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IBM in Buffalo could create 100 jobs with state contract

A contract to provide technical services and support to state agencies could bring roughly 100 jobs to IBM Corp.’s Innovation Center in downtown Buffalo.

The company has been notified that it has been selected to receive the contract, although the agreement still needs to be formalized, said Jay Goodwyn, the center’s executive director.

IBM executives had been counting on winning the state contract as a key step in ramping up operations at the innovation center, which opened last year in temporary space in the Key Center’s north tower. IBM has committed to creating 500 jobs at the center by September 2021, and the potential of 100 jobs tied to the state technical support center would be a significant step toward that goal.

The state support center would be located on the seventh floor of the Key Center’s south tower, where IBM also operates a small data center on the third floor that supports the innovation center’s operations.

“A key government connection is New York state,” Goodwyn said.

IBM plans to move this summer into a permanent home on the top six floors of the Key Center’s south tower that formerly was the headquarters of Delaware North Cos. The Buffalo food-service company moved out last summer, and the space currently is being gutted. IBM initially plans to move into the 11th and 12th floors of the south tower space and then occupy the lower floors as it builds up its operations here.

That portion of innovation center is concentrating on providing data analytics services to clients, helping them make sense of the mountains of the millions of pieces of information that they now routinely collect.

That data, however, can be difficult to interpret because there is so much of it and it isn’t in a form that is easily catalogued. As much as 80 percent of the data that companies collect is so-called “dark data” that isn’t easy to sort and analyze, Goodwyn said.

Much of the work at the innovation center, so far, has been aimed at helping clients make sense of that data to identify anything from sales trends and consumer preferences to production inefficiencies and product safety issues, Goodwyn said.

The 500-job projection includes positions not just at IBM, but also at companies that work with the technology giant on projects at the Buffalo center or provide services and support to it.

The center is part of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s Buffalo Billion economic development initiative, aimed at bolstering a local technology sector in the region that is undersized by national standards.

To entice IBM to create the innovation center, the state agreed to invest $55 million in the project, including $30 million to acquire the software that the center will use. The state also is spending another $25 million to buy the seven floors in the Key Center that the IBM facility will occupy and then build it out and equip it.