Not so many years ago, the very term “outsourcing” had a bum rap. It brought to mind images of people in faraway countries answering telephones with accents you could barely understand, doing jobs a lot of people wished were back in their own communities.
My, how times have changed. This is obvious in our cover story this month about Alta Resources and its founder and CEO, Jim Beré. Based in Neenah, the business-processor outsourcer (BPO in industry-speak) does so much more than handle phone calls for its clients — at least half of its operations today involve e-commerce, plus sales and fulfillment. And while Alta does have an office in the Philippines and one in California, these locations are important for the company to attract large clients with a global reach. Above all, Alta has ramped up its hiring locally and expects to add about 500 jobs this year, including many skilled and professional positions.
Beré is most excited about the impact all those jobs will have on our community.
“If we can create jobs in the communities in which we do business, we’re going to make our communities better,” he says. Beré sets a good example, having chaired the Leadership Giving Committee for United Way of the Fox Cities, among many local volunteer roles – not to mention serving as chair of the U.S. board for World Vision, one of the largest charitable organizations in the world.
We had a lot of fun with Beré in the photo studio, using a collection of old dial-up telephones and an operator headset borrowed from the AT&T office in Appleton. Beré even brought an antique, red switchboard a family friend found in Russia. The irony, of course, is that most of what Alta does today involves electronic communication and technology. To find out how Alta is gearing up for growth, check out our cover story, “Help Wanted”.
Sense of community factors into several stories in this issue. In the Fox Cities, 61 municipalities agreed to collaborate and become part of a new brand for the economic development effort of the Fox Cities Chamber of Commerce & Industry: the Appleton Regional Partnership.
“We did a little research and found there are about 18 other Fox Cities areas throughout the country,” says Shannon Full, Fox Cities Chamber president, when I talked to her following the announcement mid-February at the Outer Edge Stage, Appleton. “The reality is that internally, we can continue to be the Fox Cities forever. The reality is also that nobody knows where it is if you go 50 miles outside of the area.” See UP FRONT for more on the Appleton Regional Partnership.
The generosity of people in our region shines through our Face Time subject this month. Curt Detjen, president and CEO of the Community Foundation of the Fox Cities, talks about how the group ranks in the top 60 of all community foundations nationwide.
A community group that barely a decade ago might not have appeared on a local agenda, the Wisconsin Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Chamber of Commerce, was embraced by local leaders when it celebrated its new presence last month in Northeast Wisconsin. Also in February, community leaders in Appleton launched a new initiative focusing on tolerance, called “Include Fox Cities”.
Here at Insight Publications, we work to build a sense of community among our readers. A few months ago we launched our new Insight VIP Membership program, which includes discounts and invitations to special events, plus a subscription to our monthly magazine. As we’ve launched this program, we are also offering an alternative option for you to sign up for our basic subscription. Subscribe for either option by clicking on the VIP Member logo on the home page.
Among the perks of our Insight VIP Member program: A celebration of our fifth anniversary April 18 at the Outer Edge in Appleton. I encourage you to join – the VIP offer ends March 31. Are you in?