IBM exec: Baton Rouge ‘right place’ to change the world through tech

Charles Masters, the IBM vice president for North America client innovation centers, leads Baton Rouge’s center as well as four others in Monroe; Lansing, Michigan; and Halifax and Montreal in Canada. He was the keynote speaker at a luncheon hosted by the Baton Rouge Area Chamber today.

Masters started coming to the local IBM site in February, eventually filling the position vacated by Christine Alford. Unlike his predecessor, he moved to Baton Rouge, into the 525 Lafayette apartment complex next door to the IBM building.

IBM is actively recruiting recent college graduates to join its downtown Baton Rouge office, he said.

“We get 10 to 15 new hires every couple of weeks,” Masters told the luncheon attendees.

That needs to happen for the firm to honor its revised agreement with Gov. John Bel Edwards’ administration, which now gives the company two more years to reach its full employment commitment of 800. The firm will have to pay back $10,000 for each job it falls short, according to the terms of the deal.

Under a 2013 economic development deal, IBM had promised to create 800 jobs in Baton Rouge by 2017, but fell 67 jobs short of the 500 full-time positions it was supposed to create by June 2016. In early September, IBM narrowly met its new 2018 local job goal by hiring 575 full-time workers, meaning the company still needs to hire another 225 workers by June 30, 2019.

To attract talent, the firm is exploring different marketing strategies such as a series of videos—some of which Masters unveiled at the BRAC event—that will be released over the next year promoting IBM as an ideal company to work for and Baton Rouge as a place to live, work and play.

The firm is also continuing its Come Home program, in which IBM aims to recruit qualified potential employees who used to live in Baton Rouge but moved away because of lack of job opportunities. Masters says they’ve seen success with the program and see promise in the P-TECH programs in Tara, Port Allen and Brusly high schools.

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