Jonesboro: The new Mumbai | Arkansas Blog

Jonesboro: The new Mumbai

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Thanks to elwood for a link to a CNN article about companies finding a way to outsource cheap work to rural America, than Indian or Chinese sources. It's not altogether a bad thing to create some IT centers in places like Jonesboro, where Atlanta-based Rural Sourcing has a software team.

Human Genome Sciences now pays about $55 an hour for technical support from Rural Sourcing. That's about 15% higher than the rates quoted by the Indian outsourcing firm Evans considered, but half of what it would cost for him to hire a software development firm locally in the Washington, D.C., metro area.

... Launched in 2004, Rural Sourcing Inc. sets up shop in mid-size cities that are near universities — places like Jonesboro, where the average IT salary is $35,000, versus $65,000 in a large metro area. The cost of living in Jonesboro is also 23% less than the U.S. average.

Rural Sourcing now counts GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and R.J. Reynolds as clients, and its revenues are on track to triple this year to $4 million, says CEO Monty Hamilton. The company plans to expand beyond a single center in Jonesboro and open two new IT development centers, including one in Greenville, N.C., by the year's end.

"Companies are stumbling upon us, and it's growing gangbusters," Hamilton says. "There's no reason why we can't put a lot of people to work."

That includes people like Zachariah Carlson, 27, who expected he would have to move to California to get a job after he graduated last fall from Arkansas State University with a computer science degree. (Jonesboro's biggest employers are the university, retailers and hospitals.)

Carlson says he and his girlfriend were grateful he got a job locally customizing back-end software systems for corporate clients. He works out of Rural Sourcing's 60-person development center, not too far from Booneville, the 5,000-person town where he grew up. "This is where we are from. Our whole lives have been here," Carlson says.

But don't call Carlson "cheap labor." He bristles at the idea. After all, he says, he's doing what he wants, where he wants, and he's proud of his work, even if it doesn't come with a Silicon Valley salary.

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