BUILT FROM SCRATCH: SkillBuilders executives, left to right, John Watson, director of Oracle Database Services; Bob Benoit, Internet architect; Dave Anderson, president; and Gary Belke, director of business operations, take a break at Point Judith Light in Narragansett in May, during an annual meeting to review projects for European customers.
COURTESY MIKE LAPTEW
Rhonda J. Miller
When it comes to attracting new business, especially high-level tech talent, Rhode Island has one outstanding advantage – the ocean, which, at least in the view of SkillBuilders owner David Anderson, was a big enough draw to move his company from New York.
“My sister went to grad school at URI. We used to visit and fell in love with Rhode Island, especially the proximity to the ocean,” said Anderson, whose New York client list included Goldman Sachs and other Wall Street companies.
“I was really driven not to spend the next 30 years commuting up to four hours a day. I relocated to Rhode Island for quality of life,” said Anderson, who established his company in the Ocean State 19 years ago. “I could see the future was the Internet and the future of training was online.”
The company has a solid foundation as a partner with Oracle, which is used by every Fortune 500 company, said Skillbuilders Business Manager Greg Belke, who also worked in New York and initially moved to Rhode Island to work at a different company.
Changes in the tech industry and the economy prompted changes in Skillbuilders.
“In the ’90s, we’d get a call from JP Morgan Chase or Goldman Sachs and they would book a year’s worth of training,” said Anderson. “Or they’d book three new-hire programs and we’d take a group of 30 new hires and run them through IT training for the specific things the company needed.”
Even after moving the company to Rhode Island, Anderson said the staff still went to New York to provide intensive IT training.
“In 2000, it was like a faucet turning off,” Anderson said. “The large companies we were doing business with, a lot of them on Wall Street, started outsourcing in a major way. All that training is gone because businesses wanted to cut costs and they can have overseas developers. They don’t have to pay for an office or education.”
Anderson realigned his company’s skills, resources and vision to intersect with the needs of the marketplace.
Now more than 50 percent of the training Skillbuilders provides is done online and much more than half of customer meetings are done via the Internet.