Missouri company brings jobs to rural America

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MACON - Macon, Missouri may not be the place someone first thinks about when they hear the term information technology.

Shane Mays is trying to change that with his company, Onshore Outsourcing. It was a twelve-employee company when it was founded in 2005, and has grown to more than 250 employees.

"What we've seen here is an opportunity to say 'hey wait a minute,'" Mays said. "There is a low-cost, hardworking, aggressive, motivated workforce right here in rural America." 

Job growth has not been robust in rural areas of the country. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job growth rate for rural areas is about half the rate in metropolitan areas.

The U.S. is losing many jobs to other countries. According to the Congressional Research service, 37 percent of jobs in U.S. multinational companies were worked overseas in 2010, a 13 percent increase from 2000.

But Onshore Outsourcing is proving to be competitive with overseas companies. It has landed contracts with Boeing, MasterCard, Panera and Schneider Trucking. Most of the employees either do code programming or call-center work for those companies and others.

Mays said his company cannot offer prices quite as low as international competitors, but he thinks U.S. companies choose Onshore because its workers are more familiar with U.S. society, speak more fluent English and are able to build a rapport with customers.

Onshore usually hires local employees and trains them in IT, instead of hiring people who already have degrees. Mays said it has a definite economic benefit because such workers don't demand as high of a salary.

However, Mays said the real point of the practice is to build up the community. Onshore takes people working in jobs such as bartending or fast food service and even those who are unemployed and gives them a potential career in IT.

"That's one of the reasons that we're here in rural areas where there's a lot of economic hardship and everything," Mays said. "We've chosen to go the hard way and go right into these communities."

Halston Smith, a former bartender who now works as a code programmer for Onshore, is an example of what the Mays said he wants to accomplish. Smith is a single father of two, and said he can now support his family and go to school at the same time. Onshore pays for college courses for all employees that maintain a B average. It also provides daycare for their children when they go to class.

"I'm going to school for the bachelors in computer science," Smith said. "They're paying for it, which is really nice. It's helped me and my family a lot."

Onshore has been steadily expanding since 2005. It now has an office in Glennville, Georigia, and it just joined an incubator program with the University of Missouri-St. Louis. The company just purchased a new building from Macon County. Mays said Onshore should be able to hire 100 more workers within the next two years because of the extra space.