Region’s call-center employment grows |

Region’s call-center employment grows

Blackhawk Network can house up to 130 employees at its South Reno location

Competition for Reno-area call center jobs is heating up.

Last week’s announcement by Blackhawk Network of Pleasanton, Calif., that it will bring 88 employees on board by April 1 to staff its new customer service center in south Reno takes a modest bite out of the available pool of call center workers.

AT&T last week also announced plans to add another 15 employees to its call center staff of more than 200 employed in its Reno offices. Other companies operating large call/customer service centers in the Truckee Meadows include insurance giant The Hartford and its subsidiary, Catlayst 360, medical, dental and veterinary supplier Henry Schein, West Corporation and One Contact.

John Britton, director of corporate communications for AT&T’s California and Nevada regions, says the addition of several new players in the call center space over the past few years definitely has made it more competitive to attract new employees.

“Competition is a good thing; it is good for the marketplace,” Britton says. “The marketplace has gotten more competitive, but for us it is about technical support in the call center. One thing we are looking for is committed people who want to work with and take care of our customers. They understand the problems customers have and want to solve them.”

New call centers have employed several hundred workers in the past 12 months alone, but the pool of available help still remains large, notes Mike Kazmierski, president and chief executive officer of Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada.

Kazmierski says EDAWN sees continued interest from customer service/call centers inquiring about moving into northern Nevada. Centers that have above-average starting wages — West advertises positions beginning at $11 an hour, while AT&T says salaries start around $30,000, for instance — more often choose Reno.

“We do have some interest, but the ones that don’t pay much we lose,” Kazmierski says. “But that is good news as far as we are concerned because we want to keep our customer service center wages up. When you throw a benefits package in, it’s a pretty good job for a part of our workforce.”

Kazmierski says site selectors typically use 3 to 5 percent of available workforce as a gauge to determine workforce availability. Northern Nevada’s high unemployment — 9.6 percent in Reno-Sparks in December, and 10.1 percent in Carson City — still leaves plenty of room for new call centers requiring staff of 100 or more employees.