The expansion will keep Teleperformance recruiter Melanie Setterhoff busy for some time. Photos by Scott Robertson
By Scott Robertson
Teleperformance has committed to creating approximately 500 new full-time jobs at its Bristol, Tenn., call center over the next five years. The center currently has between 700 and 800 employees. The company has also committed to investing $800,000 in new equipment for the facility. Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam made the announcement July 27.
“One of the things that we love here in Tennessee is that most of our business growth comes from existing companies like this,” Haslam said. “It’s wonderful to have big announcements of new companies, but it means even more when existing companies decide to grow. It means they have learned this is a great place to build a business. It means the workforce is talented and loves living there as well.”
Teleperformance Executive Vice President Greg Mormol confirmed Haslam’s statement that the company was eager to expand its Tennessee operations in large part because of the workforce it already has in place. “Bristol has been a tremendous market for Teleperformance for many years,” Mormol said. “The performance that comes out of this region is tops across the entire country. It has been tremendous. There is a lot of tenure here, which means a lot of really, really high performance. That speaks a lot to the area.”
The company began operations as US Solutions in 2001. In July 2010 Teleperformance purchased US Solutions. It then moved from Bristol, Va., to the current location across the state line in 2012.
Current Sullivan County Mayor Richard Venable was CEO of NETWORKS Sullivan Partnership, the county’s economic development entity at the time Teleperformance moved from Virginia. At the expansion announcement Venable recalled thinking in 2010 that the company was taking a chance by moving across the line.
“It would be an understatement to say it has exceeded our expectations,” Venable said, telling Mormol, “We’re so happy that you took a chance a few years ago on Sullivan County. You’ve seen we don’t just have a great county here. We have a great region. It will provide you smart, ambitious, hard working people.”
Venable’s successor at NETWORKS, Clay Walker, received kudos from the governor for the county’s role in making the expansion happen. “In this state, it makes a lot of difference who our local partners are,” Haslam said. “The local partners here in Bristol and Sullivan County have been outstanding and we are appreciative.”
Walker deflected credit to city officials, the company’s existing employees and the BTES broadband system. “This was relatively easy,” Walker said, “because to be perfectly honest, this process started when Teleperformace first moved to Bristol and began experiencing this workforce, the city leadership, Tom Anderson and April Eads, the local team in Bristol taking such good care of them. All I really had to do was show up at a meeting.”
“They knew they wanted to continue to grow here,” Walker continued. “The workforce and the community support is as good as they have seen. They echo that constantly whenever we speak to them. Today is just a testament to the workforce in Bristol and the region, plus the support team at the city of Bristol and BTES.”
For a call center, the speed and breadth of a market’s communications network is a key to success. Bristol Tennessee Essential Services is in the process of upgrading from one gigabit to ten gigabit across its entire network, CEO Mike Browder said. “Ten gigabits is world class. It’s as fast as anywhere, any time, any way. We put the components in our system last week to make that work and we’re building it out now. That will be available anywhere on our system that has electric service.”
The city has offered incentives in the form of a PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) agreement, but the company has yet to formally request that incentive, said Tom Anderson, city economic development director. “What we have done is basically created the space for Teleperformance to expand as far as creating a better business environment. We have helped them with a hiring expo and have tried to attract a lot of new employees their way. If there is a local incentive it will be just on the new business through a PILOT agreement.”
The state has also offered incentives to the company, with clawback provisions in place should the company fail to reach its stated goals for job creation. However, Walker said, the company’s approach leads him to believe it absolutely plans to meet every goal it has set out. “This company didn’t come to us with their hands out,” Walker said. “They just told us what they wanted to do and asked what it qualified for. These guys are very low maintenance. They just keep investing.”