PITTSFIELD — Dozens of people headed to the Pittsfield town office Monday to fill out job applications for a major telemarketing firm that will hire up to 250 people for a new call center in Pittsfield.
Town officials are hoping the influx of new jobs will jump-start the success of the town’s shopping plaza and that those new paychecks will be spent at area businesses.
The firm, ICT Group Inc., with corporate headquarters in Pennsylvania, is planning to install 120 work stations that will be used by two work shifts. According to John Langford, director of ICTG, those hired will be trained at the company’s Oxford Hills call center, and the new positions include managers, supervisors and telemarketers.
Renovations have already begun on 8,000 square feet at Somerset Plaza, formerly a Ben Franklin store, and ICTG should be operational by the end of January, Langford said Monday.
ICTG is an independent provider of call center teleservices, which consist of outbound and inbound telemarketing and value-added services, such as marketing, research and consulting services to businesses. “Mostly Fortune 500 businesses,” said Langford.
The company has nearly 3,000 employees in 30 domestic call centers, three Canadian call centers and centers in London and Dublin. They also have a Spanish language center, Spantel, in Miami.
According to ICT Group’s Web page, the company’s earnings for the first nine months of 1997 increased 25 percent, to $65.1 million. This reflects a national trend, according to Michael Duguay of the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development. Duguay said the national increase in telemarking firms should be 30 percent this year, and Maine may see some spillover benefits from a four-year effort by New Brunswick to lure telemarketers to Canada.
Town Manager D. Dwight Dogherty said Monday he credited cooperation among private businesses in Pittsfield and town officials for enticing ICTG to locate in Pittsfield. Dogherty said Peter Vigue and Gary Fitts of Cianbro spent part of a day with Langford when he visited Pittsfield last year. The local businessmen showed Langford the area and touted the local work force.
Dogherty said he is optimistic about the call center’s effect on the local economy.
Economic experts in central Maine recently estimated that during the 12 weeks that a temporary L.L. Bean call center operated in Waterville, more than $2 million was pumped into the local economy through payroll checks. That call center, operating out of a former department store, had about 500 people a day working, many of the same people who filled out applications in Pittsfield this week for the ICTG position.
Langford said he was aware that there was a large, already-trained work force in central Maine and that added to the company’s decision to expand to Pittsfield. L.L. Bean paid its workers $8.28 an hour, according to a company spokesperson. Langford declined to say what the wages may be, and ICTG did not state in advertisements placed in local newpapers this weekend what its hourly pay would be.
“New money is the secret to the local economy,” said Dick Kelso of Mid-State Economic Development Corporation. Kelso estimated that each dollar paid to an ICTG employee will get turned over three times in the community. For example, the paycheck goes to the bank and the worker writes a check to a local business. That business uses the money to buy more merchandise and pay its own workers, who then go to a business next door and spend their paychecks. “Three times turnover is a conservative estimate,” said Kelso.
ICTG will be located in a shopping plaza with a grocery store, fast-food franchise, gourmet coffee shop, beauty salon, fitness center, video store and auto parts dealer. These businesses are all hoping to cash in on the surge of new employees at the plaza, particularly because the ICTG space had been vacant for years. Several other sites in the plaza aren’t filled, a condition town officials hope will change once ICTG is up and running.
“This will give us a wonderful boost. It will be great,” said Chris Ellsworth at Subway, a sandwich shop in the plaza, Monday afternoon.
Linda Jenkins at Hollywood Knights Video Store said, “I am absolutely delighted. There is nothing worse than a dead mall.”
Jenkins said that filling the largest empty space in Somerset Plaza should help all the current tenants. “It will boost my revenue, I know that,” she said.