Wednesday, June 30, 2010

News out of Southern Illinois Research Park

Georgia firm brings office, jobs to research park

The Saluki Times, June 25, 2010, by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- At a time when many companies are protecting the bottom line through layoffs or overseas outsourcing, a Georgia technology services business has brought a new office and new jobs to the Southern Illinois University Carbondale campus.

Liaison Technologies, whose chief operating officer is an SIUC alumnus, is the newest tenant at the Southern Illinois Research Park. The company, which opened earlier this month in the Dunn-Richmond Economic Development Center, has hired seven employees and plans to employ at least three more in the coming weeks. Company officials are hopeful that heading into 2011, they’ll have about 15 local employees and increase its Southern Illinois workforce to about 25 by 2012.

As Liaison considered expansion, the options included overseas outsourcing of highly skilled technology positions or expanding existing metropolitan office locations. But Larry Mieldezis, Liaison Technologies COO, said he had another idea, a plan involving his alma mater.

“We decided instead of going offshore to other countries with these jobs, we would try a different approach, staying onshore and finding a partner in Illinois to keep these jobs in the U.S.,” Mieldezis said. He said the concept involved finding a rural location near a good university producing quality graduates in the field of information technology.

Because of the lower cost of living in such communities, companies can offer competitive wages and benefits to employees more economically than they could in metropolitan areas. He noted that keeping the jobs stateside avoids common problems associated with outsourcing jobs overseas, including language and cultural barriers, regulatory compliance and security requirements, political uncertainties and time zone differences.

“In fact, it’s proven that for every one resource we hire in the United States, we would have to hire 1.5 in India or China. We’ve found an avenue that is cost-effective and it keeps jobs here at home in the states rather than overseas,” said Mieldezis, a Marion native. “When I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in computer science in 1986 from SIUC, I would have liked to have stayed in the area but I had to move away to really utilize my degree, first to New York and then to Seattle and finally to Georgia. But I’ve maintained a relationship with SIUC and the computer science department over the years.

“The information technology talent is so strong at SIUC, we really wanted to come here. I believe there’s an opportunity to offer people a really good career and a comfortable lifestyle here in Southern Illinois,” Mieldezis added. “I would have loved to have stayed in Southern Illinois but couldn’t. I think Liaison’s rural sourcing strategy is a great thing for the University and the community. I have a strong loyalty to SIUC and there is a lot of talent here. We were looking for an investment where the company itself and the employees can benefit for the long term.”

Liaison provides integration and data management services on a global basis. Serving businesses and organizations in more than 35 countries, the company offers a wide variety of business-to-business and enterprise application integration and data transformation services. Essentially, Mieldezis said the company utilizes specialized technology in combination with highly skilled integration and data management specialists to connect companies with their business community and trading partners. Liaison’s hosted technology leverages the Internet and links companies with their suppliers as well as business partners to ensure that all are speaking the same e-commerce technological language.

For instance, a manufacturing company deals with distributors as well as suppliers. There are all sorts of documents involved in order to carry out various transactions, including orders, invoices and shipping notices. Mieldezis said Liaison is “a software-as-a-service (SaaS) network that facilitates and guarantees the delivery of that data and transforms it into the appropriate forms.”

The company began in 2000, initially working with the pulp and paper industry. Since then, it has evolved into an international information technology company serving many different industries including pharmaceutical, distribution and financial services, along with an array of manufacturing markets. Headquartered in Alpharetta, Ga., north of Atlanta, Liaison employs about 180 people at locations that include London, Amsterdam, Helsinki and Tampere, Finland. The Technology Association of Georgia, a leading non-profit technology organization, this spring named Liaison one of the “Top 40 Most Innovative Technology Companies” in Georgia.

“We welcome Liaison to Southern Illinois and to SIUC. This is an excellent example of an alternative to offshore outsourcing and we’re excited to be a part of it, especially when it involves jobs for talented young University graduates. Liaison’s COO is a Saluki and when they were exploring the idea of locating near a university, he thought of his alma mater and I don’t think we’ve disappointed him with our response to his idea,” said Kyle Harfst, executive director of the Southern Illinois Research Park and director of technology and enterprise development for SIUC.

Mieldezis said as Liaison continues to grow, it looks for ways to offer more value to customers, to build in additional intelligence and offer the best possible combination of technology delivery and integrated managed services. One popular new concept getting attention is “cloud-based” integration services through which Liaison customers subscribe to and are able to utilize the latest technology software and solutions without having to purchase them at considerable cost.

Mieldezis is confident that the firm’s implementation of rural sourcing will also be good for Liaison, its customers and its employees.

“We are happy we’ve been able to expand onshore where there’s a good University producing students with a quality education and strong work ethnic,” he said. “We are an established company and we are profitable but we have benefited from the connections with SIUC’s Small Business Incubator and Kyle Harfst. It’s been valuable to get help with the facilities and infrastructure in close proximity to the University. Our employees in Carbondale are an extension of our workforce around the world. Through the use of Internet and technology, we all work as a single, virtual network.”

Mieldezis said the employees at the Southern Illinois office provide very technical IT support around the world as well as software and platform development and IT outsourcing for client companies. In making the initial hires, Liaison has worked with various academic units at SIUC including the Department of Computer Science and the School of Information Systems and Applied Technologies. Information about job opportunities is also on the company website,

Ultimately, Mieldezis said the goal is to achieve such success at SIUC that Liaison moves from the Small Business Incubator to larger headquarters in the region and the SIUC office becomes Liaison’s model for onshore-based rural sourcing.

Visit the Southern Illinois Research Park website.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Event to match businesses, lenders

CARBONDALE-A lender and business matchmaking event will aim to provide small business owners access to capital. "Meet The Lenders," is co-sponsored by the Small Business Administration and the Illinois Small Business Development Center at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

The event will be held from 9 a.m. to noon June 16 at Holiday Inn Conference Center in Carbondale. The event is free to attend and seeks to aid small business owners or potential small business owners learn about the different types of commercial loan opportunities in Southern Illinois.

Emily Carter, director of entrepreneurship and business development at SIUC, said the participants will learn about the many programs, loans and funding options available to small businesses. Carter said the event will allow participants the opportunity to speak directly with commercial loan officers. She said it's a great opportunity for small business owners who are in the start-up phase of their business to make a connection to lenders.

"A lot people in the community may be in the start up phase of their business," she said. "We hope it will provide direct access to lenders and the opportunity to build a relationship with lenders."

Carter said organizers hope to draw more than 150 participants, but seating is limited and interested parties are asked to RSVP to the Illinois Small Business Development Center.

Small businesses will meet one-on-one with loan officers from participating Small Business Administration lenders. Interested participants are encouraged to bring their business plan to discuss their business loan proposal with lenders.

Valerie Ross, branch manager with the Springfield SBA, said the Small Business Administration will discuss how loan program funding through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act allows the organization to help small businesses in need. She said funding through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act has allowed the SBA to further reduce the risk to lenders by guaran-teeing a higher percentage of loans. She said the additional funding allows them to guarantee 90 percent of a small business loan and allows the SBA to waive the one time guarantee fee for small business owners.

Ross said participants will also learn about small business loan programs available through federal, state and community agencies.

She said organizers are encouraging anyone interested to attend because the event will provide critical information about capital.

"Access to capital, that's what it's all about," Ross said. "We encourage business owners to come out. There's no fee, it's one morning of their time and they should take advantage of this opportunity.