriculums and hope they continue these efforts for years to come.
Lastly, just as Industrial Opportunities Inc. celebrated the IBM Rochester ground breaking 50 years ago, Rochester Area Economic Development Inc. celebrates with IBM Rochester today for 50 years of continually adapting to meet challenges of an ever-changing global marketplace. We salute IBM Rochester employees and their recognition that their future relies not only on developing and manufacturing the systems on which businesses, governments, and organizations operate today, but on continuing to work to find innovations that will make a difference in the world.
Thank you for the significant contribution you have provided our community during your "50 Years of Innovation."
Mark E. Utz is president of the Rochester Area of Economic Development Inc. and is a local attorney.