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Why outsourcing jobs overseas is on my company's agenda, too

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Date published: 10/8/2006

CHESTERFIELD, Mo.--Lou Dobbs is right. So is Dilbert: We have to do something about American jobs going overseas. And I realized it as I was inspecting my new data center in New Delhi.

With 2,500 employees, Insituform Technologies may not be the biggest company in America, but we clean water in 40 countries using dozens of currencies and 80 pieces of intellectual property. The demands on our information technology are intense. In addition to all the taxes and local regulations and currency fluctuations, we track equipment, materials, and labor from our 100 crews, measuring productivity and costs day-to-day around the world.

As demand for clean water grows throughout the globe, so has our business. Last year, the EPA reported 73,000 sewer leaks in the U.S. Lots more are not discovered or reported. The rest of the world is in even worse shape--which means our business is growing, as are the needs of our data management operations.

When we learned we needed a better system, our first choice was America. That didn't last long. We discovered that transferring our data operations to India would not just give us the same capability for less money, we would also upgrade our system's sophistication, reliability, redundancy, security, and scalability. So we replaced the nine employees in our Information Technology department with highly educated professionals a half a world away making $9 an hour.

It was not a popular choice, in or out of our company. From Dilbert to Dobbs, outsourcing is seen as proof positive that corporate greed is ruining the country, transforming America into a nation that does nothing but " take in the world's laundry."

To us it is not about profits, but survival: Either we slash costs and improve productivity, or our customers will find someone who will.

As I walked through our data center, I saw not only the future of America, but also our past. The people working for us were highly educated, highly motivated, and, for many, it was the best job any in their village ever had. They all have dreams of more responsibility, more skills, more money, and a fierce desire to do what it takes to get them.

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