Premier 100: Small towns, big IT talent

Tapping workers in rural areas could be cheaper than outsourcing, says RSI exec

PALM DESERT, Calif. -- What do Magnolia, Ark., Greenville, N.C., and Rockport, Mo., all have in common? According to Kathy Brittain White, a speaker at the Computerworld Premier 100 IT Leaders Conference here this week, these rural American towns have “an untapped workforce and an untapped potential.”

And for an industry in desperate need of identifying and grooming the next generation of IT talent, tapping that workforce right here in the U.S. could be a lower-cost alternative to offshore outsourcing, she says.

White is founder and president of Rural Sourcing Inc. (RSI), which develops IT services in rural areas for client companies, in part by partnering with regional universities.

White, formerly CIO at Baxter Healthcare Corp. and Cardinal Health Inc., launched RSI in 2003 in Jonesboro, Ark., home of her alma mater, Arkansas State University. She was spurred by the success of a virtual internship program she led while working in the IT field in Chicago.

One of the lessons learned from that program, White told Premier 100 attendees, is that despite the IT opportunities in metropolitan areas of the U.S., many of those in rural America would prefer not to move from their hometown regions. Instead of bringing people to the work, RSI brings the work to them, locating in lower-cost, nonurban regions of the U.S. and recruiting experienced IT workers to relocate or return to their roots. RSI also offers new college graduates employment without having to leave their home regions by collaborating with regional leadership and universities.

White, who said she is a proponent of the global economy, pointed to a predicted loss of jobs and revenue as IT work continues to move offshore. RSI, she said, delivers IT services at 30% to 50% cost savings to its client companies while supporting regional economic development.

RSI collaborates with Arkansas State University, Southern Arkansas University, the University of Arkansas-Monticello, East Carolina University and Northwest Missouri State University. Clients include Mattel Inc., Cardinal Health, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Science Applications International Corp. and Novell Inc.

For extended coverage and special features from this year's Computerworld Premier 100 IT Leaders Conference:

Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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