generaldynamics

Empereon Marketing is seeking incentives to move into a call center in Lacy Lakeview.

Staff photo — Jerry Larson, file

Arizona-based Empereon Marketing may receive $150,000 in incentives from the Waco City Council and McLennan County Commissioners Court during meetings Tuesday, with 750 jobs and $2.6 million in improvements to a call center in Lacy Lakeview hanging in the balance.

Empereon proposes to establish a call center at 1205 North Loop 340, where General Dynamics Information Technology recently ceased operations, eliminating more than 800 jobs.

The company has pledged to create and retain 750 full-time jobs by Sept. 1, 2019, with 83 managerial positions included in that number paying at least $12 an hour, according to information in the Waco City Council’s agenda packet and McLennan County Judge Scott Felton.

“Those filling the balance of the jobs will be paid at least $10 an hour, a figure that does not include the value of benefits,” Felton said.

With city and county approval, Empereon will receive $150,000 from the Waco-McLennan County Economic Development Corp. fund for meeting employment goals and making $2.6 million in personal property upgrades.

“We envision quite an extensive investment in that building and in the community, considering the new computers and infrastructure, as well as the personnel,” said Toby Parrish, senior vice president of inbound operations for Empereon, speaking by phone.

He said Empereon was impressed with the quality of the workforce General Dynamics is leaving behind, “which is the main reason we were interested in that facility. We have had representatives in Waco meeting with the former staffers and have been collecting resumes. We definitely will give these former staffers priority when it comes to hiring.”

Parrish said Empereon hopes to quickly begin operating the center, “but a lot of the timing is out of our hands. We are at the mercy of others trying to complete tasks, especially the installation of electronic equipment.”

Kris Collins, senior vice president for economic development at the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce, said she believes activity will commence before the end of the year, “though I can’t speak for the company.”

Collins said for months she pursued Empereon as a replacement for General Dynamics Information Technology. Meanwhile, Waco real estate agent Brad Davis helped broker Empereon’s lease of the building.

“We have been in business 20 years, and this is our second location in Texas, the other being in the Houston suburb of Alvin,” Parrish said in an interview when Empereon was considering the Lacy Lakeview location. “We love the work ethic and talent the state offers, and our arrival in Greater Waco is part of our Texas initiative.”

He said in an interview Empereon hopes to serve at least two Fortune 500 clients at the call center, “which will take inbound calls relating to everything from customer service to technical support.

Empereon, he said, has gained a reputation for promoting from within and offering opportunities for career advancement.

“About 95 percent of our leaders come from the phones,” he said.

Besides potentially collecting $150,000 from the Waco-McLennan County Economic Development Corp., Empereon also has received a $50,000 pledge from the city of Lacy Lakeview, Felton said.

The building to become an Empereon site was first used as a call center by Blue Cross Blue Shield, which invested more than $10 million in 2002 to transform a former Kmart building. Its lease expired in early 2013, and it chose to let nearly 300 employees work at home with computers.

McLennan County commissioners meet at 9 a.m. Tuesday at the county courthouse, while the Waco City Council will conduct a work session at 3 p.m. in the Bosque Theater of the Waco Convention Center, where it will hold a business session and vote on the Empereon item at 6 p.m.

Also at the business session, the council will hold a public hearing on the proposed 2017-18 city budget of $312 million and the tax rate of 77.6 cents per $100 in property valuation, which represents no change from the existing rate, said city budget officer Laura Chiota.

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