Fort Wayne is no Silicon Valley, but that doesn’t mean it’s not ripe for innovation and opportunity. Benefits like a strong work ethic, affordability, high quality of life, and simplified logistics are just a few of the reasons more companies are shifting their collective focus from the coasts to investing in talent in the Midwest heartland.
Rural Sourcing Inc. (RSI) is among those firms who are betting on the Midwest. As a national IT outsourcing provider, its business model is rooted in leveraging untapped, highly skilled IT resources in mid-size metro cities to provide world-class solutions for Fortune 1000 clients across various industries.
To meet these needs, RSI recently opened its sixth software development center in Fort Wayne projected to employ 130 people in tech jobs during the next 2-3 years.
As the company is in growth mode, building its Fort Wayne workforce, it's already attracting high-profile talent.
Earlier this month, RSI's Fort Wayne team hired Bill Rose
as its Development Center Director. A respected leader in the IT community, Rose has worked more than 20 years for big name brands like Coca Cola. Most recently, he was Head of IT and interim CIO for MGM Resorts International.
Rose says he chose to make the career move to the Fort Wayne due to the city's rich source of talent and ever-improving quality of life.
So what does the future hold for Fort Wayne's tech sector? Input Fort Wayne sat down with Rose to learn more about his new position, his vision for the local office, and how it might impact the region's evolving workforce.
RSI plans to hire additional team members for its Fort Wayne office.
IFW: Congratulations on your new position at Rural Sourcing Inc. As someone who has a long history in the IT industry, what made you want to work for RSI, of all companies?
I have known about RSI since 2009. I've known the CEO since my Coca Cola days. The very first day that he spoke to me about RSI, its principles, and what it wants to bring to the communities it serves, I fell in love with it.
I've been going through a career cycle and have spent time with some great companies. For example. I worked for 22 years in the Coca Cola system, certainly one of the most recognizable trademarks in the world. But I've always kept an eye on RSI and where it was going.
The opportunity here in Fort Wayne opened up last December, and we started to talk about it more seriously. I fell in love with the company all over again and knew it was time to make the leap. My wife and I felt like it was the right thing to do for this point in our lives. We wanted to come back to a smaller city, to work to give something back to that city and its people and be part of a dynamic and growing community where we can make a difference.
IFW: That's great to hear. Tell us more about RSI's values, and how your past has prepared you for this role.
My time at Coca Cola taught me to embrace some things that are directly applicable to what RSI believes, such as the importance of our colleagues. It’s the understanding that the long-term success of a business is entirely dependent on the quality of people you attract. Then it calls for taking care of those people and making sure they have a home and a career that they can look forward to.
Likewise, at RSI, giving back is in our DNA, part of who we are. It all goes back to three watchwords: colleague, client, and community.
Employees meet at Rural Sourcing's Albuquerque, NM, office.
IFW: So what might your new job as Development Center Director entail on a day-to-day basis?
I will be charged with keeping up the morale of the colleagues in this data center and ensuring that they are well prepared, well equipped, and well-motivated to serve the needs of our clients.
IFW: How have things been going so far in Fort Wayne? Has the experience met your expectations?
When I came here, I completely expected to find a population of very good people focused on community. I expected to find a population of technical people with good skills. I expected to find a community that, after a rough late 20th century and early 21st century, is trying to pull itself up and become a technological force in the 21st century. And I have found that all of that is true.
IFW: From the talent perspective, how is Fort Wayne's IT workforce?
We're finding the entry-level talent pipeline here in Fort Wayne to be really strong. We're extremely encouraged by that here. That's a result of the universities and colleges here providing a solid education. So we're looking to make good strong investments on that level, here.
Too, we're finding good talent here at the more senior level, and we believe that we can easily build the backbone of leadership here in Fort Wayne with what we can find. But of course, over time, we want to develop those more junior associates into those senior leaders so that they can sustain that for the company and community as well.
Downtown Fort Wayne is on the rise and Rural Sourcing Inc. wants to be part of the action.
IFW: Tell us more about RSI's plans to grow in Fort Wayne and how it might impact local culture.
At RSI, we follow the pattern of our other development centers in the country. We look for causes in the community. We take into account the style, personality, and culture of the colleagues we bring aboard in each development center.
Right now we have a team of 26 in the Fort Wayne center, and we have a trajectory to reach 130 people. We doubled our workforce from June to July and will add a roughly 15 percent more staff this month. I would expect that we're going to add between 15 and 20 percent each month for the next nine to 12 months.
As those colleagues come aboard, we'll find the things that are important to this population of people who live in Fort Wayne and will focus on those areas in our volunteering and philanthropy. We take into account the character, style, and personality of the colleagues we bring on.
IFW: What are some examples of projects RSI has taken on in its development centers?
In some of the other development centers, we have strong attention to STEM education. We have a strong attention to fighting hunger in some communities—and that’s a cause that’s particularly important to me. I find it unacceptable that any child would go hungry.
Overall, Rural Sourcing is very active in all our home communities. We support initiatives related to STEM, hunger eradication, community beautification, and other causes. The Fort Wayne Development Center is already forming relationships with organizations like The Indiana Search and Response Team. Our team members got to meet some of the dogs and give back to the community that way. So this is one way we cater to the character and style of the development center. We are actively searching for other good causes where we can help.
IFW: As you look to the future, what challenges and opportunities do you see in Fort Wayne's tech sector?
I would say that one challenge/opportunity is although there are pockets of technology companies here, what I don't see is a forum for those. There’s no formal venue for companies with presences here and their people to get together to share and bring the force of what that represents to the entire region. The universities here produce graduates with the skills we need, but a more centralized and more powerful, consolidated voice would be very valuable in attracting and retaining talent.
So one of the things that I would be interested in is forming a technological forum for companies to share ideas about how to bring those type of skilled jobs and work to this area. I think that northeast Indiana would benefit from having such a venue. I believe a broad tech community organization could boost the profile of the area and the very talented people we have here. If there is already an organization with this mission, I would love to become a part of it. If not, I would be more than happy to help kick it off.
Associates in Rural Sourcing's Albuquerque office collaborate.
Fort Wayne has many strong attributes to attract and support tech businesses and talent. We have multiple universities and colleges in the city itself, and we are within easy reach of several very large and prominent schools. The region has a strong heritage in engineering skills.
Fort Wayne produces an amazing array of activities outside work, and the "scene" here is tangible and real. Fort Wayne's downtown area, where RSI will have our permanent home, is very alive and vibrant and becoming more so quickly. The city and its hometown businesses are truly motivated and activated to see Fort Wayne grow.