TEXARKANA, TX-Harte-Hanks Inc.’s decision to open a new call center followed an extensive search and a final list of six locations. In the end, the New York City-based company inked a five-year lease for a 40,000-sf building to become one of the city’s largest employers.

Tann Tueller, Harte-Hanks’ corporate officer and vice president, says the search took two years and focused on tertiary markets within a three- to four-hour drive of the company’s Austin, TX facility. Texarkana was on a list of 12 cities, then made the final cut along with Abilene, Corpus Christi, El Paso and Kingsville, all in Texas, and Las Cruces, NM.

Tueller says the quality of available labor and the building itself were the deciding factors. “This had been previously occupied by Windstream and already had the infrastructure set up for a call center,” Tueller explains to GlobeSt.com. “With this, we could go in with little retrofitting and just start it up.” The 1960s-era building at 1900 N. Robinson Rd. will be painted, re-carpeted and conference and break rooms added to ready it for startup.

According to Jerry Sparks, economic development director for the Texarkana Chamber of Commerce, Harte-Hanks wasn’t the only company interested in the building, owned by Kitty Wells Inc. of Texarkana. He says that close to 20 companies had expressed interest in the site since Windstream Communications shut down the call center in late 2006. Ryan Keiser, vice president of CB Richard Ellis, negotiated the lease.

“Now we have someone who’s moving into an empty 40,000-sf building, that may or may not have to expand,” Sparks says. “This is in an area that hasn’t seen a whole lot of commercial growth in recent years. I can get pretty excited about that, and about knowing we can help some folks go back to work.”

Sparks points out that once the call center is fully staffed, it will have 500 full-time employees, and 250 part-time workers plus there’s an extra 30,000 sf for expansion, if needed. It’s estimated that the operation could generate an annual payroll of $14 million after it’s fully ramped up. Comparing the figures to other large businesses, he says that Alcoa’s local rolling mill has almost 400 workers and International Paper employs 900 people. “Harte-Hanks walks into town as one of our larger employers,” Sparks says.

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