When Unisys Corp. opens for business in Bismarck this April, it joins
other out-of-state companies that have selected a Great Plains location
for new operations.
Unisys in Bismarck will employ 125 to process the company's merged U.S.
employee travel and accounts payable divisions and is expected to generate
an annual payroll exceeding $2 million.
The Bismarck operation is part of a recent downsizing, says Tom Severin,
director of administrative information for Unisys in Bismarck. Since 1989,
Unisys has taken 30 disbursement sites down to three. Now those operations
in Detroit, near Los Angeles and in a suburb of St. Paul, Minn., will
close and merge in Bismarck.
The city of Bismarck offered incentives totaling about $1.25 million
and an arrangement with three local colleges to assist in training Unisys
workers. But, Severin says, financial incentives were not the key, and
adds that what Bismarck and North Dakota offer is an educated work force.
"People are astonished at the level of employees in North Dakota," says
Chuck Stroup, director of the state's Department of Economic Development
and Finance. Stroup says the state has a lot of under-employment because
there are college graduates who want to stay but can't find work in their
fields. And some of those who left want to return, says Stroup, who adds
that when a new postal operation was hiring in western North Dakota it
received 100 out-of-state applications. "Parents are sending their out-of-state
children the want ads because they want to come home."
In answer to those who contend that luring businesses from one state
to another doesn't create jobs but only moves them, Stroup says that's
the nature of business in the '90s. "We're not going to see many new companies,"
Stroup adds. But rural communities are apt to be the beneficiaries of
companies that are redesigning and restructuring their operations, he
Companies like Rosenbluth Travel, which relocated some operations from
Philadelphia to a small town near Bismarck, are setting an example for
others, says Russ Staiger, president of the Bismarck-Mandan Development
Association. A few years ago when he promoted North Dakota to California
business owners, Staiger says, they'd say he was crazy. Now he says the
response is more like, "What have you got that makes a Rosenbluth or Unisys
"I don't think we have to worry about being run over by a herd of buffalo,"
Staiger says, referring to two Rutgers University geographers who predicted
that the Great Plains will revert to buffalo grazing lands.