Congressman Davis heads conference

The study of globalization’s impact on the Tampa Bay area was conducted without endorsing or attacking the controversial practice. Different talents and qualitative as and quantitative methods made up the research team that studied outsourcing’s effect on Tampa’s workers and employers.

The topic has received much attention; it has been brought up frequently in the platforms of the upcoming presidential and senatorial elections. However, it seems the negative perception of offshoring is unwarranted.

Dr. Guy Hagen, the founder of Innovation Insight and a former USF researcher, said the reality is that outsourcing is not affecting the Tampa Bay worker tremendously and perhaps people put unnecessary importance on the issue because “it’s easier to point at that than technological changes or capitalism when you talk about where all the jobs go.

“The rapid growth in technology and recessions are contributing to mass layoffs, of which offshoring is only a small component,” Hagen said.

This local trend report is consistent with the national trend report, which the General Accounting Office released after Hagen’s report was completed. Hagen said that both locally and nationally, outsourced jobs are mostly occupations that can be easily packaged and taught to another person, such as manufacturing or telecommunications positions. Least likely to go overseas are occupations that require a specialized employee, like workers in the service industry.

The USF Globalization Research Center commissioned Innovation Insight, Inc. to conduct a study on the effects outsourcing has had on the Tampa Bay area from 1994 to 2004, and the findings were revealed yesterday at the USF Downtown Center. Congressman Jim Davis, a member of the House Budget Committee and the House Energy and Commerce Committee, was the keynote speaker at the event.

“I think the findings are a painful reminder how increasingly competitive the job market is becoming,” Davis said.

He stressed the positive aspect of the report was that it identifies an opportunity for companies to train workers here in the United States. He also mentioned a bill he proposed to give a tax credit to employers who train their workers better.

Hagen’s report, Baseline Analysis of Offshoring in the Tampa Bay Region revealed that outsourcing is not a new phenomenon; it has been an ongoing practice since the 1980s. The companies studied showed that while most had thought of outsourcing as an option to deal with rising regulations, few had actually done the deed.

Hagen said that outsourcing is a two-way street. Tampa imported over $600 million in foreign services, but exported over $1 billion of services. Although these numbers seem high, the reality is that globalization has not affected the Tampa Bay economy adversely.

According to Hagen, globalization is such a complex issue that in the future, management must compensate to find individuals who can excel in an environment where other departments are not “up the hall,” but on multiple continents.

“Globalization is pushing companies to have internationally distributed business units,” Hagen said.

Outsourcing is an attempt to reduce cost and expenses and increase profitability and productivity. The companies in the study told Hagen that in the future they will be looking for a new kind of worker.

“Future workers must contribute to core corporate objectives of growth, innovation, sales management and leadership,” Hagen said.

He added that skills employers want students to develop that aren’t found in books are creativity, entrepreneurship and experience. A college degree is not going to be enough, he said.. Students should also develop soft skills such as: language, cultural sensitivity and international business skills.

Davis agreed that Florida’s education system needs to aim for training students at the state’s universities and colleges.

“There needs to be more emphasis on quality and a closer collaboration between business leaders and the education system,” Davis said.

According to Davis, whether outsourcing is good or bad depends on whether you are the shareholder, consumer, employer or employee. One thing all the panelists agreed on was that globalization is here to stay.

“This will be clearly an issue for the next president to deal with,” Davis said.

A comment by an area business leader at the presentation describe the sentiment shared by most at the event:

“Globalization is here to stay, we need to stay competitive. It’s a fundamental cultural change.”