Las Cruces, NM, USA, Jan 6, 2017 -- Sitel plans to close its Las Cruces call center, putting roughly 400 employees out of work.
According to Shirley Loebsack, with Sitel's marketing and communications department, the decision to shutter the operation was the result of the company's business model and does not reflect on the performance of the Las Cruces center. The anticipated closing date is March 26.
"Sitel has had the honor of working in the Las Cruces area for 10 successful years and our associates have been extremely active and contributing members of the community. Unfortunately, our business model does not allow for us to remain in this market. Please know this was a business decision and is not a reflection on associate performance or the quality of the team. Based on this change, Sitel issued an official WARN letter to each associate and to the state of New Mexico as required by law on Jan. 5, 2017," according to the email. "This has been a very difficult decision due to the tremendous support we have received and relationships we have built within the Las Cruces community. Sitel Las Cruces leadership is certain that associates will continue to provide excellent customer service throughout this transition and will handle customers with the highest level of professionalism and care. They are also confident that, by working together, we will ensure the most efficient transition for clients, associates and the community."
Staff members were notified of the pending closure on Thursday. Employees were encouraged to apply for other positions within the company, including work-at-home opportunities. Sitel leadership also intends to work with local resources and other area employers to identify potential employment opportunities for affected associates, according to the company.
Davin Lopez, president and CEO of the Mesilla Valley Economic Development Alliance, said the loss of jobs is a blow to the community and work is under way to find a new business to occupy the building. Call centers across the country look for opportunities to relocate to cities where there is an existing facility wired with the technology to accommodate their call-based businesses and where there are trained employees. With several other call centers operating in the city, the pool of trained workers was slim because most were already employed.
"The loss of jobs is a factor," Lopez said. "We are going to do whatever we can to try and identify a company to come in and use that same (building). I think it will give us an opportunity to reach out to site selectors and hopefully find a use for that very quickly."
At the same time, Lopez noted that it was important to recognize that Sitel has been part of the community for more than a decade, much longer than people expect call centers to last in a community.
"Sitel has been here over 10 years, made a tremendous impact on the community and invested in community events through the years," he said. "They are a very good corporate citizen in Las Cruces."
Las Cruces Mayor Ken Miyagishima said the city was already looking at options to fill the building and attract or create new jobs as quickly as possible.
"They are vacating the building," Miyagishima said. "You've got a highly trained, experienced workforce with managers, supervisors, everything you need."
The city is taking a two-pronged approach, he added.
"Plan A is to put the feelers out to people interested in relocating," he said. "There is basically a turnkey operation available."
Miyagishima said he has talked to MVEDA's Lopez and those efforts have begun. To lure another company, the city might — with approval of the city council — utilize Wage Plus funds. That program sets aside money the city can offer to employers willing to bring in higher paid employees. It helps offset the cost of the higher wages sought from the new business, he said.
Plan B would involve a unique approach where the city could create a company, staff it, ensure it had contracts in place and then sell it to a private investor. It would serve much like a business incubator, the mayor said.
"We could use economic development funds and create a company, a subsidiary of the city, with employees, equipment and contracts," Miyagishima said. "We could fill it with, say 300 well-paid people and pay the taxpayer back everything we had in it when we sell it (to a private investor) to take over the complete operation."
Noting the timing of the announcement, just days after the city's minimum wage law increased to $9.20 an hour, the mayor said Sitel's closure was not affected by the wage hike. Most employees at Sitel already make more than the minimum wage and would not have felt any impact from the increased wage mandated by the city.
Mandy Guss, interim economic development coordinator for Las Cruces, said the city would work with its partners in economic development to ensure there were adequate resources available for those who are seeing new jobs.
"It's sad to hear that they will be leaving the community," Guss said. "Any time you lose a good corporate citizen and those jobs, it's difficult news."
Sitel has operated in Las Cruces since 2006. The call center, 2100 Summit Court, has been the recipient of state economic development funding, most recently in 2015 in the form of $58,000 in state Job Training Incentive Program money. At the time of the award, Gov. Susana Martinez said the funds would allow Sitel to add more than 100 jobs. Sitel in Las Cruces was holding hiring fairs as recently as November.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
We are a global outsourcing provider of customer experience management with 150 offices across 25 countries and more than 75,000 associates speaking 48 languages. Our contact center associates deliver customer experiences every day. We are here to help you with any business process outsourcing needs you might have.
Published: Tuesday, January 10, 2017
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