Wolfram cuts some jobs, hires in other areas

Wolfram cuts some jobs, hires in other areas

CHAMPAIGN — Wolfram Research has cut about 20 jobs in the last couple weeks and may cut more, even though it has been hiring in other areas, a company spokeswoman told The News-Gazette.

"It is true that we had to let a few people go recently, and we might have to let a few more people go as well," said Jean Buck, who handles corporate communications for the company.

The Champaign-based maker of Mathematica software made the cuts as part of modernization efforts, Buck said Friday.

"We started out 25 years ago as a packaged software company ... but the world is changing, and the model is now download (of software)," she said, noting that cloud-based computing has also become more popular.

"We're poising ourselves to be a major player in those kinds of areas, and we're adjusting our priorities, operations and business practices accordingly," she said.

"After 25 years, you have to make sure you change."

Wolfram Research has steadfastly expanded employment in Champaign, occupying all or parts of four floors at the Trade Centre South building near Kirby Avenue and Neil Street in Champaign.

It also has a warehouse at Green and Randolph streets in Champaign, but Buck says the company has "far less activity" there than it once did, due to changes in how software is distributed.

Buck said Wolfram Research employs 650 worldwide, with about 450 of them in the Champaign area.

"We are dedicated to keeping Champaign as our headquarters," she said.

The 2010 edition of the Champaign County Economic Development Corp.'s Advanced Technology Directory listed 416 employees at Wolfram Research and 130 at its Wolfram|Alpha affiliate.

Buck said Wolfram Research has added 38 jobs since July, but 48 people have departed since then — some voluntarily — for a net loss of 10.

She said it was "past time" for the company to restructure itself, and the 20 jobs cut so far were "across the board."

"Now that we've finally steeled ourselves to the effort, we're trying to deal with this as much as possible before the holiday comes," Buck said.

"This is really a painful thing for us," she added. "We think of ourselves as extended family. Seeing some of our co-workers go is painful."

Buck said Wolfram Research has eliminated jobs before, but "I don't think quite at this scale. There were a couple other times when we needed to tighten."

Wolfram Research is continuing to hire but being selective in its hires, she said.

Buck said revenues for the privately held company are up for the year, and increased in 2008, 2009 and 2010 despite the recession.

"We didn't have a big kind of downturn," she said. "But we'd like to think the upturn would be much higher if the economy were more robust."

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