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KXAN | Chris Sadeghi

Automaker to ramp up fledgling tech center

AUSTIN (AP/KXAN) - General Motors, which is shifting computer technology functions into the company from outside firms, plans to open a new information technology center in Austin that will staffed by at least 500 people.

The Austin center will be the first of four in the nation and is already open with a handful of people, and hiring will ramp up gradually as GM finds the right workers to fill the jobs, the company said Friday. GM has an assembly plant in Arlington.

It's all part of a move to bring 90 percent of GM's information technology from outside companies in-house, which GM believes will make the company more nimble and efficient. GM could add as many as 10,000 people to do the work globally in the next three to five years, said Randy Mott, the company's new chief information officer.

"We are changing the mix very substantially to have a lot more people doing development and innovation," Mott said on a morning conference call.

The positions would have to be self-supporting, an investment with a return that helps GM cut information technology costs and bring changes that would boost market share and revenue, Mott said. The innovation centers would develop software and change processes to help GM bring new vehicles to market faster, he said. "Every area of our company is in the midst of transforming," Mott said.

Currently most of GM's information technology is contracted out to other companies, spokeswoman Julie Huston-Rough said. The work now done in-house focuses on keeping the company running rather than new technology, she said.

GM is talking with other cities about the remaining three U.S. sites, and it would not reveal which areas are candidates. Government tax incentives were not part of the decision to locate in Austin, but it's something GM continues to look at as it opens the centers, Mott said.

The automaker said Friday that it is hiring software developers, project managers, database experts and business analysts in Austin, which was picked because it has a ready workforce with the skills General Motors Co. is looking for. The Austin metropolitan area is home to a growing technology community that includes the University of Texas at Austin and computer maker Dell Inc.

GM says its information technology innovation centers will help to get breakthrough ideas into the company's cars and trucks. It's also intended to improve GM's business processes and drive down costs.

Huston-Rough says the new technology centers are separate from a GM plan now under way to consolidate its 23 global data centers into two in an effort to cut costs and increase speed and efficiency.

GM shares rose 52 cents, or 2.3 percent, to $22.97 in Friday morning trading. In July the carmaker's stock hit $18.72, its lowest level since selling for $33 in an initial public offering almost two years ago. But the shares have risen recently.

The Austin Chamber of Commerce said discussions with GM began in May and hiring is expected to begin soon.

The announcement brought excitement at The University of Texas Computer Science Department where students are being groomed to join the Austin workforce that GM found so attractive.

"We are eager to find ways to partner with them," said CS Chair Bruce Porter.

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