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AppDev Firm Aims To Compete With Offshore Outsourcers

After years of watching U.S. business flow to offshore IT outsourcing companies, Mac Slingerlend, CEO of CIBER Inc., vowed to do something.

After years of watching U.S. business flow to offshore IT outsourcing companies, Mac Slingerlend, CEO of CIBER Inc., vowed to do something about it. The result is the first CIBERsite application development center that opened Thursday in Oklahoma City.

Slingerlend's strategy is to tap into underutilized IT talent pools in mid-sized American cities. The Oklahoma center is strong in several areas of IT expertise including Microsoft .Net, IBM Websphere and Java 2 Platform Enterprise Edition J2EE. And he wants to pay American IT workers less than the national average but more than their overseas counterparts.

"I decided I wasn't going to take this (offshore outsourcing) lying down," Slingerlend said in an interview. "I wanted to create a model to compete domestically."

CIBER says it has lined up a $30 million pipeline of prospective new contracts for the Oklahoma facility. Company officials plan to create 200 jobs there and 1,000 jobs around the country over the next 18 months as they open another four centers.

Slingerlend said next up on his wish list is Florida with its abundance of retired workers and residents with expertise in mainframe computing. His business plan focuses on areas away from the traditional IT talent centers like Boston and Silicon Valley.

"These midrange metropolitan markets often have large populations of military, retirees and students, many of whom have not only similar technical education as overseas IT workers, but they often have more experience," he stated.

Slingerlend expects the "made in America" application development centers to be successful. But, they'll be client-driven. "We're going to larger customers," he said. "We're not so militant as to tell customers what they're going to have to do. We want project work, not staffing."

Slingerlend says his business plan is based on traditional economics theory. He said: "British economist David Ricardo's 1800's theory of comparative advantage taught that work will be done where it can be done with the lowest relative cost, including speed, quantity and quality.

"Offshoring happened 20 years ago to the U.S. in manufacturing, and now " because of the Internet and satellites " the IT industry is 'next.'" Slingerlend added that the U.S. must be prepared to compete on a "tougher level" to keep IT jobs from being lost to overseas competitors.

One element of that model translate immediately into lower pay for domestic IT work. CIPER employees may be paid less than the national average, but they will still be paid more than their overseas counterparts, said CIBERsites president Tim Boehm.

The Oklahoma City center boasts a roster of specialists in many IT areas that are in great demand. In addition to .Net and J2EE, the center's employees have expertise in applications outsourcing and upgrades including Oracle applications and IBM's WebSphere, IMS and DB2 applications.

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