News : Asurion's Looming Closure Leaves Some Major Holes
Great Falls, MO, June 1, 2015 -- It's been three weeks since the shock wave went through Great Falls that the city's employer, Asurion, with 348 call center employees, will largely close its operations in August.
Since then community support groups put together a rapid response team to help Asurion employees apply for benefits and get training to seek other work.
Nearby retail businesses are assessing the big potential loss in downtown customers.
City government is trying to figure out how it will make up a sizable loss of income at its two parking garages when Asurion no longer leases spaces for its employees.
United Way of Cascade County is looking at how to make up the considerable donations of money and volunteer time that Asurion and its employees made.
The company announced May 8 that it would allow an undetermined number of employees to work from home computers, but it was closing its office at 321 Central Ave., in the former Bon Marche building. Asurion and its predecessor, N.E.W. have operated call centers in downtown Great Falls since the late 1990s, providing warranty service for other businesses.
Friday was the deadline for local Asurion employees to decide whether to accept a severance package, switch to a work-from-home position or apply for another role elsewhere with the company, Asurion spokeswoman Bettie Colombo said last week. To be eligible to work from home for the same compensation, employees had to have strong performance reviews and good home computers, with high-speed Internet connections and quite work settings, she said.
Great Falls Development Authority Vice President Jeremiah Johnson said Asurion executives have told him the company has more than 2,500 work-from-home employees nationally, and more than 300 openings.
He said Asurion is providing severance packages for those who don't switch to home-based jobs and flexible schedules so employees can get career counseling and conduct job interviews.
"Helping the employees is the primary concern for the community, and in typical Great Falls fashion, the community has reacted quickly," Johnson said.
The closure was announced on a Friday, and by Monday a group from several support agencies had met at Great Falls Job Service to form a rapid-response team, he said. Job Service employees are spear-heading the effort and just spent a day on-site at Asurion last week working with employees and providing them a packet of materials.
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United Way President Gary Owen said the team, which also included GFDA, Rural Dynamics, Easter Seals Goodwill and Great Falls College Montana State University, can provide Asurion employees with information such as filing for unemployment insurance, signing up for public assistance and seeing what kinds of job training opportunities are available at GFC MSU.
Owen said the rapid response team is hoping to hold a full-blown community resource fair for employees at the Asurion building, giving easier access to the employees.
Colombo said Asurion has taken several steps of its own to help its Great Falls employees searching for new jobs, including providing interview and resume tips and working with other Great Falls companies looking to fill open positions.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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