Where Call Centers Call Home

While specific sectors of the call center industry fluctuate, the industry as a whole continues to boom throughout the United States.

The National Association of Call Centers tracks 11 call center industry sectors globally. Despite worries of an economic recession, 10 of the 11 sectors have shown consistent growth globally and within the United States. However, one sector, distribution/reservations, has been in a continuous decline on all continents, as these jobs shift to self-service applications.

From January 1 through March 31 of 2008, 22 new call centers opened and 16 closed within the United States, in addition to nine expansions and four contractions. These movements within the call center industry created 7,097 new jobs and eliminated 3,068 jobs, producing a net gain of 4,029 new jobs. These jobs, however, were not spread evenly through the 11 sectors.

Sectors worth watching are financial services/banking/insurance and telemarketing/collections. The U.S. financial services sector is feeling the pressure of bad loans on its books. It is possible that this may translate into more job cuts in the financial world, resulting in the closing or contracting of call center operations. Paralleling this economic trend, it is expected that more people will move into a situation in which they cannot pay their bills. This creates an opportunity for the telemarketing/collections sector to grow in an attempt to collect some part of this mounting debt.

Call centers continue to open, close, expand, and contract in all regions of the United States. The anticipated shift of most call centers to the lower labor cost and low unionization areas of the South has not yet occurred. Here are two U.S. locations where call centers are flourishing.

North Dakota: It’s Electric!

Enhanced with attractive business incentives, North Dakota is drawing some of the world’s most successful companies to the state. Microsoft, Unisys, ING, and Amazon.com are just a few of the businesses taking advantage of the state’s solid information technology and telecommunications infrastructure. As one of the top ranking states for the lowest cost of doing business, North Dakota is proving to have some key advantages to call and data center locations.

While the state provides some of the lowest electrical costs in the nation, averaging about 4.26 cents per kilowatt-hour in 2006 for industrial rates, according to the Energy Information Administration, it also is the sixth highest per capita energy producing state.

Surprisingly, North Dakota also offers one of the most powerful fiber optic networks in the nation. “We can say with confidence that North Dakota businesses have access to the most advanced high-speed network available today, for expanded opportunities with video, voice, and data communications,” says Evan Hass, general manager for Dakota Carrier Network (DCN).

Through DCN, a 100% fiber optic communications network links all regions of the state and provides Internet access by connecting to multiple Synchronous Optical Network (SONET) rings. DCN provides connectivity ranging from T-1 to OC-12, all with minimal investment needed to reach a major fiber trunk. The network currently spans nearly 1,500 miles and is part of existing independent local telephone company systems. Built with growing network needs in mind, North Dakota is one state where companies do not have to seek out “dark fiber” or unused fiber optic channels to meet their networking demands.

Data.com International, Inc., a Minneapolis-based company with locations in Cooperstown, ND and Grand Forks, ND, had considered expanding in many areas surrounding Minnesota. “One reason we were attracted to North Dakota is because the state offers a broad combination of funds that work well together,” says Data.com CEO Donald Roepke. “Not all states are able to offer such a well-organized and cohesive package.”

With many attractive factors for call and data centers, North Dakota is a major contender for expanding companies. For more information, contact Laura Willard, Eric Icard, or Paul Lucy with the Department of Commerce Business Development Team at 701-328-5300, or visit www.growingnd.com.

Paducah’s Information Age

A regional center for education, shopping, culture, and employment, Paducah/McCracken County is located in western Kentucky on Interstate 24 and adjacent to the Ohio River. The Greater Paducah Economic Development Council (GPEDC) offers developed parks that cater individually to industry and to business. The Information Age Park is home to Lynx-PPG, Credit Bureau Systems, and Ulrich Medical Concepts, among others. This Class 1 campus environment offers sites from one to 14 acres and is fully served by all utilities.

Mark Edwards, CEO of Credit Bureau Systems, spoke with GPEDC about his Paducah operations.

GPEDC: Why was Paducah a good choice for your company?

Edwards: Paducah is great be-cause it’s a regional medical center, serving a dozen counties and four states, which gives us access to a large workforce. Plus we’re looking for applicants who have some background in laws that affect billing or collection activities, and we’ve found that here.

GPEDC: So you’ve had success recruiting quality employees in Paducah?

Edwards: Paducah is the best of our four locations. The people here haven’t proven to be transient. In the collection area, our turnover rate is one out of seven. The same operation in Lexington, KY has a 50% turnover, even with higher wages. The tenure in Paducah is four times as long as is typical of the collection business.

GPEDC: Sounds like you’ve found a dynamic location.

Edwards: Let me put it this way: If we were forced by market conditions to centralize into one location, it would be, without a doubt, our Paducah location.

The GPEDC is recruiting customer service centers and back office operations to join its Information Age Park. Contact George Harben at 270-575-6633 or george@gpedc.com for more information and a list of incentives that may be available, or visit www.gpedc.com.