La. lawmakers sign off on deal for IBM center

Louisiana lawmakers sign off on deal with IBM for new Baton Rouge-based service center

Associated Press

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) -- Louisiana lawmakers agreed Wednesday to the state's contract with IBM Corp. to build a new service center in Baton Rouge, and approved $8 million from an economic development incentive fund to help pay for the deal.

The Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget approved both items without objection.

IBM has said it plans to employ 800 people within four years at the Baton Rouge center, which will develop and maintain software for U.S. clients.

"This is one of the most exciting projects that we've been able to secure in our state in many years," Economic Development Secretary Stephen Moret told lawmakers.

The project involves nearly $79 million in federal, state and local funding over 12 years, according to the Legislative Fiscal Office.

The dollars will pay for worker recruitment, relocation, training expenses, operating expenses, building construction and increased investment in computer science programs at Louisiana colleges.

Moret assured lawmakers that the deal contains language requiring repayment of public dollars if IBM doesn't meet hiring benchmarks.

In addition to signing off on the contract, the committee agreed to spend an initial $8 million from the Mega Project Fund, an economic development fund set aside for big ticket projects.

Nearly half of the dollars will go to IBM to lease temporary office space and recruit and train workers. A separate foundation that will construct and own a building that will house the IBM service center will receive $4.4 million to buy land for construction.

The fund had a remaining balance of $25.5 million after the spending for IBM.

The fiscal office said dollars anticipated for the full cost of the project through 2031, including the money approved Wednesday, are:

—$23 million total from the Mega Projects Fund.

—$34.1 million in state general fund money.

—$16.9 million from federal hurricane recovery funding.

—$4.5 million from East Baton Rouge Parish.

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