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Tata’s Buffalo office, Clinton’s ‘brainchild,’ since closed

Patrick Thibodeau | July 11, 2016
Clinton’s efforts to get Tata to locate in Buffalo in 2003 offer insights into her views on offshore outsourcing

In 2003, Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), one of the world's largest IT services firms, opened an office in Buffalo, New York. Among those attending the opening event was Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY), who played a role in convincing Tata to establish an office in upstate New York.

The TCS Buffalo office is now closed, but the circumstances around it resonate today. Clinton's interest in TCS was controversial because of its connection to offshore outsourcing. It is also a major user of H-1B visa workers.

In 2003, TCS said the Buffalo office was Clinton's "brainchild." At the announcement Clinton said, "TCS could have located anywhere in the country. I am proud but not surprised that they chose Buffalo."

Clinton, now the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, broadly views offshore outsourcing as both an unstoppable force and a two-way street, with Tata as an illustration. She opposes protectionism, but avoids discussing the role of the H-1B visa in facilitating offshoring.

The H-1B visa is not mentioned in her immigration platform, her tech policy platform or in the just-released draft platform for the Democratic party.

But in 2003, TCS's Buffalo office put Clinton on the defensive about outsourcing.

A year after the Tata office opened, in 2004, Clinton appeared on the TV show of Lou Dobbs, a CNN journalist. Dobbs asked her about her work with Tata.

"Well, of course I know that they outsource jobs, that they've actually brought jobs to Buffalo," said Clinton to Dobbs, according to a transcript. "They've created 10 jobs in Buffalo and have told me and the Buffalo community that they intend to be a source of new jobs in the area, because, you know, outsourcing does work both ways."

Clinton's defense of outsourcing was noticed in India. The headline in the Times of India following Clinton's appearance on Dobbs was: "Hillary Clinton stands up for Tatas, outsourcing".

In July 2004, a few months after the Dobbs interview, Tata announced it was "making good" on its commitment to expand its presence in Buffalo, which it said would provide training for new recruits. It had hired 20 to date and had plans to triple that number by mid-2005. Clinton was quoted again, for the second time in two years, in a Tata press release expressing satisfaction with Tata's efforts.

In 2005, in a forum in India, Clinton called outsourcing "an inevitability; there is no way to legislate against reality. So I think that outsourcing will continue."

Meanwhile, the Buffalo office didn't appear to be expanding. In 2007, the Los Angeles Times reported that "about 10" people worked in it.


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