Archive for Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Call center to add jobs

Affinitas to hire 100, move to Riverfront Plaza

July 13, 2004


So much for the national Do Not Call Registry ruining the call center industry.

A Lawrence call center announced Monday it would begin adding 100 new jobs to its operations later this month by expanding into vacant space at the Lawrence Riverfront Plaza.

Affinitas, which has been conducting call center operations at 1601 W. 23rd St., on July 26 will move its Lawrence operations into the former Riverfront Mall space in downtown Lawrence.

The new jobs will bring the company's total employment to about 400.

The expansion is the second recent announcement of new call center jobs in Lawrence. In late June, Home-Oxygen 2-U said it planned to create 100 jobs by locating a call center in the former Tanger Factory Outlet Mall in North Lawrence.

The Affinitas expansion would allow the company to take on a greater amount of call center work for a variety of Fortune 500 companies, company officials said.

"We were getting to the point where our call center operations were maxed out," said Denny Dillon, Lawrence center director for the Omaha, Neb.-based company.

Dillon said his company had not been hurt by the national Do Not Call Registry, which was launched in June 2003. That's because much of the company's work did not involve sales. Its biggest clients are cable companies across the country who hire Affinitas to call existing customers and make sure their cable service is OK.

"We don't have many cold-call type of selling situations," Dillon said. "It is more customer-retention work than anything else. There is certainly a part of the industry that it did affect but we worked hard to make sure it wasn't us."

Affinitas also had adjusted to the new do-not-call restrictions by adding a direct mail division about three years ago, Dillon said. Some of the new positions in Lawrence could be graphic designers who would help create direct-mail pieces.

"What type of jobs we have to offer will all depend on what type of work we take on," he said. "We have a lot of opportunities we're exploring."

The new positions are expected to be added over the next year, paying at least the company's entry-level wage of $8.75 per hour plus benefits.

Affinitas is taking over 22,000 square feet of space formerly occupied by Sprint PCS before the wireless company shut down its call center operations in May 2002. It is double the amount of space in Affinitas' 23rd Street office.

Doug Brown of Coldwell Banker Commercial McGrew Real Estate is leasing agent for the Riverfront Plaza's ownership group, which includes members of The World Company, which publishes the Journal-World.

"We think it is an incredible step forward for us," Brown said of the deal. "We're working with some other tenants for the remaining space that we think are very promising as well."

He said the recent announcements by Affinitas and Home Oxygen 2-U were signs the economic turnaround had reached Lawrence.

"We're getting a lot of calls right now," Brown said. "The economy for the past year has seemed stronger but there were still a lot of people hesitant to pull the trigger on these deals. Now I think people have finally convinced themselves that everything is going to be all right."

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