To be clear, Microsoft Business Solutions isn't leaving Fargo, N.D., the base of the former Great Plains. But much of the brainpower is.

Or, we should say much of the executive team has been gradually shifting to the Microsoft headquarters in the Redmond, Wash., area. No key hires have been placed in Fargo lately.

When Microsoft lured Craig McCollum away from Sage as a VP of world-wide sales strategy for MBS, he moved to Washington. Orlando Ayala, the COO of MBS, is based there and so is CFO Craig Bruya.

MBS president Doug Burgum, who plans on changing roles this year, says his replacement will be in Washington, not in the plains. An internal public relations person hired last summer was not placed in North Dakota.

And so it goes. Out of 306 Microsoft job postings on Monster.com yesterday, only two were for positions in Fargo--a human resource manager and an operations channel manager.

It has taken five years for the trend to become very obvious--although it has been developing ever since long-time GPer Don Nelson moved from Fargo to Redmond three years ago as part of Ayala's Small and Midmarket Solutions & Partner Group, a channel organization that was made part of MBS.

Microsoft hasn't rushed to clean house, and for those who have speculated Burgum would leave, he has been with MBS for five years and his new job as chairman fits his talents--whether he sees it as long-term or not is not known.

There is a role left for Fargo. But that's probably as a regional center. It is ideal for support facilities, given its position in the middle of the nation's time zones. Facilities and personnel are less expensive than in many other places and there is a good supply of college grads who have the choice of moving hundreds of miles if they can't get good positions in the Fargo-Moorehead area.

There will continue to be an MBS presence in Fargo. But it just won't be the same.

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