UNK, Xpanxion, and NU Alumni Association collaborate on rural sourcing project

Shawn Kaskie, Director, Center for Rural Research and Development, UNK, 308-865-8135 kaskiesc@unk.edu

Professionals with Nebraska roots who have pursued careers elsewhere are the focus of a new initiative driven by the Center for Rural Research and Development at the University of Nebraska at Kearney.

Led by the UNK center, resources at the University of Nebraska Alumni Association and the software company Xpanxion will be brought together to empower companies in Nebraska using a “rural sourcing” approach. The rural sourcing concept relates to existing and start-up companies strategically locating operations in rural areas to reduce labor costs and take advantage of the largely untapped talent pool.

This project aims to expand on a successful “cross-sourcing” model used by an existing software company and leverage it to recruit University of Nebraska alumni back to rural Nebraska in targeted professional service occupations such as technology, legal, health care and other high-growth sectors.

The first phase of the two-year project will build on existing research, exploring the lifestyle expectations and career preferences of alumni who have moved out of state. Additional case study research will examine the process and motivation for alumni who have moved back to rural Nebraska and are employed in these occupations.

Data collected from phase one will direct the communication and education strategies for participating alumni who will receive information on current job openings or assistance for starting or buying a business in rural areas.

Shawn Kaskie, director of UNK’s Center for Rural Research and Development, is the principal investigator on the project.

“This project aims to reverse the rural brain drain in our region,” Kaskie said. “In the pilot phase, we will offer alumni a variety of options to return their families and expertise back to rural Nebraska.”

Funding for this project is through one of two types of seed grants to help launch the work of the University of Nebraska-based Rural Futures Institute. This project is part of the institute’s competitive Research and Engagement grant program.

Headquartered in Atlanta, Ga., Xpanxion also has Nebraska offices in Kearney, Loup City, and Ames, Iowa. They are a leading provider of outsourced software and business process outsourcing. Nebraska native Paul Eurek is president and founder of Xpanxion, LLC, and is Board Chairman for Invest Nebraska Inc.

“Demand for Xpanxion’s rural sourcing services in software development and testing is growing rapidly, and often must be met by filling positions from outside the state. The project will allow Xpanxion to hire more Nebraska natives into high tech jobs,” Eurek said. He said he hopes to ultimately utilize Nebraska alumni resources to fill senior executive positions for Invest Nebraska’s current and future portfolio companies.

Additional partners on the project are Randy Cantrell, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Rural Initiative and Extension; Dena Beck, REAP Loan Specialist and Senior Project Leader, Center for Rural Affairs; Mary Findlay, Research Analyst, Nebraska Department of Labor; and Odee Ingersoll, University of Nebraska at Kearney, Nebraska Business Development Center and Nebraska Center for Business Transition; and Shelley Zaborowski, associate executive director of the Nebraska Alumni Association.

“We regularly hear from alumni who would like to move back to their home state if only the right jobs were available,” said the Alumni Association’s Zaborowski. “The Rural Sourcing project provides a channel for alumni to learn about such opportunities, and for many additional opportunities to be created.”

Building on the strengths and assets in rural Nebraska, the Great Plains, and globally, the Rural Futures Institute, through a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship, will mobilize the resources and talents of the University of Nebraska and its partners, including community partners, to create knowledge and action that supports rural people and places to achieve unique paths to their desired futures.