People - January 2006

VP says incentives computed for state
By Kathy Brown

When Dell Inc. officially opened its computer-assembly plant in Winston-Salem in October, there was plenty of fanfare. The plant, which took nine months to build, was headline-worthy: It is the Round Rock, Texas-based computer maker’s largest U.S. factory, and North Carolina officials anted up $242 million in incentives to land it.

As vice president of North Carolina operations, Travis Simpson runs Dell’s show in Winston-Salem. But he’s running from the spotlight. Company policy, he says: It’s a no-no to answer personal questions. Instead, he redirects attention to the factory, which produces the company’s Optiplex brand desktop model, geared toward businesses, at a rate of one every five seconds.

But here’s what is known about Simpson — courtesy mostly of a company-blessed biography. Be-fore moving to the Triad, he ran a customer-service program for Dell’s business clients, who order about $6 billion of computers a year. He’s an electrical engineer by training and got his bachelor’s in 1981 from Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas.

He spent the next eight years logging information on oil and natural-gas wells in Texas for Houston-based Schlumberger Ltd., which develops and makes drilling and other products for the oil industry. Next he moved to GE Medical Systems, a division of Fairfield, Conn.-based General Electric, working in Texas and Wisconsin and concentrating on customer service. He eventually became chief operating officer of GE Clinical Services, the company’s health-care-engineering branch, in Brentwood, Tenn., before joining Dell in 2000.

In Winston-Salem, Simpson, 46, is in charge of a plant that has about 650 workers and is expected to have 1,500 within five years. At 750,000 square feet, it is twice the size of Dell’s other domestic factories.

The other thing Simpson will talk about is North Carolina and the support he says it has given to Dell, which is among the reasons it put the factory in Winston-Salem. “The incentives played a critical role and also the infrastructure. The deep history of manufacturing in this area and the work force that’s got the experience were very important parts, too. And finally, this facility gives us much closer proximity to our East Coast customers.”