IBM opens Columbia center's doors, expects 800 employees by 2012

Wednesday, December 1, 2010 | 6:39 p.m. CST; updated 8:08 a.m. CST, Thursday, December 2, 2010
The entrance way to the new IBM building. The building opened Nov. 1 after IBM spent $10 million to renovate a neglected warehouse in southeast Columbia.

COLUMBIA — In the past 30 days, the new IBM service delivery center at 2810 LeMone Industrial Blvd. has wrapped up construction and  stepped up the process to fill 800 positions.

The finished building, encompassing 92,000 square feet, opened Nov. 1 after IBM spent $10 million to renovate a neglected warehouse in southeast Columbia. Another $3.5 million was spent on furnishings and fixtures.

Although the company intends to have 800 employees in the Columbia center by 2012, IBM spokeswoman Diane Diggelmann described hiring as a “disciplined process, to match client needs with an applicant’s skills.”

“We’re hiring in waves,” said Diggelmann, IBM’s vice president for North America delivery transformation, which includes supervision of the delivery centers.

The vast majority of those hired will fill positions on technical teams; few administrative jobs are available.

Fewer than a third of the 800-employee target have been hired to date, but Diggelmann declined to provide an exact number. Of the recruits, 75 percent are from Missouri, she said, and just under 50 percent are from Columbia.

Joe Dzaluk, IBM’s vice president for global infrastructure and resource management, said the company “brought in legacy IBM employees as leadership, but the percentage is small.”

He said IBM received “thousands of applications” for the positions in Columbia.

“Their attitude and experience have been outstanding” he said.

A number of the recent hires are in training at the LeMone site and off campus, including in classrooms at William Woods University.

IBM is also working with the MU College of Engineering and the Trulaske College of Business to develop curricula that would prepare students for careers that fit company needs, he said.

Dzaluk also said the company was “more than pleased” with the way the building had come together within six months.

The company adopted an “open landscape” office design, with 800 cubicles arranged from one end of the building to the other.

Chairs are lime green; accent walls are brick red and steel blue; and the carpet has a contemporary geometric pattern in black and gray. Photographs on the walls were taken by Notley Hawkins and reflect the community.

Corporate designers strived to create a comfortable, collaborative atmosphere,  Diggelmann told visitors on a media tour Wednesday. Partitions are low, and desks are contiguous to foster teamwork and training, she said.

 A grand opening will be held early next year.

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Yves Montclear December 1, 2010 | 8:33 p.m.

I applaud IBM and the local people it took to get this deal done, completed, and open.

And maybe it is just a call center, but look at the glass half full. And to tell you the truth, most graduates should spend some time in customer support before being moved up into field technical jobs or management.

It certainly gives any employee a greater understanding of the business, its products, and how they really work. But more importantly, it gives the employee a personal touch with the people who are really paying their salary.

That would be the customer, the ones buying IBM products and services.

And what that customer expects from you, and how to deal with them in a myriad of situations, good and bad. So it actually sounds, and can even be displayed to the customer in a professional manner, that you know what you are doing.

Because those customers are paying a lot of money for IBM products and services to help them succeed in business.

The customer doesn't have the time, the money, and certainly not the desire, to waste on people who are hindering that. And they look for people who excel at getting things done right.

It only takes one person, one employee, who doesn't understand this, who happens to piss the customer off, to lose a huge contract for the company. No matter how much everybody else in the company has helped the customer to succeed, that one untrained employee can lose a huge amount of money for the company.

I have worked in high tech for a long time now, and I know this for a fact. I deal with these same issues every day.

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