Oregon startup outsourced work — to Indian Country

Technological services firm finds talent in rural area

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MISSION, Ore. — More than six years ago, a startup 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 the Umatilla Indian Reservation came to a five-year agreement. Cayuse Technologies opened 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 near Wildhorse Resort & Casino has capacity for 410 employees.

Methodical growth

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," she 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.

Rural outsourcing was a new concept when Cayuse was 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.

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. Others 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."