Call centers take a close look at region

Call center operations that potentially could employ hundreds of workers are scouting northern Nevada for possible new locations.

And the number of inquiries has increased in recent months, economic development executives say.

The Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada is working with site selectors for nine call centers that are looking at the area, companies that could employ as many as 2,450 workers.

While three of those call centers have been long-term projects, six have appeared on the scene in recent months, says Chuck Alvey, president and chief executive officer of EDAWN.

Between them, the nine call centers that EDAWN considers to be prospective new employers would need about 350,000 square feet of office space.

Ken Pierson, deputy director of the Nevada Commission on Economic Development, says the state agency, too, has been fielding a growing number of inquiries from call center operators.

Along with a couple of big call centers one talks about 900 seats the state's economic development agency is fielding requests from smaller call centers as well.

"It's all workforce-driven," says Pierson, noting that the state's 13.3 percent unemployment rate creates a large pool of workers that could move quickly into call center jobs.

Nevada gets an extra boost, he says, from the size of its bilingual workforce an increasingly important consideration for call center operators.

Pierson says the availability of large expanses of vacant office space in the state's metropolitan areas is another factor. Companies could move quickly to get a Nevada call center into operation.

In fact, Alvey says some available space in the Reno area already is wired and finished for a call center, allowing a very fast move-in.

The call center industry has been one of the few bright spots in the region's employment picture in recent months. The Hartford, a financial services company, hired 150 for a call center it opened in South Meadows this year. And AT&T hired 300 for new call center it opened in Reno early this year.

In Las Vegas, meanwhile, Telus Communications Co. worked with Nevada Development Authority to open a 105,000-square-foot call center that's projected to employ 1,000 within five years.

Some the call centers that are seeking new locations in northern Nevada and elsewhere are coming back to the United States from offshore locations as companies seek to improve their customer service.

AT&T, for instance, moved jobs to the Reno call center from contracted offshore facilities.

The National Association of Call Centers, which is headquartered at The University of South Mississippi, says recent growth in the call center industry also reflects the decision by some large companies to outsource non-core business functions.

Third-party outsourcing, in fact, accounted for the largest growth in the industry during the third quarter, the association says. It reports that more call center jobs were gained than lost in the United States during the third quarter.


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