Thursday, May 17, 2012

On rural sourcing

The pendulum swings, and some (not all) jobs that once went overseas are now coming back to my home country of the United States.

But they're coming back to rural areas, thanks to the rural sourcing movement. GigaOM wrote about this over a year ago:

Managers thinking of establishing virtual teams may have visions of the best and brightest in New York, San Francisco and Shanghai dancing in their heads. The untapped workers of rural places and small cities like Kanab, Utah or Augusta, Ga. probably feature less often. Now the proponents of a still embryonic but expanding trend known as “rural sourcing” are trying to change that....

While salaries in Milford, Penn. may not be as low as those in Mumbai, India, some often-overlooked costs associated with outsourcing abroad — such as greater management oversight, cultural miscues and occasional long-distance travel — are lower with rural-sourcing. Plus, many workers enjoy living in these slower-paced places, while bringing employment to struggling towns is sure to generate good will.

Plus, the workers can see horses from their "office" windows.

It turns out that Becky McCray has co-authored an entire book on modern small town business, which was reviewed at Business Insider:

Small Town Rules notes that the recent economic changes have altered the ways small businesses must operate to survive. The result is a new small town paradigm for businesses of all sizes, with advantages and disadvantages altered in illuminating ways. For example, [Barry] Moltz and McCray note that geographic location, once advantageous because “Craftspeople wanted to be located near raw materials.…Merchants had to be on the trade routes”, is an eliminated factor....

“Turning the disadvantage of a rural location into an advantage of lower cost, rural sourcing captures jobs that otherwise might be outsourced overseas. Rural service firms claim a number of advantages over global firms: shorter supply chains, better data security, intellectual property protection, cultural compatibility, and convenient time zones.”

However, I'd add the warning that complete cultural compatibility cannot be assumed. There are portions of this country in which Californians are regarded by some as aliens from another planet. Anyone from Silicon Valley, El-Lay, or even California's Inland Empire should keep this in mind when venturing forth to small towns in the Carolinas. Of course, the people in the Carolinas must also remember that the avocado-eating, latte-sipping Yankees are people too.
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