A major computer company may be looking to cut jobs at its facility in southern Minnesota, and worried workers are wondering if that may be the first step in an even bigger economic shift for the region.
No official word has been given, but reports indicate that IBM may be preparing for company-wide job cuts in the next few days. As employees left the Rochester campus on Tuesday evening, their immediate employment future appeared cloudy.
According to reports, IBM is poised to begin another round of layoffs -- and there is speculation that the move may deeply hurt the workforce in southern Minnesota.
"I think it has been painful the last couple years," Lee Conrad, national coordinator for Alliance @ IBM -- a union group that represents union workers nationwide and tracks potential layoffs.
Although Conrad wouldn't predict exact numbers for Rochester, he does expect IBM to cut about 15,000 jobs globally this year.
"We've always believed IBM should come clean on these job cuts," Conrad added. "Nobody in Rochester, Minn., or in the state of Minnesota should be guessing at this. IBM should be transparent and release the number of people cut."
On the busy streets of downtown Rochester, no one wanted to hear about the potential for more cuts at the enormous IBM campus off Highway 52. Fox 9 News was told the local workforce has steadily declined through the years as the company ratcheted back on computer manufacturing. Even so, the local economy has continued to grow.
"This business has changed out here," Gary Smith, president of Economic Development Rochester, said. "A lot more programming going on, financial services out there."
Smith believes the city is poised well for the future and said the local economy will be just fine with Mayo Clinic as its anchor.
"I don't want to play down the significance if you're one of the people affected," Smith said, "but purely in terms of the economics and cold, hard numbers, the impact isn't that significant quite honestly."
It's estimated that IBM currently has upwards of 2,700 workers in Rochester currently. So far, the company has not commented on the potential cuts but media reports claim IBM did acknowledge layoffs were expected in March after a challenging fourth quarter.