Investigative Post: IBM Buffalo Billion project struggles in first year

Feb 22, 2018

Bringing IBM to Buffalo was one of the big projects funded by the Buffalo Billion, Governor Cuomo's signature initiative to revitalize Western New York's economy. It was meant to be an innovation hub. But so far, the project appears to be headed in quite a different direction.

On her first day of work at IBM’s Buffalo office, Erica Williams was excited.

“You’re on the IBM contract. That sounds awesome, especially being in Buffalo,” Williams said.

She made $14.25 an hour, with no paid holidays and no paid time off for the first year. IBM did not employ her directly. Instead, she and many of her colleagues worked for Career Connection, Inc., a staffing agency.

“It seemed like a crazy house,” Williams said.

This wasn’t the kind of job Governor Cuomo promised when he announced in 2014 that IBM would receive $55 million from the Buffalo Billion.

In exchange, IBM agreed to create 500 jobs. These were meant to be high-paying, high-tech jobs in software development, research, and data analytics.

On top of the Buffalo Billion funding, IBM has a state contract worth $58 million over five years to provide an IT help desk for state agencies. That work used to be done by state employees, which means some of these aren’t really new jobs at all.

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