By Business Facilities Staff
From the March/April 2015 issue
Call centers like Expedia, Chase, AT&T, T-Mobile, and others have made the smart choice to locate in Southwest Missouri, a region that boasts an abundant skilled workforce with average wages much lower than most other states.
The region offers state-of-the-art connectivity and low costs of doing business including low per-call rates, low taxes and a variety of tax incentives. Just 30 minutes away from these operations, neighboring Taney County is a strong contender for the evolution of a healthy back office, call center and IT industry.
Because of the Ozark region’s rich hospitality heritage, the workforce is acclimated to customer service excellence as the employment opportunities have traditionally centered on the area’s tourism, entertainment, hospitality and retail industries. It stands to reason that workers with experience in retail and hospitality tend to make the best call center representatives because they naturally exhibit true characteristics of customer service, understanding the needs of the customers they serve and possessing the aptitude to deliver solutions specific to those needs.
Speaking of hospitality and entertainment, those who have fun in this region tend to stay here. The quality of life is second to none for employees and their families. Branson, MO is home to a vast number of family-friendly attractions and world-class shopping including Tanger Outlets and Branson Landing.
WORKFORCE TALENT AND EXPERIENCE
Missouri’s Ozarks region is able to accommodate companies considering both metro and rural sourcing options. The education levels and reliability of the regional workforce provide the necessary labor and opportunity for continued growth. Training incentives and a community college committed to workforce development make it easy to locate a customer service center in the area.
Taney County is primed for call centers with a labor shed of more than 250,000 seasoned, trained and highly skilled workers. With less than three percent of the workforce currently in the call center industry, the saturation rate is low, ensuring the availability of experienced workers.
A well-educated population in Missouri provides an easily trainable labor pool; about 38 percent of the available workforce has earned college diplomas. Employees also can enhance their skills at one of the nation’s top 10 community college campuses or at one of six public and private universities.
With low costs of living and low taxes, the region is pro-business with low employee turnover; average call center wages are well under the national average. And Missouri has one of the lowest fuel costs in the country—so access to two national airports and a 30-minute commute to major transportation corridors 60/65 and I-44 makes it even more affordable and easily accessible considering its central location—within 600 miles of 50 percent of U.S. manufacturers and major markets including Chicago, St. Louis, Kansas City, Nashville, Dallas, and less than 400 miles to call center cities like Omaha, Des Moines, Little Rock and Oklahoma City.
According to CNBC, Missouri in 2014 has the 11th-lowest cost of business, which includes taxes, utility and labor costs, and lease rates for office, commercial and industrial spaces. The state also ranks seventh in the U.S. for low property taxes (Tax Foundation); Missouri is one of only nine states to receive the highest bond rating in 2014 by all three rating agencies.
Infrastructure is an important consideration when establishing a call center since business must remain up and running 24/7 regardless of external factors. Missouri’s central location and stable natural environment provide an ideal home for call centers. Located in the Ozark Mountains at an average elevation of 800 feet, Missouri is a low-risk state for acts of terrorism and has experienced no such events, nor has it ever experienced any major disasters related to hurricanes or earthquakes since record keeping began in 1957 (FEMA).
Taney County also has provisions for business continuity in that it has a dependable power with smart metering, backup power, and multi-megawatt power feed, Tier 1 Internet network infrastructure with redundant connectivity and over 2,000 miles of fiber statewide. The Springfield/Branson region is now fiber dense with diverse carrier options. This is very important because most call centers now rely on VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) technology to control long distance costs and call routing. Fiber connectivity is delivered through AT&T, Windstream, Sho-Me Fiber, CenturyLink, Mediacom, Suddenlink and others. Additionally, many cellular providers (specifically Verizon in Taney County) are now providing redundant cellular connectivity over 4gLTE connections which is vital for call center continuity plans in the case of a data outage.
Taney County also offers one of 24 Missouri Certified Sites—Branson Commerce Park—which is ideal for a robust call center facility. This 350-acre shovel-ready site is equipped with a power infrastructure which can currently handle upwards of 1.2MW with full redundancy.
So when selecting sites for back office, IT and call center operations, Taney County is a Smart Location with Smart People, making it the Smart Choice for Business.