A Utah company has repaid $150,000 in state incentives it received to start a call center in Liberty Lake, only to close the business within a year.
The grant from the Washington Department of Commerce was provided to Vivint, a Provo, Utah, company that sells home automation, energy and security systems.
The company moved into an office building in Liberty Lake last July. At the time, company officials said the local Vivint office would create 400 jobs.
By June of this year, Vivint officials announced they were shutting down the Liberty Lake office. No explanation was offered and company officials haven’t disclosed how many Spokane-area workers were hired in Liberty Lake.
Vivint’s repayment of the $150,000 was announced by Greater Spokane Incorporated, which helped Vivint land the grant to help cover the company’s site selection and relocation costs.
GSI officials said Tuesday that the organization received the repayment recently and is sending it to the state.
The state money is part of the governor’s “strategic reserve fund” available to companies that consider bringing jobs and operations to Washington.
Vivint said the Liberty Lake site was its first sales center outside Utah. After Vivint announced plans to shut the site, officials with GSI worked with the company to recover the grant money.
In June, GSI officials said they were disappointed by the closure, noting that the Liberty Lake location had met all of Vivint’s expectations and workforce needs. The location used by Vivint formerly held offices used by Safeco Insurance.
Vivint agreed to repay the money although it was not legally required to so.
Before Vivint announced the decision to open a Liberty Lake call center, the company had been the subject of numerous consumer complaints over its business practices. In recent years, five states – California, Arkansas, Kansas, Ohio and Wisconsin – all signed agreements with Vivint following investigations of overly aggressive sales tactics. Vivint did not acknowledge it had acted illegally.
Starr Fowler, the company’s vice president of human resources, said in a news release that “Spokane has been a good partner for us. We have enjoyed being a part of the Liberty Lake community. As we reallocate our resources, all of our Spokane-based employees are eligible to receive severance and some employees will be offered the opportunity to relocate to Utah.”
GSI has used the state’s financial incentive program a number of times, providing just under $1 million in grants and contributions to relocating companies. Those recruitments have created more than 400 jobs and a total annual economic impact of $112.5 million, the release said.
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