“It’s an exciting time to be in Fort Wayne,” Bill Rose will tell you in his smooth, Southern drawl.
In 2019, Rose moved to the Summit City from Las Vegas to manage Rural Sourcing Inc.’s new Fort Wayne Development Center. Just before the COVID-19 pandemic began, he led a team of about 30 techies in a sleek, 16,000-square-foot industrial office space undergoing renovation downtown.
Rose jokes that his colleagues used to know him for riding his hoverboard around the office. But today, almost a year later, more-employees-than-not know him as only a friendly face on a Zoom call.
That’s because, despite their COVID-19 remote environment, Rural Sourcing’s Fort Wayne Development Center has grown its staff by 144 percent during the pandemic—adding more high-paying tech jobs in the local market to keep up with skyrocketing demand for their services. As a nationally respected leader in the IT community, Bill Rose shares big ideas for the future of Fort Wayne's tech sector.
“This month, we’re at 69 colleagues in Fort Wayne, and in the next 12 months, if the curve holds, and we have no reason believe it won’t, we’ll be over 100 employees,” Rose says. “That means, we’ll top-out capacity-wise in our new office space downtown soon.”
What's more: Their new office, designed for 130 employees, isn’t even finished yet.
As companies across the U.S. scramble to digitize during the pandemic, more businesses are relying on outsourcers, like Rural Sourcing, to meet their software development needs. After all, Rural Sourcing is the leading onshore outsourcer in the U.S., Rose notes. And while the company’s explosive growth in challenging times gives them confidence in their business model overall, it also gives them hope for Fort Wayne, in particular, as an emerging hub for tech talent.
When Rural Sourcing was selecting the location of their sixth software development center in 2019, they chose Fort Wayne out of more than 50 potential cities due to its community, its people, and its culture, a press release says. As other companies wage the “war for talent” in the tech industry, Rural Sourcing feels they have discovered a sweet spot in Fort Wayne—a place Rose deems “downright cool” and still under-the-radar enough to avoid the shortcomings of other tech hubs.
So far, Rose says his team has had no trouble finding employees to fill jobs locally either. They’re also actively working with area schools and coding boot camps to boost talent development in the region. The company is currently hiring software developers and hopes to open its fully renovated and expanded Fort Wayne office in 2021.
So what does a top-tier tech company see in Fort Wayne, and how are they growing during this turbulent season?
We sat down with Rose to learn more about Rural Sourcing’s work, growth, and hopes for the future of Fort Wayne’s tech scene.
Employees meet at Rural Sourcing's Albuquerque, NM, office.
IFW: Tell us a little bit about Rural Sourcing.
BR: We’re the biggest onshore outsourcing software development company in the U.S. We’ve just passed a general milestone of 600 colleagues total. So we’re growing faster than other companies in the U.S. who do what we do, and we see offshore developers as our primary competitors.
IFW: What are some of the benefits of working with an onshore outsourcer, like yourself, as opposed to a company overseas?
BR: First, we’re never more than three time zones away. I’ve worked for big companies in the past where I was up until 3 a.m. working with offshore providers. There were also profound language barriers and other cultural barriers that affect productivity. We see our advantage being a fully U.S. company that’s better attuned to the needs of our U.S. clients.
IFW: What do you see as the primary drivers of Rural Sourcing's recent growth in Fort Wayne and beyond?
BR: We’re a pretty resilient business. In June 2020, we were growing despite—and because of—the pandemic in some ways.
Our view is that, as companies reconcile themselves to a new reality during COVID-19, they are seeing more dependence on digital needs to connect with their own customers, and that’s translating to them doing more business with Rural Sourcing. We’re also seeing a growing sensitivity to the instability around the world that is bringing companies back to the US to seek out advanced development capabilities. That’s where many companies are finding a greater feeling of comfort and stability right now. So, the market is expanding for companies who do what Rural Sourcing does in the U.S.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t also say that we’re good at what we do. The majority of our growth comes from new contracts with existing clients, so we’re big believers that the best way to grow a company is to keep customers you already have.
IFW: Has Rural Sourcing seen growth in its number of Fort Wayne-based clients since it opened an office here?
BR: We have had some new clients in the Fort Wayne area since we opened our office, but the majority of our Fort Wayne colleagues work with clients across the U.S. It is very common for a project team in Fort Wayne to be working with colleagues and clients from two or three other markets.
RSI plans to hire additional team members for its Fort Wayne office.
IFW: You're just finishing the renovations on your downtown office, yet you might be growing out of it soon. Do you have plans to relocate within Fort Wayne?
BR: We plan to stay where we are downtown. We just finished out that space during COVID, so our colleagues have never been in the fully finished space yet! We’re looking forward to growing there, perhaps with more of an emphasis on a hybrid, work-from-home model in the future.
IFW: Tell us about your hopes for creating a tech hub in Fort Wayne.
BR: Fort Wayne is a lovely place to be, and it’s getting even better. We see great potential for growing a tech hub here. If you think about other areas that have become tech hubs in the U.S., Fort Wayne has a lot of similarities.
I moved here from Las Vegas, and I think Fort Wayne is as pretty as an emerald. It has a downtown that’s being revitalized, and it’s just downright cool. It has a huge attractiveness as a place with a low cost of living and a very high quality of life. But it’s also a place where community is very important.
If you think back to Portland, Seattle, the Silicon Desert in Phoenix, and Austin, Texas, those are a few common factors that those places had years ago. Now, things have changed, and sometimes not for the better in some of those areas, but I think you can see Fort Wayne a little bit modeled on those places. Then, when you couple that with the fact that we’re sitting in the middle of some really good schools that turn out excellent entry-level engineers, and that’s another advantage—not just for Fort Wayne, but for the broader Indiana region.
Associates in Rural Sourcing's Albuquerque office collaborate.
IFW: What are some of the challenges to creating a tech hub here?
BR: Our biggest challenge as a community is getting the word out that there is good tech talent here in Fort Wayne. There are schools driving a steady supply of technology talent. Plus, it’s also a great place to live and a great place to raise a family.
IFW: What are the broader benefits of creating a tech hub in Fort Wayne?
BR: The tech sector has fueled global economic growth throughout the 21st century and will continue to do so. There is no reason to believe this will change. Bringing solid and sustainable tech jobs to Fort Wayne and Northeast Indiana will drive growth in all sectors locally. Our message is simple: Come join the party!