Davenport Stefanini workers brace as Deere drops contract

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DAVENPORT, Iowa -The Quad Cities will be losing dozens of local jobs in coming weeks as Deere & Company cuts ties with a long-time provider. On Wednesday, Sept. 21, workers at Davenport's Stefanini office brace for an upcoming ending.

"Anytime you have a job loss, there's emotion attached to it," said Mark Holloway, a business service representative at Iowa Works.

Deere & Company is cutting short its contract for information technology support. Job losses are expected by the end of the year, but more openings could appear elsewhere.

"There are a lot of companies needing IT specialists," Holloway continued.

The Brazil-based IT provider says it's currently negotiating a transition strategy and timeline with Deere. Since finding out earlier this week, Davenport workers are contacting Iowa Works and trying to deal with uncertainty.

"We believe that people with IT skills should be encouraged that there are probably some opportunities out there for them," Holloway said.

Deere doesn't comment on supplier relationships, but the down agriculture economy is responsible for some 2,000 layoffs in Illinois and Iowa.

The company also warned of sales drops and cost-cutting during its annual meeting.

"What the company is able to do can't control what's out in the environment," said former Deere CEO Robert Lane after a meeting in February 2016. "But it can respond well."

While Stefanini contract workers handle assignments for Deere, they typically receive less pay, benefits and job security than Deere staffers.

At Scott Community College, Stefanini became a go-to place for students to get work experience and a foot-in-the-door.

"They only say good things about Stefanini," said Lori Walljasper, who chaired EICC's Information Technology Department for 29 years.

Several students and teachers got jobs at Stefanini over the years.  Some moved on to become employees at Deere.

"They see that as a really good opportunity," she continued.  "They get to work in all different kinds of areas."

Over its 17-year relationship with Deere, Stefanini grew from one help desk to global support in nearly a dozen countries. The company says it brought innovation and high-performance service to the Ag-giant.

"The students have gotten a real good footing in the IT industry," Walljasper concluded.  "I think they'll be successful if they continue at Stefanini or go someplace else."

They're bracing now for that new beginning.