News : Plans Scrapped for Call Center in Somerton
Somerton, AZ, July 22, 2014 -- A health care company has dropped plans to place a call center inside a city-owned building for which Somerton has been seeking a tenant for nearly three years.
And with the decision by Convey Health Solutions, City Hall has lost out on what it saw as an opportunity to bring up to 200 jobs to Somerton.
Somerton officials confirmed this week that the Florida-based company had withdrawn from negotiations to lease the unfinished 10,000-square-foot building on the city's east side at 674 E. Main St.
"It's something that we knew could happen," Mayor Martin Porchas said. "All that's left for us to do is continuing looking for options for that building to be used and to create jobs and economic development. I'm sure that sooner or later we will succeed."
Originally designed to house 10 small businesses, the building was begun by a private developer, but construction stalled in 2008 amid the recession. Somerton bought it three years later with the intent of leasing space inside it to companies that city officials hoped would create jobs.
The city later spent money to seal and stucco the exterior, although the interior remains unfinished.
The city could attract no firm prospects as tenants for the building before it entered into lease negotiations earlier this year with Convey, a Florida-based company that provides health care outsourcing and technology support for various clients.
Convey currently operates two call centers in in Yuma, in the former Target store site at 725 W. 32nd St. and at 3150 S. Windsor Ave., and Somerton officials previously said a third one located in their city could create between 175 and 200 jobs.
Company officials did not respond to phone calls and an email seeking comment, but Somerton's economic development coordinator, Mike Paredes, said Convey's decision could be dictated by market factors.
"These types of companies depend a lot on the contracts they have, and if they don't get a contract, it's hard for them to maintain expansion plans," he said.
Still, Paredes said he remains optimistic about the building's economic development potential. "No economic development project happens overnight," he said. "In the case of the building, I don't see it as a bad investment by the city. We have many advantages: It's the city's property, and it's in a good area, on Main Street."
What will happen to the building is expected to be a subject of discussion when the city council and other Somerton officials gather in August for their annual retreat.
Porchas said the city has several options, one being turning the building into a "business incubator," which would help new business owners get on their feet by offering them incentives to set up shop inside. Another would be to set aside part of the building as an incubator and lease out the remainder to established businesses or companies.
Indeed, Paredes said the city is preparing an application to the U.S. Economic Development Administration for a grant to create an incentive program for businesses to move into the building.
"With a good program of incentives, we can make that building more attractive for the market. We don't have to concentrate on attracting large businesses – that's very difficult right now. But we can attract small businesses, which are very important for economic development."
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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Published: Thursday, July 24, 2014