Coeur d’Alene edged out 60 other locations in Western states for a $10 million GTE Northwest order-processing center.
The facility will open in April with 65 jobs paying between $8.50 and $14 an hour.
“But we could grow to 300 or 400,” said Chrin Tarola, GTE’s area manager for customer operations.
The new center will occupy the entire 50,000 square feet in the second building in the Cd’A Tech Center.
Mike Terrell, GTE project manager for the call center, said the structure, scheduled for completion in March, tilted the balance in Coeur d’Alene’s favor.
“There was a site in Liberty Lake and one in Reno, Nev., but Coeur d’Alene beat out those two,” Terrell said. “That building was what pushed us over the edge.”
GTE will use what it calls a National Open Markets Center to process orders from competitors selling local phone service. Under the Telecommunications Act of 1996, competing telephone companies have access to both GTE customers and its network of phone lines and switching equipment.
Employees at the center will be given four months of training to handle what is expected to be a landslide of orders coming in through facsimile machines and e-mail.
“We have agreements with 200 local carriers, and we’re negotiating with another 400,” said Terrell.
Most of the jobs at the center will be in data entry, but Bob Potter, president of Jobs Plus, said several will be management positions.
“These are career-track jobs,” Potter said. “We’ve been working with GTE for the past three years for centers just like this one.”
The first two centers went to Durham, N.C., and Fort Wayne, Ind. Each center is designed to handle calls from anywhere in the United States.
To finalize the GTE move into the Cd’A Tech Center, Stephen Meyer of Parkwood Business Properties first had to convince AC Data Systems to give up an existing lease on 16,000 square feet in the new building.
“It was a remarkable situation and they were wonderful corporate citizens,” Meyer said, adding that AC Data Systems realized “the greater community good” that would come from the order center. “We’re going to provide an interim space for them and build a new building.”
GTE has signed a five-year lease on the building, with an option for another five years.
Jobs at the new center will generate an annual payroll of $2 million, said Bob Wayt, public affairs manager for GTE.
The company was able to downsize and centralize its Northwest operations through the 1980s using technology.
“Now, because of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, technology is creating new job opportunities by the establishment of these centers,” Wayt said.
There currently are 145 GTE employees in the Coeur d’Alene area. Dave Moore, a GTE line splicer and local President of the Communications Workers of America, said the prospect of up to 400 new GTE jobs will help offset the losses racked up over the past 15 years.
“Starting in 1983, there were 400-plus jobs that left the Panhandle,” Moore said. “The local has been very vocal with GTE about getting some jobs back into the region.
“I have steps in place to inform people who had been released that this opportunity exists.”
GTE plans to take applications starting in March, Tarola said.