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Encyclopedia Dubuque


"Encyclopedia Dubuque is the online authority for all things Dubuque, written by the people who know the city best.”
Marshall Cohen—researcher and producer, CNN

Affiliated with the Local History Network of the State Historical Society of Iowa, and the Iowa Museum Association.


From Encyclopedia Dubuque
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Photo courtesy: IBM

IBM (International Business Machines). The company which became IBM was founded by Herman Hollerith in 1896 as the Tabulating Machine Company in Endicott, New York. It was incorporated as Computing Tabulating Recording Corporation (CTR) on June 16, 1911 and listed on the New York Stock Exchange in 1916. IBM adopted its current name in 1924, when it became an international manufacturing company. It is often called "Big Blue."

In 1955 IBM sold its first transistorized machine (the 7090). In the 1950s, the company became the major vendor in the developing computer industry with the release of the IBM 701 and other models in the IBM 700/7000 series of mainframes. The company's dominance in the industry grew in the 1960s and 1970s with the IBM System/360 and IBM System/370 mainframes. Antitrust actions by the United States Department of Justice, the rise of minicomputer companies, and the introduction of the microprocessor all contributed to reducing IBM's position in the industry. The company diversified into personal computers, software, and services.

On January 2009 during a deep national recession, city officials announced that Dubuque had been chosen from six locations for an IT service center. Among the attractions offered by the community were its sustainability efforts which were in keeping with IBM's commitment to environmental initiatives involving the creation of high-tech and energy-efficient jobs. The company chose the DUBUQUE BUILDING for its headquarters rather than construct another building. The city also benefited from its abundance of college students in computer science fields within a hundred-mile radius.

The hiring plans called for between 350-400 people to be hired during June of 2009. The first day of operation was scheduled for June 30, 2009. A second wave of hiring between 350-400 employees would occur in August 2009. The full work force of 1,300 employees would be in place by June 2010. The estimated payroll of the company would be $58.5 million. The potential financial impact on the city was likened to the arrival of the JOHN DEERE DUBUQUE WORKS.

In January 2015 IBM informed workers of a "permanent mass layoff event" of 202 employees at the Dubuque facility. It was estimated that this dropped IBM's employment in Dubuque to between 600 and 650 workers--about half of the jobs the company reached at its peak of 1,300 in the fall of 2011. (1)

In May 2015, IBM officials announced they were considering subleasing two of the five floors the company occupied in the Roshek Building. Since 2009 the company had leased the top five floors of the nine-story structure from Dubuque Initiatives. IBM had four years remaining on the latest five-year increment of its lease. (2) Iowa Senator Grassley wrote to the company asking for more information about the need for the layoffs in Dubuque which had also occurred recently in Missouri. Grassley suggested that US companies make efforts to fire foreign workers first while making lay-offs during the current economic downturn. (3)

In 2008 when IBM was considering locating in Dubuque, the city agreed to guarantee a $25 million loan to assist with the redevelopment of the Roshek Building. By 2017 repayment of that loan came faster than expected, and the city was released from its responsibility. IBM initially promised to hire 1,300 employees to work in Dubuque, a mark that the company hit in early 2011. In 2017 following some down-sizing, there were about five hundred employees locally with the company announcing plans to add in 2017. Since locating in Dubuque, IBM paid about $440 million in salary to its local employees. (4) Local companies benefited from the IBM induced renovation of the Roshek Building.

The history of IBM in Dubuque came to an end on July 1, 2020. Local employees were notified that the company would be closing its Dubuque Client Innovation Center by November. At the time, GREATER DUBUQUE DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION estimated that there were 340 local employees.

The choice of Dubuque in 2009 was aided a great deal by a $52 million incentive package from state and local government agencies including about $25 million supporting the renovation of the Roshek Building. IBM surpassed its requirement of creating 1,300 jobs in late 2011 before a steady decline. Initially the planned to occupy the upper five levels of the Roshek Building. This shrank to finally having a presence on only two. (5)

The 1957 Dubuque City Directory listed 489 W. 8th.

The 1962 through 1966 Dubuque City Directory listed 10B Fischer Building.

The 1968 Dubuque City Directory listed 1654 Central.

The 1972 through 1980 Dubuque City Directory listed 583 University.

The 1983 through 1993 Dubuque City Directory listed 3400 Asbury.




1. "IBM to Slash More than 200 Dubuque Jobs," Telegraph Herald, February 1, 2015, p. 13A

2. Montgomery, Jeff. "IBM Reducing Footprint," Telegraph Herald, May 9, 2015, p. 1

3. Huddleston, Tom Jr. "Why Iowa is Mad at IBM," Fortune, Online: http://fortune.com/2015/05/19/ibm-iowa-layoffs/

4. "IBM Looks to Grow in 2017, Still Adding Value to Dubuque," Online: http://kdth.radiodubuque.com/news/dubuque-tri-state-news/ February 7, 2017

5. Montgomery, Jeff, "IBM Leaving DBQ," Telegraph Herald, July 2, 2020, p. 1A