October 24, 2007

Convergys to Take Over Former Dell Call Center in McGregor, Texas

By Mike Copeland, Waco Tribune-Herald, Texas

Oct. 24--McGregor city leaders took an important step Monday night toward filling the Dell call center left vacant after the company's abrupt departure earlier this month.

McGregor City Council members voted to continue negotiations with Convergys, a Cincinnati-based company that would use the vacant Dell building in its industrial park as a customer care center.

"Obviously, we're really thrilled to find somebody to get in that building on the heels of Dell leaving," McGregor Mayor Jim Hering said Monday night. "I guess things can move that quickly. We were as surprised at them coming in as we were of Dell leaving."

Convergys is an international company employing 75,000 people in 40 countries, with nine call centers in Texas, said local real estate agent Bland Cromwell.

According to the company's Web site, Convergys provides companies with "customer management, billing and HR services, providing outsourcing, services, consulting and software solutions."

Cromwell and Joe Paschall, as well as city officials, have had almost daily negotiations with Convergys since Dell sent shock waves through McGregor and Central Texas by closing its 52,000-square-foot call center Oct. 5.

The closing eliminated 260 jobs, many of them held by Waco residents who commuted to McGregor. Those working at the Dell center talked with customers wanting to buy Dell computers.

Ever since the closing, prospects interested in the building swamped city officials with calls. But Convergys separated itself from the pack, Cromwell said, because of its ability and willingness to buy some of the equipment Dell was going to remove from the building.

Sources have said Dell spent millions of dollars upgrading the 1960s-era structure and equipping it for call-center use.

Dell spent some of that money on structural improvements, Cromwell said, but it also installed equipment that could be relocated.

The council's vote cleared city manager Dennis McDuffie to continue negotiations on the Dell building contingent on the sale of Dell's equipment to Convergys, Hering said.

"What set this company apart? Its ability to acquire Dell's infrastructure, some of the stuff Dell was going to pull out," Cromwell said, adding that the company probably will employ 200 or more people, "or it wouldn't even be looking at the building." He said it is his understanding that the company will try to hire as many former Dell employees as possible.

The company also is looking to move into the building "immediately, within a few weeks," Cromwell said.

Officials were eager to vote on the issue to expedite the sale so that the company can rehire many of the employees who lost their jobs in the Dell closing. While the negotiations are ongoing, Cromwell said he had limited information, but he believed Convergys would hire 200 to 300 people for the center.

Those hired would receive full benefits and 401K packages, Cromwell said.

Those negotiating a lease with the company needed the council's "blessings" of the proposed terms Monday night, including the three-year, "market-rate" lease rate and the "fair incentive package" the company would receive, Cromwell said.

With council approval in their pockets, they can proceed with "filling in the blanks" and closing the deal.

Dell closed the center in McGregor after rumors had circulated for weeks that it would. The company publicly denied talk surrounding the center until Oct. 5, a Friday, when it notified employees that the center would be shuttered and employees offered work elsewhere within the Dell system or given severance packages.

The building is the centerpiece of McGregor's 9,700-acre industrial park, which includes land and buildings given to the city of about 5,000 by the U.S. Navy.

Jim Vaughan, president of the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce, lauded McGregor officials and the real estate agents for rapidly finding a Dell replacement and negotiating a deal.

Before Monday's meeting, he said buildings that can be used as call or customer-service centers are in great demand.

"If this [prospect] doesn't work, another one will," he said, adding: "Usually, when a company closes an operation, it takes months and sometimes years to find a replacement. But this kind of business is in great demand, and this was a very marketable facility."

Tribune-Herald reporter Emily Ingram contributed to this story.


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