When Frontier Communications recently made an acquisition, it was left with a dilemma.
The lease on a regional office it had inherited was expiring at the end of 2011, and it needed to move that facility, which housed nearly 500 employees in Dallas. Second, the company requires that 100 percent of its calls are answered in the U.S., mostly by employees, and it wanted to hire another 150 people to answer calls in house, says Cecilia McKenney, executive vice president, human resources and call centers, with Frontier Communications.
“We needed to find another location to scale up to be ready to in-source these calls,” says McKenney. “We looked at many centers in multiple states. And in looking at the dual objectives of finding another location for our Dallas office and the expanded call center needs, the Allen Economic Development Board team convinced us that we could start a call center in Allen with the right work force availability, the talent in the workplace and their support, which led us to the decision to choose Allen.”
Smart Business spoke with McKenney about how an economic development board can play a role in your company’s relocation and the factors to consider when making a move.
How can an economic development board factor into a company’s decision to relocate?
I have met with many economic development boards over many years of looking at real estate options. Many boards say they are going to do this and this and this, but when you ask them the third and fourth questions, it begins to fall apart. Ask for examples. Ask, ‘How are you going to do this? Give me details on how you’re going to help us do that. What are terms with which we will get this incentive?’
When you do that and peel back the onion, you find that some economic development teams really stand out above the rest.
For us, the Allen Economic Development team really stood out and played a key role in our decision to select Allen. They convinced Frontier that they were the real deal and that they would deliver on the commitments they were making. They outlined incentives for us to bring jobs to Allen, then created a timeline and a definition of those jobs. We had a great deal of confidence that, once we brought jobs to Allen and submitted the applications for training grants and other incentives, they would deliver on their commitment.
Allen and the Greater Allen area have absolutely delivered on what the economic development team said we would experience, both in terms of the quality of candidates for jobs and availability. Those are the two things that you worry about: Can you scale up to the needs of your hiring, and are you going to be able to hire quality candidates, because generally, higher quality leads to lower turnover.
How can an economic development board help a company transition into a community?
A top-notch board can help with recruiting and also help get your name out in the community. For example, since we started recruiting in June, the board has been with us side by side, helping the community understand who we are and giving us the opportunity to get our name out. A quality board can also provide guidance as to where you should be in the community so that people will know who you are and, when they are considering employment opportunities, will put your company at the top.
In our case, the economic development board members have been terrific. Early on, they introduced us to the mayor and have been key to introducing us to critical leaders in the community, and to those at the state and federal level, as well. And even after we signed the lease, the board has not forgotten who we are and continues to offer assistance.
What advice would you give to a business considering relocating?
Take advantage of all that the economic development board and the chamber of commerce have to offer.
Employers tend to not realize that these resources are there to help their move be successful. Sometimes employers take the approach of having to do everything themselves. They have a lot invested and need to make sure that the start-up in a new location goes well, and they don’t necessarily ask for help.
For example, when we decided to make the move, we had an issue with training space. We needed to hire 80 call center representatives before our building was ready to be occupied. We needed three training classrooms that had power so that all the participants could use PCs. And if we didn’t have that, it would have been a major barrier to having people ready for the systems cutover we accomplished on Oct. 1.
The economic development helped us get in touch with the right community leaders, and we were able to use Allen High School for our employees to be trained. If we hadn’t asked if there was some way for them to help us solve this problem, we might have been delayed in getting people hired and trained. But we asked, and Allen delivered, and we were ready to take calls by Oct. 1.
A company also needs to find a community that is a good match. There is a bit of a marriage that goes on with who the leaders are and the way the community is run. Those things need to be consistent from the perspective of the employer, and we have definitely found that in Allen.
Cecilia McKenney is executive vice president, human resources and call centers, with Frontier Communications. Reach her at (203) 614-5047.
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