It might not have been the decisive factor, but who knows? Perhaps it was the text Welcome IBM written in chocolate letters in NOM’s meeting room that just tipped the scales. This was at the time when IBM was inclining slightly more towards Eindhoven, the other remaining potential place of establishment. Of course, in the end it wasn’t the plain and milk chocolate letters but the hard arguments that counted and won the race for Groningen: the northern location offered the most favorable labor market, with its huge potential of talented graduates in the area of programmers, developers and testers. The arrival of IBM was also supported by the network of northern knowledge institutes, led by Hanze University of Applied Sciences. Hanze wanted to do something together in the direction of setting up appropriate degree programs, for example.
IBM’s decision was the apotheosis of a tense and relatively short acquisition period. It took barely six months between the first serious talks between NOM and IBM and the IT multinational’s final decision. The lightning-fast decision process and decisiveness were also welcomed by NOM, which is used to acquisition processes that tend to take years. And even then without such impressive results as with IBM.
The first contacts with IBM do however go a bit further back in time. IBM subsidiary PLI (Plant Location International) had been taken on a fact-finding trip on a more or less informal basis to suitable establishment locations by Wim A,B and Wubbo Everts as far back as in 2011. This was a non-project related trip, there was not yet a firm plan to establish a client of PLI at that time. None the less, it seems that the visit planted a seed at the IBM subsidiary.
This resulted in the acquisition taking place somewhat differently from normal, since multinationals usually arrive at the NOM via the NFIA (Netherlands Foreign Investment Agency) of the Ministry of Economic Affairs. In the meantime, in 2012 the NOM had been in contact with IT companies in the western cities with the aim of shining the spotlight on the northern region with its ambitious energy, sensor technology, water and healthy ageing projects as market opportunities.
When IBM confirmed to NOM that Groningen was in the picture as a potential place of establishment for a Service Center, there was still a long list of candidates, says IBM forerunner Johan van der Stel. This business concept, which is new to Europe, could also become established in surrounding countries.
“A lot of figures and statistics were examined before the decision was made”, says Van der Stel’s colleague Carola Bos. “NOM functioned as a catalyst in that process, by arranging the right contacts between us and Groningen’s ecosystem, for example.”
“We were extremely well facilitated”, says Van der Stel about NOM’s assistance and efforts during the acquisition process. “That was definitely of overriding importance in the decision process.”
This article appeared in our magazine NOMMER 17.
Source NV NOM