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Company opening software development center in Hattiesburg

High quality of life factor in BearingPoint decision

Hattiesburg — BearingPoint Inc. (BP), one of the world’s largest business consulting and systems interaction companies, is opening a software development center in Hattiesburg that will employ some 275 people.
BP is leasing an existing facility and is expected to begin operations this spring.

Average salaries of the employees — application developers, testing and support staff — will be $40,000. According to U.S. Census figures, Mississippi has the nation’s third lowest average median income, $32,477. (Only Arkansas and West Virginia rank lower.)

Initially, Hattiesburg’s BearingPoint facility will focus on servicing its contracts with such federal agencies as the Department of Interior, Department of the Navy and Department of Homeland Security. Later, the facility will be available to service BP’s commercial sector clients.

“The local economic development climate, the proximity to the University of Southern Mississippi (USM) and the available workforce were key factors that impressed us in deciding to locate this state-of-the-art facility in Hattiesburg,” according to Robin Lineberger, BearingPoint’s executive vice-president for global public services. “These attributes will ensure the new Hattiesburg software development center will contribute to BearingPoint’s continued success in its key markets.”

Another factor in choosing Hattiesburg, Lineberger said, was an aggressive incentive package, including tax credits and workforce development grants by the state.

“The initial effort will focus on the immediate needs for an SAP development lab to support Department of Interior and various Navy programs,” Lineberger said. “The center will also support Oracle-based and a host of other applications.”

“BearingPoint’s selection of Hattiesburg is the culmination of extensive teamwork,” according to Leland Speed, executive director of the Mississippi Development Authority (MDA). Speed cited Sen. Thad Cochran, the Area Development Partnership (ADP), USM and local and state leaders, including Gov. Haley Barbour.

“They all worked diligently to show BearingPoint the advantages of doing business in Mississippi,” Speed added.
Barbour said that “the decisive factor was an MDA fund used to make grants to local economic entities to help new or existing businesses that meet such criteria as ‘extraordinary economic opportunities.’”

BearingPoint will receive $200,000 from what is called the ACE Fund, according to Scott Hamilton, an MDA spokesperson. “It could be used for any number of things — renovating property, buying property, moving equipment,” he said. “They just need to get our approval before they spend it.”

The fund is very important for MDA, Hamilton added, and gives MDA a “great deal of flexibility.”

In return for the $200,000, BP will employ the 275 software developers over the next three years. The company will hire the developers in groups of 40, beginning in the spring.

“This is a great victory for the home team,” Cochran said. “BearingPoint is one of the world’s premier computer data companies which will have a very positive effect on our state’s economy.”

Tough competition

“You’re really competing with every community in the United States. This is a big deal. This is a world-class company,” said Angie Dvorak, president of the ADP.

The ADP tested the availability of possible BP employees with “blind” newspaper ads that sought developers that needed work. In only a few days, some 185 responses were received.

The move to Mississippi may well be part of a new trend of companies putting branches into smaller cities because of quality of life factors, according to Dvorak. These include lower crime rates, lower housing costs and shorter commutes to work.

The chairman of USM’s Department of Computer Science, Adel Alli, believes that the practice of sending information technology to countries such as India and Pakistan will decrease because of security concerns.

Alli said, “After September 11, it’s a whole new ball game.”

He met with a representative from BearingPoint last year, and the representative asked how many USM students were U.S. citizens. BP has extensive contracts with federal agencies that require security clearance.

Member of the community

BearingPoint, with headquarters in McLean, Va., has been named by Fortune as one of America’s most admired companies in the computer and data services sector for the third consecutive year, according to a company statement. BP provides business and technological strategy, systems design, architecture, applications implementation, network infrastructure, systems integration and managed services. The company’s 16,000 employees in 39 countries average 12 years of industry-specific experience.

In order to develop best-in-class solutions, BearingPoint forms alliances with market-leading hardware and software companies. The resources of the alliance partners, combined with BP’s experience in business systems strategy and implementation, make the alliance program a valuable resource for clients.

Among the 50 software and hardware companies with which BP builds alliances are Oracle, PeopleSoft, Cisco Systems, BEA Systems, Tibco, SAP, Microsoft and Siedel.

Among BP’s clients are Chase Manhattan Bank, the Chicago Public School system, Dun & Bradstreet, Johns Hopkins University, the Library of Congress, Met Life, The New York Times, Southwest Airlines, ALFA, AltaVista and Celanese Mexicana.

BP recently posted $3.1 billion in revenues. Among the factors in BP’s choosing Hattiesburg were educational opportunities. In addition to Southern Miss, Hattiesburg is home to William Carey College and a campus of Pearl River Community College.

Contact MBJ contributing writer at George McNeill at mbj@msbusiness.com.

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