Blue Hill Data brings tech jobs to Rockland that might otherwise end up in India

“Onshore” data storage and technical support gains in appeal to companies currently outsourcing

BY KATHY KAHN

Your business may be your baby, but like all children, the bigger they get, the more space they take up. Eventually, you’ve got to find a place for them to continue growing without building an addition to the house.

Municipalities around the country have turned over some of their “babies”—including billing— to Blue Hill Data in Pearl River, which in turn provides an array of services—from management information systems to disaster recovery for clients from coast to coast to creating billing and customer service for counties, cities and private clients—and does it without going to the other side of the world to do it.

“Off shoring data services was and continues to be a big business,” said John Lalli, former Chief Information Officer for CBS and now Managing Director of Blue Hill Data told County Executive Ed Day, Rockland Economic Development Director Calherbe Monel and Rockland Business Association vice president Roger Schreiber as the group toured the center’s facility at Two Blue Hill Plaza in Pearl River earlier this month.

Both buildings that make up Blue Hill Plaza were built by IBM and the New York Stock Exchange during the 1970s, with an eye towards eventually moving some or all of its operations to the 1.2 million square foot site. Those plans never came to fruition, and 22-story Building One is now 98 percent occupied by small and mid-sized businesses. The building occupied by Blue Hill Data was built as a data center but never used—Verizon is now the only other tenant occupying the building with the 100,000 square feet leased by Blue Hill Data—with more available when they need it—and Lalli is confident they will.

What brought Ed Day to Lalli was an interest in seeing how Lalli and his staff have built Blue Hill Data into a successful Tier 2 provider in just three short years since purchasing the formerly publicly held business and privatizing it. Lalli has doubled his staff from an original 35 to 70 to handle the growing clientele the company is now providing essential IT services for and would to grow more jobs as its client base continues to expand.

“Rockland is a great location for us because of its proximity to the metro market and then quality of the workforce here in the mid-Hudson,” said Lalli. The possibility of partnering with Rockland Community College in the STARTUP New York Program, which would bring mentors to the campus and bring graduates to Blue Hill Data, was shared with Day during the visit.

“Becoming part of STARTUP New York with RCC is something that is currently under discussion,” Lalli told Day. “It would have to be approved by the state but we here at Blue Hill Data and Dr. Cliff Wood and the staff at the college believe it would be a significant job creator for the county.” Clearly, Lalli was talking the language Day wants to hear—job creation, the centerpiece of his platform as he campaigned for the office of county executive.

Day also wanted to learn how outsourcing certain government services could possibly benefit Rockland, which faced considerable financial challenges under the previous administration. One example Lalli offered was the billing services that Blue Hill Data provides to the city of Baltimore, where 70 percent of its municipal income is derived from water companies and water districts.

“During the process of administering the billing and moving their mainframe operations into the data center, we also discovered 10 percent of its water customers had not been accounted for….that’s a significant source of revenue for the city and has helped them meet some of their financial obligations.” The city of Baltimore also likes the fact that Blue Hill Data is 100 percent “on shore,” added Lalli. “It was cheaper to outsource for many 10-15 years ago. That’s not the case today. It’s also more reassuring to our customers to have their data here on U.S. soil where they can access the center anytime. We also have the ability to have a face-to-face discussion with potential and current clients, something that is not easily arranged when they are halfway around the world.”

For Lalli and his staff, Superstorm Sandy, which wreaked havoc on the country for weeks as a result of the devastation on the East Coast, was an example of how available Blue Hill Data remains to its clients—“We never lost power and never used our back-up generators except to provide power to Building One here in our complex—our clients all over the country never went ‘down’—something we’re very proud of.” No doubt clients, including several Hearst newspapers, insurers and other Fortune 100 and Fortune 10 companies around the country who depend on Blue Hill Data to provide their technology needs are happy about, too.