IBM Facility Offers Blueprint for Urban Areas REBUILDING CITIES

Article excerpt

WALK along the crowded streets here in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn - a community marked by small shops and rows of brownstone houses - and the imposing modernistic glass and brick IBM plant on DeKalb Avenue catches an outside observer by surprise.

The Brooklyn IBM plant is a case study of how a US corporation can enter an impoverished inner-city community, establish a manufacturing facility, and not only earn a profit, but help to improve the local community.

"The IBM plant is a benchmark; it's {an industry} success story that could be duplicated in other inner cities or anywhere else in the United States," says Bryant Mason, a senior fellow at the Phelps-Stokes Fund, a nonprofit education reform foundation in Manhattan.

Mr. Mason, who worked for the Brooklyn IBM facility from 1985 to 1989, says that other corporations should follow IBM's example and establish manufacturing facilities in inner-city neighborhoods. Not to do so, he argues, is to continue to subject urban America to the hopelessness, poverty, and instability that helped fuel the recent riots in Los Angeles.

Bedford-Stuyvesant is a sprawling 650-block inner-city community of more than 400,000 people living in walkups, apartment houses, and brownstones; but one also finds vacant lots and abandoned buildings.

Once home to European immigrants, the community is now predominately African-American, with some Hispanics and Asian-Americans. There are also hundreds of thousands of new immigrants, many from the Caribbean.

Back in 1967, following the urban riots of the mid-1960s, New York Senators Robert Kennedy and Jacob Javits helped set up the Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation, a grass-roots agency designed to revitalize the neighborhood.

With the backing of the two senators, and the Restoration Corporation, IBM head Thomas Watson Jr. agreed to open a manufacturing site in Bedford-Stuyvesant.

The original facility - which was a leased warehouse - opened in October, 1968. Within three years, the plant was profitable. …