SBC to open operations and service center in Enid

Saturday, June 1st 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

ENID, Okla. (AP) _ SBC Southwestern Bell will open an operations and service center here, employing about 500 people by early next year.

Southwestern Bell expects an annual payroll and benefits of $20 million, officials announced Friday.

Mike Cooper, the company's local external affairs manager, said the company chose Enid because of its quality work force, good state and local government and a high quality of life.

Employees will be trained at Autry Technology Center, which officials cited as one of the reasons for locating the center in Enid.

``We always have said we have a healthy labor market with a good work ethic,'' Cooper said.

Another reason for choosing Oklahoma was recently passed broadband legislation making all companies adhere to the same regulations for high-speed Internet access, company President Jim Epperson said.

Because of the new law, SBC will invest $30 million _ in addition to the money for the Enid project _ in Oklahoma. The company plans to extend its broadband service to 37 new towns and expand it in 25 other communities.

The Enid project hinges on a $6 million interest-free loan from the city of Enid. The city plans to loan the company $3 million to help with start-up costs, then another $3 million over 10 years, Mayor Doug Frantz said.

The Enid City Commission is scheduled to vote on the incentive Tuesday.

``Where better could you put city money?'' Frantz asked. ``Sales tax will pay this back in spades.''

The city will forgive the $6 million loan if the company reaches $14.5 million in payroll within seven years, or a cumulative payroll of $120 million, said Jon Blankenship, executive director of the Enid/Garfield County Economic Development Alliance.

Frantz said commissioners could ask voters to renew an existing quarter-cent sales tax set to expire at the end of the year to help refill city coffers.

Southwestern Bell also will qualify for incentives from the state Commerce Department's Quality Jobs Program.

Employees will work mostly in sales, handling inbound and outbound calls from customers in Oklahoma, Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri and Texas, Epperson said.

About 40 of the jobs will be first-level management positions and about 10 will be second level, Epperson said. The exact numbers and ranges of pay will be determined later, but the average salary will be $30,000, according to a release from the local economic development alliance.

The company will spend $15 million to $20 million to renovate a 35,000-square-foot empty store at the mall for the center and will add another 40,000 square feet, Cooper said. Construction will begin immediately.

Applications will be accepted in late summer and early fall.