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Sunday, October 28,2012

Athens doesn't stint on the hospitality, for firm bringing 150 jobs to town

By David DeWitt
Photo Credits: Rebecca Miller for The Athens NEWS
Photo Caption: Local leaders, and officials of CGI, take part in a ribbon-cutting Thursday for the company's future home on East State Street.

Athens rolled out the red carpet Thursday afternoon in welcoming a Montreal-based information technology firm's newest location at the Stateside Technology Park on East State Street.

OK, so there wasn't actually a red carpet but just about everything else made an appearance, including hot and cold refreshments, snacking fare, music, a stage with podium and American flag, a sign-in table, booklets and thumbdrives of information, and a wide cross-section of county movers and shakers, wheelers and dealers.

The Athens location of CGI's "center of excellence" marks the fourth for the company since 2006 and is expected to create 150 jobs.

CGI provides information technology and business process services to business and government clients. The jobs themselves, according to a CGI spokesperson, will be mostly software development and testing work, with some help-desk positions, but not tech-support type employment.

Both Athens Mayor Paul Wiehl and Ohio University President Roderick McDavis were on hand to welcome CGI to the community, as well as incoming JobsOhio President John Minor, Athens County Economic Development Council Director Sara Marrs, and representing CGI, Vice President Dave Henderson.

The event was also attended by a vast swath of county and city elected officials and administration, as well as many local prominent businessmen, lawyers and other community members.

"This particular project with CGI is a perfect example of how we aspire to work with our local, regional and statewide community for quality job creation," Marrs told the audience. "It was clear early on that this project would be a great fit for our community and an opportunity that we needed to focus our efforts on capturing."

Working with partnership organizations, local business people and JobsOhio, Marrs said, led to "exceptional" collaboration in attracting CGI to the city of Athens.

"They chose us because we offer a positive business climate," she said. "We offer a well-trained, well-supported work force. We have an affordable and exceptional quality of life and because we show we value our future by investing in theirs."

CGI VP Henderson said that what has struck him is efforts the community has made coming together to make the new location a reality.

"This is such a phenomenal opportunity, and we're so excited to be here, but this is really a testament to the hard work of everyone here in this room," he said.

CGI is the sixth largest independent information technology and business processor services firm in the world, Henderson said. While being a global company, he said, CGI is focused on the local communities they are in and the clients they serve.

"We like to take on the hard stuff," he said. "And this new center in Athens will further our ability to do that. And it's a great addition to our offices."

He said that in Ohio, the company already has locations in the so-called "three C's," Columbus, Cincinnati and Cleveland.

"As CGI we firmly believe in the great public-private partnerships that help create great communities," he said. "Athens represents the kind of public-private partnership that is so critical to our successful growth."

He lauded the strong connection in Athens with higher learning, pointing to Ohio University and Hocking College.

Mayor Wiehl said that the opening represents a choreography of all aspects of the Athens community.

"They know it's an inclusive community and they know it's a smart community," Wiehl said of CGI.

JobsOhio's Minor expressed pride in the ability of these organizations to come together to attract CGI, which he said is a billion-dollar company but is very community-focused, and that's important in Athens.

"I think getting this operation here in Athens, this is an exciting time," he said. "I think you made the right choice. We probably seem biased here, but… this state is turning around."

Ohio has its act together, Minor said, praising Gov. John Kasich for his job creation efforts.

"Most people think of Ohio as a manufacturing state, and we are," he said. "But we're also very diversified. And IT is one of those areas that's been very strong and there's a lot more to come."

He even cited the 100-gigabit high-speed Internet effort coming soon to Ohio University.

OU President McDavis said that it was a great day for the state of Ohio. "What a marvelous opportunity this is for our community and our university and for our state," he said.

He said that together CGI and Athens will make great things happen.

"This is a beautiful and wonderful place to live and work, and I'm sure that you and your employees will find that to be the case," he said.

He thanked the city administration and Business Remixed (another name for Marrs' agency) for rallying everyone together to have this accomplishment.

"This has been a very positive, collaborative process for our entire community," he said. "Ohio University is certainly honored to be a partner in this effort."


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