August 28, 2005

OUTSOURCING UPDATE:

The rural town of Sebeka, population 710, is not exactly Silicon Valley. It’s hardly the place computer programmer Dave La Reau expected to find employment.

La Reau, who had been job hunting for years, answered a help wanted ad from CrossUSA — one of a half dozen companies actively recruiting workers to small towns in at least eight states. . . .

The workers are part of a growing backlash against the thousands of white-collar jobs sent offshore to places such as India. High-speed computer lines now make it possible for farm country to compete with foreign countries.

Comment from Slashdot: ” I think the idea of moving to a larger house that costs less in a town with no traffic is a much better option than flying to Bangalore to train your replacement.”

Add to this the new ruralism created by boomers cashing out their urban/suburban homes (via NewsAlert) and you may have the beginnings of a rural renaissance. At least if someone can do something about the mountain lions. That’s been a problem before. And I can’t recommend David Baron’s book, The Beast in the Garden: The True Story of a Predator’s Deadly Return to Suburban America highly enough. And in light of the above, predator control might even turn out to have an important impact on rural economic development. Nobody’s going to want to settle in a place where they’re worried about kids being eaten.

UPDATE: Michael Totten was on top of the rural gentrification phenomenon months ago.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Frank Martin (better known as Varifrank) emails:

The phenomenon you are talking about is called “homesourcing”, the migration of workers from expensive centralized coastal cities to a distribution of small towns and cities throughout the US Homeland. Silicon valley companies have been going through this phenomenon for several years now, as a direct result of the effort to outsource work to India since 2000.

One thing that is not often discussed is how this movement of workers is a huge benefit to the employee. As a result of “Homesourcing”, Employees are often allowed to take their existing salaries and home equity to other parts of the country where they can have a far greater quality of life at no increase in cost to the company, this is the ultimate win-win for employer and employee. The employer gets a happy employee, and the employee gets a huge increase in real income by moving to a place where their money has more value at no cost to the employer except for the implementation of a VPN system.

The lesson to all small towns across America in regards to the internet is as clear as it was to small towns in the last century in regards to trains and highways, if you want people to come to your town, you need to have high speed internet. If you have it, you are part of the world, if not, your days are numbered.

The cable modem is the most liberating device to humanity since the automobile and its impact will be just as large. Once company management teams understand that they don’t have to be physically with their workers to determine their output, this phenomenon will grow.

One other benefit which is important is that there is no better gas saving device than the cable modem. Workers who are homesourced need very little gas on which to get to work, and as a result, their personal “cost of working” also goes down dramatically.

( full disclosure – I’ve been doing it for 5 years. On the cul-de-sac where I live, there’s only 2 out of 8 people actually drive to work, the rest of us work from our home offices for most of the day to day work. People ask us about how much gas costs and we just laugh.)

Yes, encouraging this sort of thing might well save more gas than an increase in CAFE standards.

UPDATE: Eric Scheie writes: “Not only are we going to reintroduce predators, but there’s a new movement: people belong in zoos.

Read the whole thing. A few people write that fear of predators is overstated. That’s probably true — but the scenario in the story linked above is eerily similar to the one in Baron’s book, where people were eaten shortly thereafter. The bottom line is that predators used to avoid people because the alternative was being shot. Now that they’re protected, their behavior is different.

MORE: More perspective here:

Craig Packer, a University of Minnesota biologist who conducted the Tanzanian research, said attacks in North America are rare now, but that wasn’t always the case. “Our ancestors dealt with this problem in the 1800′s,” killing off large carnivores en masse, he said. Today, “we just aren’t used to it,” he added.

In Tanzania, by contrast, because of all the attacks on people, lions outside of the national parks are barely tolerated any more.

“A lot of people, especially the more dewy-eyed conservationists, think predators are cute and cuddly,” Mr. Packer said. “They’re not.”

“They’re territorial animals, and can breed rather quickly,” he added. The ultimate goal of his study is to reduce lion attacks on people, which would have the benefit of reducing the number of retaliatory killings of the animals.

In North America, with mountain lions roaming subdivisions all over the West, and black bears scaring suburbanites in New Jersey, Mr. Packer said, “You’re going to see a lot more hard-nosed attitudes about what to do with these animals.”

Here, Mr. Packer said, “the problem will probably be solved by the property owner, with a gun.”

Indeed.