IT center to begin operating in October
By Skip descant
Advocate business writer
July 30, 2012
Ameritas Technologies, a startup company, announced plans Tuesday to launch its first information technology and software development center in Baton Rouge, with a goal of employing 300 workers downtown in the Chase Tower South over the next three years.
“They could have gone anywhere, but they chose to come here,” Gov. Bobby Jindal said during a news conference in the Camelot Club on the top floor of the Chase Tower South, “proving that Baton Rouge and Louisiana can compete not only with any state, but any country for good-paying IT jobs.”
The company will begin hiring in September to be operating by October, Jindal added.
Brian Keane, Ameritas CEO, is the company’s sole investor, said Randi Tanguay, a spokeswoman for the company. Keane, 51, has a background in information technology and business-process outsourcing.
Keane is the former CEO of Keane Inc., a $1 billion business and IT outsourcing firm with more than 10,000 employees around the world, according to the company’s website. While there, Keane’s work was largely involved with setting up business process management offices overseas, particularly in India, according to Boston news reports in 2006.
After 19 years at the company founded by his father, Keane stepped down in 2006 amid questions regarding his “personal conduct,” according to a Wall Street Journal report at the time.
Soon after, Keane Inc. reached a $1.14 million settlement with a vice president of marketing and an undisclosed settlement with a former employee related to sexual harassment allegations concerning Brian Keane, The Boston Globe reported in 2006.
Keane, who lives in Boston, did not respond to a request for a follow-up interview.
“Mr. Keane’s decision to resign was driven by his deep commitment to the successful and uninterrupted operations of Keane, a 40-year-old business built by his family,” Tanguay wrote in an email. “The issue and settlement were fully resolved at that time.”
When asked if the Louisiana Department of Economic Development — which provided economic development incentives to Ameritas — was concerned about the company’s ability to maintain its commitment to the state and grow in Baton Rouge, Stephen Moret, secretary for LED said via email, “We’re not concerned.” Aides said Moret was boarding a plane and was unable to offer a more detailed explanation.
Ameritas plans to lease 15,000 square feet in the Chase building — which is one floor — and expand up to 300 workers over the next three years, said Tanguay. Ameritas will eventually require about 50,000 square feet of space in the Chase building, she added.
Average salaries for the IT jobs will be roughly $63,000 a year, plus benefits, the company said.
Ameritas’ overall mission is to provide information technology service to companies that have been outsourcing this work to other countries. Repeatedly, Jindal, Keane and Baton Rouge Mayor-President Kip Holden boasted of the chance to bring Louisiana workers back to the state — this time for decent-paying technology jobs.
“Today, together, we have the opportunity to show the nation that we can in fact create jobs, revitalize our cities and replicate that model across different cities throughout the United States,” Keane said in remarks at the news conference. “Our goal is to bring IT jobs back to the United States.”
The company said its strategy includes creating local software development centers in affordable U.S. metro areas as an alternative to sending information technology work offshore.
After Keane left Keane Inc., he served as CEO of the private-equity-backed Wakefield company Dextrys, focused on outsourcing software applications and services to China. Keane was at Dextrys until 2011. He still serves on Dextrys’ board of directors.
Baton Rouge will serve as Ameritas’s first location. Even though the company is incorporated in Delaware, Keane said he would like to see Baton Rouge serve as headquarters.
Ameritas will create “industrial strength software applications that typically are mission critical for a company’s success,” Keane explained, adding the company will serve clients such as banks, insurance companies, health-care providers, retailers and more.
Ameritas said it will partner with state government and local colleges and technical schools to recruit, employ and train skilled IT workers in Louisiana.
“We’re going to be bringing in anything from entry-level software developers probably just out of college,” Keane said. “They may be computer science graduates. Or they may be more of a liberal arts graduate who has some IT training. We do find that liberal arts students can be very effective as software creators.”
To secure the project, Louisiana’s economic development department offered Ameritas a performance-based grant of $125,000 per year for 10 years to offset leasing costs. Ameritas also will receive assistance from LED FastStart — the state’s workforce development program — and the company is expected to utilize Louisiana’s Quality Jobs and Digital Interactive Media and Software Development incentives.
“Ameritas is exactly the kind of company we welcome to Baton Rouge,” said Holden, “because the high-tech services it provides means local jobs in an industry sector we have targeted for growth.”
“It is an enormous testament to the Baton Rouge area that Ameritas has chosen to locate their firm here,” Adam Knapp, president and CEO of the Baton Rouge Area Chamber in a statement. “Their move will further the momentum of the digital media and software development sector in the Capital Region.”