Ore. company looked to Indian Country to cut costs

MISSION, Ore. (AP) - More than six years ago, a start-up company opened in a triple-wide trailer in Mission with 22 employees.

The three bedrooms served as the business office, a recruiting and interview room, and a boardroom made use of the kitchen table. The living room was the site for training classes. Luckily, there was one bathroom for men and one for women.

Cayuse Technologies has been on an upward trend since it was founded on Jan. 2, 2007. It currently employs 298 people.

"We operated out of that facility and continued to grow," said general manager Mary McCord. "Our first 100 people came through the triple-wide."

Cayuse's model was unique: outsourcing rurally, rather than going to India or other offshore locations.?It used the talent pool from the area while being strategically?located, for tax purposes, on a reservation.

"Back in 2005, there were so many companies that were pushing work offshore," McCord said. "Outsourcing was at a peak."

Randy Willis _ McCord's former boss and the managing director of Accenture Ltd. _ had been researching the idea of rural outsourcing. He looked at American Indian tribes across the country.

Willis and the Confederated Tribes of Umatilla County Indian Reservation came to a five-year agreement. Cayuse Technologies opened business three weeks later.

It went from 22 employees to 98 by the end of the first year. The company still worked out of that trailer for more than a year until the new facility was built. The state-of-the-art building _ off Canyon Road near Wildhorse Resort & Casino _ has the capacity for 410 employees.

Cayuse has come a long way from conducting board meetings in a trailer bedroom.

"I don't think the atmosphere is much different now than it was then because everyone is so friendly," said Karol Moore, an executive assistant from Athena who has worked at Cayuse for more than five years. "Of course, it was a lot smaller. We had a lot more parking spots and the bathrooms weren't quite as busy."

McCord said the company was methodical in its planning. They anticipated rapid growth, but wanted to make it a stable progression, never adding more than 70 employees in a year.

"We've sustained at a level that is good for the business," McCord said. "Grow too fast, then you end up with a bunch of people sitting around with nothing to do."

Cayuse Technologies has three main service offerings: application outsourcing (development and maintenance of software programs), business process outsourcing (offers secretarial support and services for executive clients) and infrastructure outsourcing (help desk).

The company serves regional, national and global clients. As it is privately owned by the CTUIR, the names of those clients are protected.

The distinctiveness of Cayuse isn't the international clients it serves, but rather the employees it hires.

Rural outsourcing was a new concept when Cayuse was being formed. Rather than sending informational technology services overseas on the cheap, the idea is to recruit and hire employees from a local and rural area.

It has gained momentum in the past five years. The wage gap between domestic outsourcing and offshore outsourcing has significantly narrowed. Companies' intentions to switch back to domestic manufacturing sources has increased by 10 percent since 2011, according to The Economist.

Cayuse sometimes hires employees with limited-to-zero experience in the field of work, but provides training courses to catch them up to speed.

Alger Brigham, a member of CTUIR, was a card dealer at Wildhorse before he came to Cayuse.

"I didn't have any IT experience or anything," Brigham said. "I was really ambitious and wanted to learn a lot of things."

Brigham is now a senior associate, works on numerous software development projects and was certified in Java programming language last week. He has been with the company for more than five years.

Of the nearly 300 employees, more than two-thirds live in Pendleton. Employees also come from the Tri-Cities, Hermiston, Walla Walla and many other local towns.

"It's better than going offshore . because you don't get the quality we provide compared to them," Brigham said. "It's not saying they're not smart or educated. A lot of it is language barrier and getting concepts across."

Cayuse's goal is to continue to grow _ and do it with local employees. McCord said the plan right now is to attract enough new business to bring 100 more on board.

"I don't see us, as a company, slowing down at all," Brigham said.

___

Information from: East Oregonian, http://www.eastoregonian.info


(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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