A Colorado-based company said Wednesday it plans to create 600 jobs in Columbus over the next five years, providing an economic shot in the arm for an area of the city that sorely needs it.
Pueblo, Colo.-based Global Callcenter Solutions, whose clients include cable television and broadband service firms, will occupy temporary space in downtown Columbus before locating in a former 46,000-square-foot Winn-Dixie supermarket structure on Buena Vista Road.
The company said it will be hiring nearly 100 people soon in the downtown Rothschild Building at the corner of 11th Street and Fifth Avenue while the permanent location is being retrofitted with the wiring, telephones and other office equipment needed to operate the call center long term.
Global Callcenter Solutions, or GCS, made its announcement Wednesday at the Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce, with various city and state officials on hand to welcome the future employer.
Tyler Cox, vice president of information technology for GCS, said the company scoured locations in Florida, Texas and other areas of the Southeast before choosing Columbus. He said while the 90 positions in the temporary downtown office will be filled relatively soon, ramping up to the overall target of 600 jobs, hopefully, won’t take long.
“We’ve committed to do it over five years. We hope to do it a lot sooner because our business is expanding and growing and we need people,” he said. “People can actually start applying today and as soon as the Rothschild Building is fully built out and opened, we’ll be doing interviews and bringing people in and hiring them.”
The company’s website says jobs will be available in the areas of inbound sales support, outbound sales and outbound customer service. It also says there will be management positions to be filled, as well as team leaders and supervisors. Training will be provided by GCS.
“It’s just a matter of making sure people are well versed and know the history of the products, what they’re dealing with, that they’re comfortable with technology and computers,” Cox said. “You want to make sure they’re fully trained and they have the background to intelligently do their job and feel comfortable doing it.”
Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, in a news release accompanying Wednesday’s announcement, said Global Callcenter Solutions will be investing $4.9 million to launch the Columbus operation. The bulk of that will be spent retrofitting the former Winn-Dixie supermarket space at 1100 Hunt Ave., just off Buena Vista Road, for the new call center.
The grocery store closed just over a year ago as a part of the downsizing in the local market and elsewhere by Florida-based Southeastern Grocers, the chain’s parent company. The supermarket was a major tenant in a strip shopping center anchored by a Walmart discount store that had already shut its doors. Those vacancies mean there is ample parking on the property for the call center employees, which was a requirement by GCS.
This also will be the first major announcement by the city and the chamber of commerce since ATM and point-of-sale equipment manufacturer NCR Corp. made the decision in April to pull the plug on its two Columbus plants and move production elsewhere. That cost the city more than 1,000 jobs.
“Certainly, it will help with some of those employees that are going to be exiting NCR,” said Russ Carreker, chairman of the Development Authority of Columbus. “We hope that some of those can flow right into those jobs. But we’ve got a great workforce here. We’ve got people who know how to do the work and can show up and be professional. I think that’s part of what helped sell GCS on Columbus.”
Carreker confirmed incentives offered by the city-funded authority include providing Global Callcenter Solutions $500 per job created, which would total $300,000 for the entire workforce of 600. It also is paying the short-term lease for the temporary space on 11th Street, which would amount to $30,000 for six months.
GCS is in the process of purchasing the former Winn-Dixie property and will be using its own money to retrofit and expand the one-time supermarket space into an operations center.
The announcement of a vacant commercial property being turned into a site for new jobs — albeit some of them entry-level positions — in an area of the city that needs some good news wasn’t lost on those attending Wednesday’s chamber announcement.
“We know you could have gone many other places and we’re really so grateful that you chose Columbus, Ga. ... We look forward to a very long and productive relationship with you,” said Mayor Teresa Tomlinson. “What’s important is this is going to impact the lives of 600 families in Columbus. We have a tremendous workforce. They can work at a fast pace. They have tremendous communication skills. They are very adept at computers.”
“This is a tremendous day — 600 new jobs, a $5 million investment, in an area that needs it. This is what economic development is all about,” said Pat Wilson, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Economic Development.
“One of the things I’m most excited about is when you drive down Buena Vista Road and you come upon that former Winn-Dixie and former Walmart, it’s like the land that time forgot,” said Brian Sillitto, the chamber’s executive vice president of economic development, after the announcement. “Now you put this call center in this 46,000 square feet of abandoned retail … What are the businesses surrounding that center going to do, whether it be fast food or other retail outlets, because now there are going to be people with incomes there. That’s the ripple effect. And what could that Walmart become?”
For Columbus Councilor Jerry “Pops” Barnes, whose District 1 includes Buena Vista Road, the transformation of a blighted property into paying jobs for area residents is the answer to many residents’ prayers. He even pulled a Rosary bead necklace from his pocket for what he considers a divine moment.
“This is a huge economic impact for Columbus. I’m just so excited about this. It’s just awesome,” he said. “If you look over my shoulder, you see a sign that says, ‘This is Columbus. We do Amazing,’ and that’s part of it. ... Of course, it’s in my district and I hear from so many people, ‘’Pops, is the only thing coming into the district the lotto (convenience stores)?’ This is good for me to say to them now: This is not a lotto, it’s 600 jobs. It will help stabilize the area.”