Friday, July 18, 2014

TOP STORY >> Big firm looks to bring in 400 jobs

Leader staff writer

There is a good chance that Sherwood will see more than the 250 jobs TeleTech is already working to fill, senior vice president for global operations Todd Baxter said during a grand-opening celebration Wednesday afternoon.

According to a news release announcing the company’s intention to open a second Arkansas site in Jonesboro, Sherwood’s site at 2402 Wildwood Ave. could see another 150 jobs created — a total of 400 — when all is said and done.

TeleTech is an inbound customer service call center for health-insurance providers, according to Sherwood economic development director Barry Sellers.

The Jonesboro office will open in August with a staff of 150 and the ability to later employ up to 600, according to the release.

It states that both the Jonesboro and Sherwood sites could expand to employ a total of 1,000 Arkansans.

Baxter hinted during the grand opening in Sherwood at the Wildwood Centre and Medical Tower that the announcement of the second site was hours or days away.

He said then, “All in all, we’re going to have capacity to expand here and expand in that location in the state of Arkansas significantly over the next several months.”

Baxter compared Sherwood to the company’s office in Melbourne, Fla., which created 250 jobs at first.

“We’ve made the decision to double in size there. Actually, we’ll be closer to 600 jobs. We doubled our footprint, and we made that decision in less than 18 months,” Baxter said. “That was a great market for us, and I think we have a real opportunity to do the same thing here.”

Sherwood was one of 30 markets the company considered for its first Arkansas location, Baxter told the crowd of about 40 attending TeleTech’s grand opening.

“In a market like Sherwood, one of the things that’s so important to us is to be able to go in and have it be of a size where we can attract the type of employees we need but also have it be small enough where we know who to pick up the phone and call when we have an issue, and we can get the creative help we need,” he continued.

Baxter said, “The first time I pulled up, one of the most pleasant surprises was that this building is part of a medical center. Somehow, that didn’t make it on the data sheet before I got to town. So I thought ‘well, this might be meant to be’ and it turns out that it was.”

He noted, “We’re fortunate to be a company that has had a tremendous amount of growth in the last two years. In fact, we’ve opened several sites around the country.”

TeleTech opened a location in Ennis, Texas, two years ago that has grown to a staff of 800, Baxter said.

In Hopkinsville, Ky., 400 jobs became 700 while 150 jobs became 556 at TeleTech’s Paducah, Ky., site, Baxter noted.

“We’ve done a nice job keeping up with this pace,” he said.

Baxter also praised Sher-wood’s economic development director, Barry Sellers, for being the “linchpin” in TeleTech moving to the city.

He added, “We often find that colleges are great partners with us, not just in the beginning, but long term in terms of sourcing employees and finding a place to continue education.”

Bentley Wallace of Pulaski Technical College, the largest two-year college in the state, was one of three speakers at the grand opening. He said he was happy to help as PTC is committed to providing world-class workforce training and helping launch new enterprise.

Wallace noted that he was invited to an April 2013 Arkansas Economic Development Commission training session in Sherwood on attracting and retaining good jobs.

During that session, “I realized that the passion and desire to bring good jobs to Sherwood and retain good jobs in Sherwood was there among that group,” he said. “I’m so pleased today to see the fruits of that labor and that passion playing out.”

Sherwood Mayor Virginia Hillman also spoke at the grand opening.

She said, “We are very excited that TeleTech has chosen Sherwood to be a part of their family. It’s going to be a great partnership between the two entities and, not only for Sherwood, but for central Arkansas. So we’re excited about the jobs and the potential it has for us.

“No success is gained alone. None of us are successful by ourselves. This has been a very huge team effort,” Hillman said.

She named Sellers, state Sen. Jane English (R-North Little Rock), the Metro Little Rock Alliance, Pulaski Technical College, Gov. Mike Beebe and his staff, the Arkansas Economic Development Commission and local elected officials as essential players in the deal to bring TeleTech here.

Baxter said TeleTech’s global public health insurance operation is serving Fortune 500 companies with 41,000 employees on nearly every continent.

Sellers said some of those who apply for open positions at TeleTech will be trained as licensed health-care agents.

To view open positions and apply, visit