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IBM finds buyers for Big Blue

IBM finds buyers for Big Blue

After years of cuts to its local workforce, IBM is selling off its sprawling 492-acre campus in northwest Rochester.

The tech company has reached an agreement with two separate entities — listed in public documents as Rochester East Campus LLC and Rochester West Campus LLC — on the sale of Big Blue.

No other information has been made available regarding who the new owners are, or what their plans are for the site. Under the deal, IBM will lease back 900,000 square feet of space on the east side of the campus, where it has consolidated its remaining workforce.

The 3.1 million-square-foot site was valued at $32.9 million in 2016, according to county property records. Financial details of the deal between IBM and the new owners have not been disclosed. 

In preparation of the final purchase agreement, IBM is now working with the city to consolidate eighteen existing parcels — the entire campus — into three lots, to be known as Rochester Business Park. The proposal is set to come before the city council Monday night.

Aerial shot of IBM's Rochester campus in the late 1950s. Photo by Balthazar Kolrab, via the Library of Congress.

IBM's history in Rochester dates back to 1956, when company president Thomas J. Watson, Jr. announced plans to establish new manufacturing, engineering and educational facilities here. In the years since, local IBMers have been awarded thousands of patents and played key roles in the development and manufacturing of IBM technology, notably the System/3X and AS/400 minicomputers.

In recent decades, though, the company's presence in Rochester has continued to decline. Like many top tech companies, IBM has been offshoring jobs to places like India (which now accounts for a third of the company's global workforce) where labor costs are a fraction of what they are here. Citing OSHA documents, the Post-Bulletin's Jeff Kiger reported in May that IBM employed roughly 2,400 people at the Rochester site. That's down from the pre-recession total of 4,200 in 2008, and a peak of 8,100 in 1991. 

Correction: A previous version of this story misstated the size of the campus. It consists of 492 acres, not 496. 

Cover photo: IBM's Rochester campus / Liz Waytkus

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