Disaster management firm moves to NC with 430 jobs

AP News
Posted: Dec 14, 2009 4:58 PM

A Louisiana-based disaster management consultant said Monday it's moving its headquarters to North Carolina in a move expected to bring 430 jobs to the state in the next six years.

Innovative Emergency Management Inc. will move its headquarters from Baton Rouge, La., to Research Triangle Park. In return, the company was promised state tax breaks of up to $9 million if it meets job and investment targets. Local governments are also expected to sweeten the deal for IEM.

Ted Lemcke, IEM's vice president for technology, said it wasn't so much the incentives that clinched the decision to move; Louisiana Economic Development Secretary Stephen Moret said state and local officials offered a "considerably larger" package. Lemcke said it was more a matter of location, being nearer clients such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and being part of an "innovation culture" that could aid IEM with its recruiting of technology workers.

The company will establish 430 jobs in North Carolina paying an average wage of nearly $63,000 a year, Gov. Beverly Perdue's office said. It wasn't clear how many of those jobs would be filled by current employees who transfer from other offices, IEM founder and Chief Executive Madhu Beriwal said.

The company has 350 employees, with about 150 at its Baton Rouge headquarters, she said.

Lemcke said about 50 Baton Rouge jobs, in support staff roles, would move and other workers would have the option to relocate. He said it wasn't yet clear how many might do so; Beriwal said relocation packages have been offered and IEM would hire locally to fill its remaining needs.

Lemcke said the company plans to keep its Baton Rouge office open, with the potential, through new contracts, for growth there.

The new headquarters site will be fully operational by September, Beriwal said.

Moret called IEM's move "an exception to a trend" that's seen other companies relocate to Louisiana or make big job announcements over the last 1 1/2 years. But he said it's still a disappointment and state officials are "actively addressing" long-standing issues IEM cited in its decision, including work force development, innovation and flight service options.

IEM, a 24-year-old private company, specializes in measuring and managing threats to people, infrastructure and information. Its clients include local, federal and foreign government agencies.

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The chairman of the U.S. House Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee, U.S. Rep. David Price, D-N.C., attended the event announcing the move on Monday.

"We do a lot of government work, but we also do a lot of work for private industry," Beriwal said.

The company has prepared emergency evacuation plans for nuclear power plants, and evaluated the threat to neighbors from chemical plants, Beriwal said.

IEM was hired by the federal Emergency Management Agency to conduct a simulation in 2004 to test what was likely to happen if a Category 3 hurricane hit New Orleans. It found that flood waters would surge over levees, creating "a catastrophic mass casualty/mass evacuation" and leaving the city flooded for weeks or months.

Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast as a Category 3 storm in August 2005, resulting in one of the worst natural disasters in U.S. history.