Originally created 09/16/99

SITEL to open center



One of the country's largest telephone-based service companies announced Wednesday it would open a call center in Augusta that will eventually employ more than 500 people.

SITEL Corp., of Baltimore, said it plans to convert vacant retail space at Colony Plaza shopping center on Windsor Spring Road into a technical support office handling service calls for high-tech clients such as Compaq, 3Com and Hughes Electronics.

The center will open Nov. 15 but will probably not be fully operational until next spring, said Jim Jacobson, SITEL's director of investor relations.

"We will probably employ 200 to 300 people initially," he said.

SITEL will operate the center through SITEL Technology Services, its Herdon, Va.-based high-tech business unit.

It will outfit the 50,000-square-foot former Wal-Mart building with approximately 400 work stations where service representatives will take inquiries via telephone, e-mail and fax.

Operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week, the center could technically employ up to 800 people, Mr. Jacobson said.

SITEL, which employs 22,000 people in 18 countries, said it chose Augusta primarily because of its work force and real estate availability.

Several economic development entities courted the company, including the Augusta Metro Chamber of Commerce, whose officials said the project couldn't have come at a better time.

"With some of the plant closings we've had, there's people out there looking for jobs," said Kevin Shea, the chamber's executive vice president of economic development.

The project is the second major job creation announcement this year.

Mississippi-based retail chain Bill's Dollar Stores announced this spring it would employ up to 300 people at its warehouse distribution center currently under construction in south Richmond County.

SITEL said it will hire employees through the Georgia Department of Labor. All hires will be required to complete Augusta Technical Institute's customer service specialist certificate program.

Pay is dependent upon skill level because personnel will need to field calls from computer hardware manufacturers and software publishers.

"Companies hire us to communicate with their customers," Mr. Jacobson said. "We need to have some fairly technically savvy people."

Augusta is no stranger to call centers. More than 2,500 local residents work in back-office operations doing everything from making telemarketing calls to taking airplane reservations.

And SITEL is no stranger to Georgia. It has similar facilities in Savannah, Norcross and Rome.

SITEL Corp.

Headquarters:

Baltimore

Employees:

22,000

1998 sales:

$643 million

Market:

Outsourced telemarketing, customer acquisition services, technical support, collections and consulting

REACH

Damon Cline at (706) 823-3486.