The following are text extracts from the IBM "Tucson Dedication 1980" booklet.
In mid-1969, IBM exercised an option to buy more than 360 hectares (900 acres) at Interstate 10 and Rita Road, about 17.6 kilometers (11 miles) southeast of Tucson. An additional 200 hectares (500 acres) were purchased in 1974. The acreage was covered with an abundance of natural vegetation. The earth nourished growths of mesquite, palo verde and cacti of every size and shape. Accentuating the rugged beauty was a breathtaking backdrop formed by various mountain ranges that climbed from the valley floor to the broad blue skies of Southern Arizona.
During the eight years following acquisition by IBM, the land remained idle. The company had no specific plans for its development. But no such serenity enveloped the data processing industry. Customer demand for IBM systems and associated GPD [General Products Division] products began to stretch the production capacity of the San Jose site. Also during this time, there was increasing awareness within IBM of the need to move the GPD development laboratory from Boulder, Colorado, to another location. A new site serving as the home for both development and manufacturing operations seemed a logical step. The availability of land, the many strengths of the local community and the proximity of the city to GPD's West Coast headquarters made Tucson the best place to take that step.
Things happened with meteoric speed once GPD Tucson was announced. Leased office space was opened at 4400 E. Broadway, and the start-up organization was formed before the end of October 1977. Early the next month, IBM took an option on 14.8 hectares (37 acres) near Tucson International Airport for construction of a 36,000-square-meter (400,000-square-foot) temporary operating location. Ground was broken for the airport site -- as it was to be called -- on December 1, 1977.
Preparations for construction of the main site gained momentum. IBM purchased additional land to square off the site, pushing total acreage to 1,800. The company also took an extraordinary step to preserve the natural flora of the property. Prior to grading the land, the fragile cacti were carefully removed and transplanted in a "cactus bank," where they could continue to flourish undisturbed. They were later to be replanted on the site as permanent elements of the landscaping.
On March 21, 1978, IBM held official groundbreaking ceremonies attended by local elected officials, other community leaders and IBM executives. Construction of the first main site facility -- the magnetic media building -- was under way. Meanwhile, the enormous task of assembling a work force had been started. The effort brought together experienced IBMers from all over the country, as well as new employees hired locally. IBM had to make room for this vanguard. The company leased and renovated a former W.T. Grant store on Old Nogales Highway to serve as a development lab. Also leased was a vacant building at Grant Road and Dodge Boulevard, which was used as a temporary computer center and a staging area for newly arrived employees.