Infosys to open new RI office with 500 jobs

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Software giant Infosys plans to open a new office in Rhode Island that is expected to bring 500 jobs to the state by 2022, Gov. Gina Raimondo announced Monday.

The Providence office, dubbed a Design and Innovation Hub, “will enhance our ability to provide design-driven, digital technologies across the country and enable breakthrough innovations at the intersection of industry and design for our clients,” Infosys President Ravi Kumar said.

He also said Rhode Island’s “educational institutions, design-rich environment, and economic development tools positioned Rhode Island competitively for this type of specialized partnership.”

Kumar said hiring for the new jobs will begin immediately, and the location of the new office will be determined “shortly.” The company already employs roughly 300 to 400 people in Rhode Island, most of whom work with Citizens Bank, and the new jobs will be in addition to those, he said.

“I am absolutely sure this is going to be just a starting point,” Kumar added.

Raimondo, Kumar and other officials made the announcement during a news conference at the Providence Public Library. State leaders cast the move as part of a wave of good economic news for Rhode Island, following Virgin Pulse’s recent decision to make Providence its global headquarters.

“I think word is getting around that Rhode Island is open for business, and these are the exact companies that we’re looking to locate here and the exact jobs we’re looking to bring to Rhode Island,” Senate President Dominick Ruggerio said. He said he was pleased CCRI graduates will be targeted for some of the Infosys jobs.

Infosys will be eligible for state incentives in exchange for its job commitment. Commerce Secretary Stefan Pryor estimated the incentives will total about $10 million through three programs – Qualified Jobs Incentive Tax Credits, Rebuild Rhode Island, and the First Wave Closing Fund – but said the transaction will still be revenue-positive for the state.

Infosys is one of India’s biggest tech firms and a major name in technology, but it has come under criticism for its role in outsourcing and its use of immigration visas. Reportedly under pressure from the Trump administration, the company in May announced plans to hire 10,000 Americans over the next two years. R.I. Republican Party Chairman Brandon Bell argued state leaders should praise the president for putting pressure on the company.

“Without the Trump administration’s efforts, Infosys would not be bringing jobs to Rhode Island,” Bell said in a statement. “Raimondo likes to blame President Trump for Rhode Island’s failures under her leadership. Maybe Raimondo can give at least some credit to President Trump for these new Rhode Island jobs.”

But Kumar insisted to reporters that Trump’s influence was not a crucial factor, saying the company has been experimenting with an increased U.S. presence to better partner with clients. “For the last two years we’ve been working on scaling this program,” he said.

As part of the effort, Infosys announced last spring it would establish four new Technology and Innovation Hubs in cities across the country. The first two have been set up in Indiana and North Carolina, each targeted at 2,000 jobs. Local news outlets have reported those states approved $31 million and $25 million, respectively, in incentives for Infosys.

Infosys said the new hires in Rhode Island will focus on figuring out the future of “the digital experience.” They “will include experienced designers, design architects, specialists in information design and technical experts to accelerate the digital transformation of Infosys’ clients,” as well as an effort “to nurture specialist design talent at scale.”

“We want to take Rhode Island to the world, by making this a hub for experience, a hub for digital experience, which will be a pivot for transformation for all large corporations,” Kumar said, adding that he was also willing to serve as an ambassador for the state to other companies.

“These are jobs at every level,” Raimondo said. “They hire folks with a college degree, and folks without a college degree. Folks with a credential, folks with a Ph.D. in engineering, and they’re planning to train – that’s what Infosys is known for, training people.”

As for how Rhode Island landed Infosys, Kumar said it began when he received a LinkedIn message from Lynn Rakowsky, vice-president of business development at the Commerce Corporation. He said he and other company officials were in talks with Rhode Island leaders for a few months, and Raimondo helped seal the deal when she had dinner in New York with two of his board members recently.

Kumar also had high praise for CCRI, saying he had met with 20 governors and believes Rhode Island has one of the strongest community colleges in the country, which was part of what attracted Infosys to the state. Raimondo also said RISD, which she called “the best design school in the world,” was an important draw.

Former State Rep. Joe Trillo, a potential Republican gubernatorial candidate, dismissed the Infosys announcement.

“Unlike what is happening on the national level under President Trump and his efforts to cut business-killing regulations and taxes to create jobs, Rhode Island chooses ‘business as usual,’ through special deals and corporate welfare programs at the taxpayer’s expense,” Trillo said in a statement. “Why not improve the overall business climate in order to allow real job growth?”

Ted Nesi (tnesi@wpri.com) covers politics and the economy for WPRI.com. He writes Nesi’s Notes on Saturdays and hosts Executive Suite. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook