Small-Town USA May Offer Solution to Outsourcing

The rural town of Sebeka, population 710, is not exactly Silicon Valley. It's hardly the place computer programmer Dave La Reau expected to find employment.

La Reau, who had been job hunting for years, answered a help wanted ad from CrossUSA -- one of a half dozen companies actively recruiting workers to small towns in at least eight states.

He traded his suburban home for a 7-acre farm at a fraction of the price. But La Reau is making half of what he earned in Chicago -- before outsourcing put his small company out of business.

"I'm hooked up to the computer in Baltimore," La Reau said while working. "I've got the same screen they have."

Sebeka is 14 miles from the closest traffic light, hours from the nearest Starbucks coffee shop and a far cry from the Chicago suburb he left.

"There is no traffic," said technical consultant Clayton Seal, who also works in Sebeka. "Anytime, day or night, you can cross Main Street -- almost don't have to look 'cause there's nobody there."

Seal also lost his job to outsourcing.

Farm Country Competing With Foreign Countries

The workers are part of a growing backlash against the thousands of white-collar jobs sent offshore to places such as India.

High-speed computer lines now make it possible for farm country to compete with foreign countries.

"We speak the language and we understand the business issues," said Nick Debronsky, chief executive officer of CrossUSA.

Debronsky's work force of 25 both in Sebeka and North Dakota maintains computer mainframes around the country. He expects to hire another 75 workers by December.

Debronsky said the town's isolation will help guarantee workers will stick around.

"There's no other work within two, three hundred miles," Debronsky said with a smile.

Analysts predict there will be more companies moving their high-tech operations to rural areas, as they reconsider the costs and the risks of doing business overseas.

"We may be seeing the renaissance of small-town America," said former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, "because if they are wired up, they can actually generate a lot of new jobs."

That is exactly what Carrie Ann Milbradt is hoping. The CrossUSA programmer is also Sebeka's mayor.

"This is a start, and I think Sebeka will grow with it. We might get a traffic light," she said.

Lattes may not be far behind.

ABC News' Barbara Pinto filed this report for "World News Tonight."

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