September 2, 2013

The Aug. 27 front-page article “Company town’s decline reflects new mantra: Shareholders first” painted a one-sided portrait.

Shareholder and community interests are not mutually exclusive. Had IBM not evolved from being a manufacturer of typewriters and PCs into an innovative software and services company, it would have faded away like many companies that failed to change. Today, the company is a leader in data analytics, cloud computing, mobile technologies and social media.

It’s true that IBM’s manufacturing facility in Endicott, N.Y., has changed. But IBM has collaborated with New York state and other businesses, investing over $10 billion in a nanotech center in the state. The economic activity of that initiative far exceeds that of the former plant in Endicott. Nanotech is the future, and IBM and New York’s economy are the beneficiaries. IBM also invests $6 billion a year in research, much of which directly benefits communities. It develops innovative technologies such as Watson, the computer that won the TV quiz show “Jeopardy!” and is now being used by cancer research centers to improve treatment.

IBM has also worked to create P-Tech, a new model for high school and college education that has been highlighted by President Obama, to offer a path to career success in inner-city neighborhoods. A large amount of IBM’s $40 billion supply chain is spent on U.S. small businesses, especially those owned by women and minorities. These are some of the reasons IBM ranked No. 1 on the Civic 50, which measures a company’s track record in corporate social responsibility.

To stay in business for more than 100 years, a company must evolve. At the same time, it must stand by a set of core beliefs and heed its responsibilities to clients, employees and society.

Stanley Litow, Armonk, N.Y.

The writer is IBM’s vice president for corporate citizenship and corporate affairs.

What IBM doesn’t appear to realize is that when workers lose their jobs and their ability to make purchases, this affects many major retailers who, interestingly enough, are major IBM customers. Consequently, these companies’ ability to procure IBM’s services and hardware is seriously harmed.

Focusing endlessly on increasing stock value, revenue and executive compensation comes at a cost that we all have to pay. Part of IBM’s present difficulties result from not following the basic principles of legendary former IBM chief executive Thomas J. Watson Jr.

Barry Gordon, Rockville

I have worked in manufacturing all my life, and I have lived the changes described in the Aug. 27 front-page article on IBM. The only way to return some of the focus of corporations to the well-being of society and workers would be to change the incentives corporate leaders face. But I don’t think the government has the willpower, or the desire, to bring about these changes. I see dark times ahead for us workers and society, especially as legislation weakening the right to collective bargaining advances in so much of the country.

Raymond Mercier, Concord, N.H.