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Firm To Bring High-tech Jobs To Rural Texas

WILL WEISSERT

BELTON, Texas (AP) â¿¿ Gov. Rick Perry scooped up a shovel full of dirt Wednesday, helping to ceremonially break ground on a private firm's new $7 million information and technology facility that promises to create at least 350 jobs in a rural corner of Texas not usually known for high-tech opportunities.

CGI Group Inc. is building a 40,000-square-foot center providing technology services in Belton, about 60 miles north of Austin. It is receiving $1.8 million from the governor's Texas Enterprise Fund, which is designed to attract major business expansion and create jobs statewide.

George Schindler, president of CGI in the U.S., said the company looked at 30 communities across five states before settling on Belton. He said the area offers a skilled workforce trained at several nearby colleges and universities â¿¿ but one that won't demand the top salaries required by applicants in larger cities.

"We're getting access to talent that is untapped," Schindler said.

Before the official groundbreaking, Belton Mayor Jim Covington addressed Perry and a crowd of dignitaries under a tent in a field where the facility will be built. He likened bringing the firm to town to being in high school and asking out a pretty classmate with lots of suitors.

"CGI is the head cheerleader and we wanted to date her. We asked and she said, 'yeah, maybe,'" Covington said. "Today, we're getting married."

On a more serious note, Schindler said incentives from state and local government helped bring CGI to Belton.

Texas has long attracted large companies, including Apple Inc., to places like Austin, but Belton is the kind of locale that cutting-edge firms likely wouldn't have considered without support from the Texas Enterprise Fund, Perry said.

The governor said the state "has invested ample resources" in enticing prime job creators and academic researchers to Texas â¿¿ even if it meant luring them away from opportunities elsewhere.

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