Weld County answers the call-center call

Weld County has turned into a haven for call centers and promises to continue that standing with expansion planned by companies like TeleTech Holdings Inc.

Englewood-based TeleTech plans to add 200 new customer-service and technical support jobs on top of the 500 positions the company hired when it moved to Greeley earlier this year.

The initial growth came with much fanfare when in January the company officially announced its location at an old Kmart, which the company remodeled. Gov. John Hickenlooper and Greeley Mayor Tom Norton joined TeleTech CEO Ken Tuchman during the announcement.

TeleTech’s expansion follows a separate announcement by Afni, a call-center company that also assists customers by email, social media and web chat.

Afni said in February that it would hire 50 new workers to add to its workforce of 400 in Evans. The new employees were to work as customer-care consultants serving clients in the telecommunications industry.

Other Greeley-area call centers include ones operated by StarTek, traded on the New York Stock Exchange, and insurance giant State Farm.

Exactly what has attracted all these call centers to the county?

Greeley’s workforce makes the city an ideal location, TeleTech spokeswoman Jeanna Blatt said.

“The expansion is driven by the growth of our business, thanks to the talent and dedication of our team,” she said. “The talent, authenticity, integrity and honest work ethic of the people in Northern Colorado make Greeley a perfect fit for our customer experience facility.”

Business has grown for the large, publicly traded TeleTech, which does a lot more than call-center work, according to Blatt.

“Some of our associates work on Twitter,” she said. “They don’t take calls at all. Or they do email. There’s so many different methods of customer care management.”

The company, which employs more than 44,000 and operates in more than 90 countries, offers everything from strategic consulting to operational execution services for customers in financial services, government, health care, technology and other industries.

Bruce Biggi, economic development manager for the city of Greeley, welcomes the jobs, economic activity and tax revenue created by call-center companies. But he admits that the city does not spend much time trying to attract them.

University of Northern Colorado students, with their ability to maintain flexible schedules, make up a portion of the call centers’ workforce. They are willing to work for the modest wages offered by the companies.

Some students wash out of the system after a stint at the companies while others remain engaged, ascending to management positions.

“Typically a college student is a perfect candidate for a call center,” Biggi said.

The Greeley area seems to present call-center companies with a perfect model as they figure utilities, labor, cost of living and other matters into their decision-making processes.

“Our cost of living is really quite attractive,” Biggi said.

Fort Collins to consider tax breaks for Avago

The city of Fort Collins will review a proposal to grant Avago Technologies $3 million in tax breaks over 10 years.

City councilors on the Council Finance Committee will hear about the proposal from Josh Birks, the city’s economic health director, at a meeting June 4. Birks wants elected officials to consider tax breaks on manufacturing equipment that Avago would purchase if it expands its facility at 4380 Ziegler Road in Fort Collins.

The company is weighing whether to expand in Fort Collins vs. some of its international locations, Birks said. The local expansion could create 136 jobs, which is why Birks wants councilors to consider the 3-percent tax break on an estimated $100 million in equipment that Avago would buy for the space.

Larimer County commissioners are considering a similar tax-break package of $300,000 annually over five years.

“If we can pull it off, it’s a great coup,” Birks said recently. “This is the kind of manufacturing that’s been going overseas in the last decade or so.”

Avago already would receive a $1.5 million tax break on equipment over 10 years based on a previous agreement with the city. The city, though it would lose equipment tax revenue, still would see a net gain in revenue from other taxes on Avago throughout the decade, Birks said.

Steve Lynn covers technology for the Northern Colorado Business Report. He can be contacted at slynn@ncbr.com or 970-232-3147.

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