Tech company believes rural communities can compete for outsourced jobs –
Story and photos by Patricia Beech –
Could high-tech jobs currently outsourced to India be successfully transplanted to rural areas like Adams County?
Two men think it’s not only possible, but probable – and the bottom line – highly profitable.
C.L. “Skip” Wagner and Zane Mingee, both Manchester natives, have entered an agreement with a Cincinnati-based computer-server company to train local residents to do high-tech jobs currently being done by workers in other countries.
“Jobs coming to Adams County is amazing news,” says Wagner in an exclusive interview with The Defender. “And, the fact that they’re pretty advanced, high-tech jobs takes it to a whole other level.”
Wagner, a computer whiz kid and high school drop out who by the age of 17 was traveling the world working as an Integration Engineer for a computer service company, now holds the position of Business Development Manager in Mingee’s company, Artectis.
Over 80% of Artectis clients are big data analytics companies who collect data and use it for market research that allows them to target online advertisements that will generate more traffic to their business websites. The data gathered by these companies is stored on servers which are maintained and supported by Artectis.
“One of our long-time clients was paying a company in another country for server maintenance, and the support they were getting was really horrible even though they were paying them quite a lot of money,” said Wagner. “So I pitched a radical idea to them – let Artectis find and train local people who can take over as your support team.”
Wagner admits the company was skeptical about their ability to produce a competitive workforce.
“I explained we were both from a place where the average annual income per household in the 2010 census was $16,750,” he said. “After a lot of prodding from myself and Zane, they finally agreed that if we trained the people and matched the price they were currently paying, they’d let us have the work.”
Wagner says that many Americans buy into the myth that people in other countries work for pennies on the hour. “That isn’t the reality,” he says. “I can hire a programmer in India for $15 an hour, but I’d rather hire someone here in Adams County, especially with the closing of the power plants and the loss of millions in tax-based revenue – we need to explore every avenue and ask ourselves what we have to offer that no one else does – a work force that’s eager to work.”
After conducting over 150 interviews, Mingee and Wagner chose nine local people for the training program.
“We’ve got a class full of folks who, honestly at the start of training knew very little about what this industry is about, or how to do any of the work they are now doing on a daily basis,” says Wagner. “They’re figuring out problems on their own in very complex systems that two weeks ago they had no concept of.”
According to Wagner, the trainees are learning how networks function, how to repair servers, how to modify and migrate data between servers, how to monitor servers and spot problems, and how to configure new servers for new clients.
“I wasn’t at all familiar with Linux systems, and they took a chance on me,” says trainee Shawna Ballingee. “Doing this training from the base up has demonstrated that these are learnable skills that don’t require a strong base knowledge,”
“I see a great future for these technology-based jobs in this area,” said Ray Littleton who was chosen to participate in the training program. A former FedEx employee, Littleton say he spent three hours a day commuting to and from work. “Normally, to get this type of job you’d have to drive for a couple of hours, I think it’s great they’re bringing this work here.”
“People do not put much faith in folks from Appalachia, but people here are some of the most hard-working and honest people in the world,” says Wagner. “They’ve just never been able to get a fair shake at things and many opportunities have simply never been here. We want to change that and we believe with the scale of the economies in areas like Adams County, many, many more corporations will move to models like this.
“We’re leading the charge and we’ve managed to figure out a way to make this work on all levels – the talent, the training, the pure business of it all, and the dollars and cents.”