IBM Brooklyn plantA bridge to opportunities: The IBM Brooklyn plant
Brooklyn, N.Y., has been renowned for its churches, Coney Island beach and boardwalk, loveable baseball bums ( the Dodgers), historic Navy yard and world-famous suspension bridge.
In IBM, Brooklyn has also been known for a pioneering company effort to create and provide manufacturing jobs in an economically depressed inner-city community of nearly half a million people (nearly the size of Minneapolis), most of whom were minorities.
On April 17, 1968, IBM announced that it would open a manufacturing facility in a leased building at Gates and Nostrand Avenues in the borough's Bedford-Stuyvesant area. IBM Chairman Thomas J. Watson, Jr., said at the time:
Establishing a new manufacturing activity is always a milestone for our company. This is all the more meaningful in the case of Bedford-Stuyvesant, where the requirement for new job opportunities is so acute. We will do our best to be responsive to the needs of the area and look forward to being part of the community.
Watson had decided that IBM needed to go beyond the government aid programs of the 1960s that had made possible corporate sponsorship of such projects as Job Corps Centers. He selected "Bed-Sty" because it had not received much attention from private business and because, two years earlier, the late Senator Robert F. Kennedy had asked Watson to serve on the Board of Directors of the newly-formed Bedford-Stuyvesant Development and Service Corporation -- a combined public/private effort to rehabilitate the area.
The new plant -- staffed initially by about 17 people beginning in July 1968 and by more than 300 a year later -- began business by manufacturing computer cables for use in IBM's entire standard computer line. Ernest K. Friedli, a 21-year IBM veteran, was named as the plant's first general manager.
Brooklyn plant management team in
May 1968 Ernest K. Friedli (seated), general manager of IBM's Brooklyn, N.Y., plant, with members of the facility's management team in May 1968. Shown from left are Henry Jackson, manager of personnel; John W. Lawson, production control manager; Edgar A. Fitt, information manager; Alfred J. Iannone, manager, plans and operations; Matthew Whithead, II, legal counsel; Eugene E. Douglas, manager of manufacturing operations; Dean M. Kintner, staff assistant; and Eric J. Flood, controller.
Cable production was started on July 8, 1968 in a small area on the second floor. Brooklyn's first shipment of external cables went to IBM's huge Poughkeepsie plant, in upstate New York. Four months later, the Brooklyn site took on a second product mission: the manufacture of power supplies for the IBM 029 card punch and the IBM 059 card verifier. Power supply units provided the exact amounts of electrical power necessary to operate these machines, and Brooklyn began shipping its first completed power supply units to IBM's Kingston, N.Y., factory in January 1969.
In foreground, John R. Opel, IBM president and chief executive officer, with Henry Bing, Jr., left, general manager, and Herbert Bruce, right, sub-products manager, first shift, in 1981.
In 1993, the Brooklyn plant became an independent, minority-owned business when IBM transferred its ownership to Advanced Technological Solutions Inc., a new business consisting mainly of former managers and employees of the facility. ATSI continued to perform the same services for IBM as before, along with additional work for non-IBM customers.