With $12 million in state funding as an incentive, IBM is building an IT center in Dubuque, Iowa, that it says will employ 1,300 workers providing support to IBM's U.S. outsourcing clients.
The state finalized the agreement to contribute to the project on Thursday. And while the money Iowa is pitching in is clearly an incentive for IBM to locate in Dubuque, another reason for the company's interest may be the state's lower IT wages.
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Indeed, IBM's decision to locate in a renovated building in downtown Dubuque, which has a population of just under 60,000 people, may be part of a trend by vendors to expand in lower-cost -- and lower-wage -- regions of the United States.
Mike Blouin, president of the Greater Dubuque Development Corp., said that as part of the deal IBM is obligated to offer salaries that begin in the low-$30,000 range and go all the way up to $70,000 or so, with the average salary in the mid-$40,000.
The Greater Dubuque Development Corp. was involved in the talks surrounding the project. IBM officials declined to comment on the wage agreement.
IBM has already received some 3,000 applications for positions so far, with a third meeting meeting basic requirements for work, said Blouin. Hiring will begin this spring.
Blouin said that 10 percent of IBM's workforce will come from the company's existing labor pool, with the remainder hired locally and from two- and four-year colleges within 100 miles of Dubuque. In fact, IBM has already started recruiting students from nearby Kirkwood Community College.
The lower cost of living was a factor in IBM's decision, said Blouin. The company "is clearly trying to demonstrate that they can bring work to the U.S. shores and do it competitively," he said.
IT salaries in the Midwest can be 20 percent to as much as 50 percent below the wages paid on the East and West coasts, said Nate Viall, a Des Moines-based recruiter who specializes in finding candidates for IBM's i (formerly i5/os) mid-range application development jobs.
IBM, which has some 80 global delivery centers worldwide, said growth in its services business is creating the need for expansion. The types of jobs at the new center will include systems management services and operations, database management and project management services.