Efforts are being made locally to strengthen Kern’s profile as a provider of business process and “second office” outsourcing services for important markets outside the district.
A cluster of Bakersfield companies already selling such services across the country joined forces in 2020 and 2021 as part of the B3K Prosperity economic development cooperation. As competitors in other respects, they made a list of priorities, including marketing and people development initiatives, before running into shortages of funds.
More recently, the project has received grants from two national banks and an offer to institutionalize the company as the permanent council of the Greater Bakersfield Chamber of Commerce, energizing an effort that has the potential to create and maintain good local jobs.
Soon, the focus will be on signing large organizations within the county that may be entering into contracts with locally based corporate service providers. The success there could fuel a later campaign to attract customers in places like Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Francisco, where the costs are essentially cheap.
The efforts have highlighted a previously neglected aspect of the B3K process – the need to put competitive impulses aside in order to achieve mutual benefit. While some of the participating companies had been exchanging customer recommendations for years, discussions had to take place before members of the group finally lowered their defenses and collaborated on a project they all considered beneficial.
“If you keep that in mind and play well together, everyone wins. Because every customer needs to be looked after, ”said working group participant Chris McGlasson, CEO of LANPRO Systems Inc., a Bakersfield-based managed service provider serving small and medium-sized businesses.
Progress in the business services cluster is slower than other opportunities highlighted by B3K, such as aerospace and promoting local entrepreneurship, both of which have reached initial milestones. Participants in the second bureau group attribute their group’s delays to a lack of financial and political support.
After months of no group meetings, they were delighted to learn this month that Bank of America donated $ 33,000 and Wells Fargo donated $ 20,000, particularly in support of cluster efforts. Chamber President and CEO Nick Ortiz said the money will enable his organization to recruit staff who will help make Kern County a one-stop shop for business services in California.
When B3K was launched in early 2020 with the support of the Washington-based Brookings Institution, Kern’s so-called second office cluster was identified as an occasional industry, also because it trades outside the region, i.e. sales.
Local industry executives working with Brookings staff and an assistant professor at Cal State Bakersfield have come up with a number of proposals to take the cluster to a higher level, to increase local employment in well-paying jobs and upward mobility.
One idea was a digital marketing campaign that established Kern as California’s best place for automated processing and back office support, in a place with a relatively low cost of living and a convenient time zone.
Another suggestion from the working group was to share customer recommendations among members of the local cluster.
Working group co-chair Jim Damian, CEO of Bakersfield business process outsourcing firm Stria LLC, said this is already happening to some extent and that a concerted effort to do more of it “will expand local market share through collaboration can”.
Also of interest to the working group, Damian said, was developing a so-called passport program that guides future employees through the necessary professional skills – such as how to create a database and use standard software efficiently – before they apply for an entry-level position in the industry.
Sumita Sarma, who teaches management at CSUB, was particularly enthusiastic about the passport idea via email. Local educational institutions are already working to fill training gaps in data analysis, programming, and what she called the growth mindset. “
Ortiz from the Chamber named three initiatives that he expects by the end of this year.
Local service companies need to be cataloged and their priorities highlighted, Ortiz said via email. In addition, strategies to promote digital skills need to be identified as a human resource development measure, he wrote.
In addition, according to Ortiz, efforts should be made to convince large public and private organizations in the county to sign contracts with companies in the local cluster.
Promoting the big market will be part of the strategy, Ortiz wrote, “but our first goals will be to really build the internal / local support for the sector before we launch an outward campaign.”
Working group co-chair Michael Hansen said he was unaware of the bank grants or the chamber’s plan to hire staff to aid the effort; he called both developments great news. He agreed to the plan to run an internal campaign to “make sure we have some traction and practice before we go national”.
Hansen, president of Bakersfield-based records management company Advanced Data Storage, said he hoped that B3K’s business services initiative will help reverse the trend of educated employees leaving the region in search of career advancement.
“I think it has a lot of potential,” he said.