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SPOTLIGHT
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Global info tech company to work with Wichita State

Published on -7/16/2014, 9:39 AM

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By Roy Wenzl

The Wichita Eagle

(MCT) A global information technology company, Tech Mahindra, is forming a partnership with Wichita State University that university leaders say could create new jobs -- and better ways of avoiding big aerospace manufacturing layoffs.

The agreement with the company is unusual, and by no means simple, said John Tomblin, the director of the National Institute for Aviation Research at WSU. The agreement was scheduled to be announced early Wednesday.

Tech Mahindra, among many other things it does, employs engineers, and provides engineering services to aerospace companies. It is proposing to grow that business here, using WSU labs, services, researchers, and students.

"The simplest thing would be if we were announcing that we'd attracted a new company and were moving 200 new high end jobs here," Tomblin said.

"But there's none of that -- nothing like that right now.

"What we're announcing instead is that there's an engineering services company from India that wants a bigger presence in the U.S. They chose us. And now we're going to collaborate to grow hundreds of new engineering jobs here."

WSU hopes to create hundreds of new local jobs with the partnership, he said.

Tech Mahindra is the information technology division of the much larger Mahindra group, which was founded in India just after World War II. The larger group, company officials say, now makes more tractors than John Deere. Among other things, the group makes military equipment, owns vacation resorts, and owns a chain of maternity clothing stores. Tech Mahindra, the smaller division now working with WSU, employs 89,000 people in 51 countries, and serves 629 corporate customers, according to company documents.

Under the WSU agreement, the company will collaborate with WSU and NIAR to collaborate on projects, and train new engineers for aerospace and the automotive industries, among other things.

The company will help WSU train engineers, who will then live here and work for Tech Mahindra doing projects for local companies, including in composite materials manufacturing, advanced materials, aircraft certification, and structural testing, WSU officials said.

Tech Mahindra is not an Indian company coming to Wichita "to take away American jobs," Tomblin said. "They plan to do the opposite," he said.

Globalization, starting about 15 years ago, created heartbreak along with great economic promise, Tomblin said. Aviation companies, including those in Wichita, found themselves shedding engineers and hiring contract engineers to do projects when they had planes to design. When Boeing, or Bombardier finished a project, many of those contract engineers went back to unemployment, sometimes hundreds at a time, Tomblin said.

What WSU now proposes to create with Tech Mahindra, Tomblin said, "will be a new way of doing things that will smooth out the highs and lows."

Tech Mahindra will do projects for all the local aerospace companies, including both manufacturers and the suppliers, when there is work to be done. When a project at one company is finished, the Tech Mahindra's engineers will go to work on other projects for other companies, either here in Wichita or elsewhere in the country.

It is a new way of doing things devised by companies all over the world that had to come to terms with the challenges of globalization, Tomblin said.

The strategy, Tomblin said, will create economic stability for the area and stability for the workers involved.

The collaboration with WSU will ensure that Tech Mahindra has a local pool of trained aerospace, information technology and automotive engineers available to work for Tech Mahindra's global network of clients, according to a prepared statement from the company.

And the agreement with WSU also will create a partnership to do research and development and create technical innovation, possibly as part of WSU's new "Innovation Campus" the Tech Mahindra statement said.

"They are going to use us to do more work in aerospace, and among other things, I'm going to use them to expand what we do here," said John Tomblin, NIAR's director.

WSU will now expand what it does in research and teaching in the automotive industry.

The goal for this and other partnerships WSU is forging will be to create jobs locally, and to teach students, in part by having them work side by side with aerospace and Tech Mahindra employees on research and manufacturing projects, Tomblin said.

In the company's prepared statement, Krishna Balasubramaniam, a Tech Mahindra official, said the company is eager "to leverage local talent pool by working with WSU's National Institute for Aviation Research as it takes a leadership role in supporting the global aviation industry."

(c)2014 The Wichita Eagle

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