State, IBM finalizing deal to bring development center to B.R.

State, IBM finalizing deal to bring development center to B.R.

Daily Report confirms the state is in the 11th hour of finalizing a deal that will bring an IBM development center to downtown Baton Rouge. The agreement, expected to be announced next week, comes after more than a year of negotiating a package with the blue chip computer company that includes incentives, promises of a trained workforce, and a new office building with adjacent shops, condos and parking overlooking the Mississippi River.

Sources say the deal will mean at least 800 jobs for the Capital Region, and involve a tie-in with LSU that will result in the expansion of programs at the university—particularly in computer science. The deal will also include the Baton Rouge Area Foundation's for-profit real estate company, Commercial Properties, which will develop for IBM an office building and adjacent mixed-use development on the Lafayette Street site that formerly housed The Advocate. The state, sources say, will not be funding the non-office portion of the real estate development. Attempts to reach LED's Stephen Moret for comment were unsuccessful.

Baton Rouge was competing with Lincoln, Neb., for the deal, which city leaders say will be a game changer for the local economy.

"Anytime we get a signature company that locates in Baton Rouge and attracts people from around the U.S., it says to the rest of the country that this city is ready to take on all the business opportunities it can," says Mayor Kip Holden, who, when asked, commented generally about the implications of the deal but would not confirm it. "It makes other companies look at us to see what we have to offer."

The partnership between IBM and LSU would also be significant because of the hundreds of residents the company would bring to downtown, Holden adds.

"People will be living there and working there. It's what a downtown should be," he says.

The state is expected to schedule a press conference for March 27 to officially unveil details of the deal.

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