BUFFALO, NY — Among a string of investments in untested companies, the $55 million grant to bring IBM to town seemed like one of the safest bets of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Buffalo Billion program.

IBM’s new Buffalo location was an obvious choice, too, when the state was looking for a company capable of handling a multi-million dollar contract to provide customer support for state agencies’ IT needs.

But, so far, IBM’s Buffalo office has been mired in dysfunction and disappointment.

Far from bringing “cutting-edge software development jobs” to Buffalo, as the governor promised, most of the employees here work call center jobs as contractors, for modest pay and meager benefits.

It’s not just that the project isn’t living up to its billing as a high-tech hub; its performance as a call center has been dismal, too.

State employees calling the help desk – to reset a password, or restore access to an account – might wait on hold for more than half an hour, only to find the person on the other end of the line doesn’t have the right tools or training to help. Last summer, the service was so bad that managers feared the contract would be cancelled altogether.

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