Iowa: the Next Ireland

Tags: BPO

Deborah Kops

Might the title of this article be a news headline in the not-to-distant future? Can Boise, Bismarck or Biloxi beat Bangalore as the shared services location of choice as the dollar’s woes, political unrest, the rising cost of travel, protectionism and economic development efforts make U.S. onshore locations attractive to global companies looking to change their operating models?

Think about the rise of Ireland as a shared services Mecca. Cheap currency, economic slump, stable government, literate workforce, few employment opportunities for an educated workforce. Fast forward to USA 2008, and it’s the same song second verse, only on a scale 100 times that of early 1990s Ireland.

This month’s Mature Services e-Alert examines the potential for the U.S. to reverse its course to become a net importer of the business services jobs that have rapidly been moving offshore to other English speaking nations. But underlying the macro economic characteristics of global investment are a number of questions. Will a Yankee accent be acceptable to British telecoms customers? Will global banks decide turn their backs on Mumbai or Manila in favor of Michigan when faced with appreciating currencies and higher travel costs, rendering their original business cases invalid? Will "McObama" get off the campaign clatter and push policies that replicate the lessons the BRICs countries are taking to heart as they fuel their economies? Can state governments pass the training programs and incentive packages that are so very critical to attracting jobs? And most importantly, can they speak shared services – and outsourcing – to an increasingly sophisticated crop of corporate executives, providers and consultants?

Perhaps the Celtic Tiger will morph into the Michigan Marvel. Now, if only we spoke some German, or Spanish, or French…