Simanaitis Says

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OFFSHORED?—TO COLUMBUS OR ANN ARBOR PART 2

YESTERDAY IN PART 1, we examined Princeton Professor Alan S. Blinder’s 2007 paper “How Many U.S. Jobs Might Be Offshorable?” Today, in Part 2, we see what has transpired in the past twelve years.

An Office Need Not Be an Office. Adam Ozimek is chief economist at Upwork, a global freelancing website. In his recent report, “Overboard on Offshore Fears,” Ozimek addresses the effects of remote employment. By the way, Wikipedia includes this term “remote” work as synonymous with “telecommuting, also called telework, working from home, … flexible workplace.”

“Contrary to popular predictions made in 2007,” Ozimek writes, “offshoring risk is not related to job loss…. Instead, those jobs predicted as ‘at risk’ of being offshored are significantly more remote work based today.”

He says that “many remote workers do their jobs outside the home, either in coworking spaces, coffee shops, or in a private office.”

Redbooth.com offers ideas on remote employment.

The New York Times Analysis. Ben Casselman writes about “The White-Collar Job Apocalypse That Didn’t Happen” in The New York Times,” September 27, 2019. He says, “Economists once warned that office jobs in the United States would soon follow factory jobs in moving overseas. New research suggest that jobs may be moving to other parts of the country instead.”

Casselman cites Columbus, Ohio, and Ann Arbor, Michigan, as examples: “Both are college towns, with plenty of young graduates with technical skills. They are in or near metropolitan areas with big companies that are sources of more experienced workers. And they are cheaper places to live than Silicon Valley.”

He quotes the 2007 study’s Professor Alan Blinder on these domestic moves: “Where in retrospect I missed the boat,” Blinder says, “is in thinking that the gigantic gap in labor costs between here and India would push it to India rather than South Dakota.”

Casselman also notes that employment figures depend upon the nature of the job: “One telling example is call centers. Telemarketing jobs have declined sharply in the U.S. since 2007, as much of the work was sent overseas. But the number of customer service representatives continues to grow.”

“The two occupations may seem similar,” Casselman says. “But the different employment trend may reflect both cultural and logistical differences. Telemarketers are essentially selling products and often working from a script. Customer service and other call-center work like tech support often require a more nuanced understanding of the customer experience.”

Casselman also quotes Susan Lund, who has studied the future of work for the McKinsey Global Institute: She says, “The companies that started the offshoring trend were largely based in Manhattan or the West Coast, in very high-cost places, and they realized that, hey, there are a lot of other places in the U.S.”

R&T’s California versus Ann Arbor. Hearst, the owners of R&T, felt this way back in 2012. Originated by two Long Island guys in 1947, within five years the magazine had migrated to Southern California, where it enjoyed the region’s car culture and temperate climate and accepted its occasional ground shaking.

R&T’s Southern California home, 1968–2012.

This lasted until 2012 when Hearst decided to improve its bottom line by moving R&T to Ann Arbor, Michigan, long-time home of corporate sibling Car and Driver. The R&T brand moved, not the staff. We were all “retired,” some prematurely indeed.

Not that an editorial staff in Bangladesh, China, or India was ever considered. I guess we were closer to bus drivers than computer programmers, but not close enough. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2019

6 comments on “OFFSHORED?—TO COLUMBUS OR ANN ARBOR PART 2

  1. Andrew G.
    September 29, 2019

    With the move (sans staff) to Ann Arbor, Hearst also “retired” this former R&T subscriber. The magazine’s focus changed so much that it became irrelevant to me.

    I’m glad I came upon Simaitis Says. You still educate me in automotive engineering and history, along with taking me to many other shared and new worlds. Thanks, Dennis!

    [By the way, I was extremely jealous of your wife’s Fiat 124 Sport Coupe. They were gone before I could raise enough cash for a coupe of my own, but by then, Fiat had equipped the X1/9 with a five speed. I really miss that car and the epic open-air adventures we had together. Oddly enough, the X1/9 had the best seats this six-footer ever spent all day in. Something I never got in any of my German-engineered bahn-stormers, but didn’t expect from an Italian stylist.]

    • simanaitissays
      September 29, 2019

      Thanks for your kind words. And for your readership and motoring enthusiasm.

  2. kzhw
    September 29, 2019

    I lost interest when R&T dropped the road test summary and started publishing restaurant reviews.

  3. Bob DuBois
    September 30, 2019

    Do I detect just a bit of bitterness in your last two paragraphs? I agree, the shift from Newport Beach to Ann Arbor was more than just physical. It was very much cultural. R & T will never be what it was, and not for the better!

    • simanaitissays
      September 30, 2019

      “Rosebud….”

      • kzhw
        September 30, 2019

        I can see the paint curling and shrinking before burning with the sled. Lovely image. Yes, there are corporate cultures, including neurotic ones… Tough to measure so not discussed much in my business school associations, but they are real and at best add value. Worst case, they are destructive.

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