The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

January 24, 2013

StarTek: Return of the call center? Officials say it could be

By James Neal, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — StarTek corporate staff members met with former employees at the company’s Enid facility Thursday, to gauge availability of workers for a possible return of the call center business.

“We do have some people on the ground today,” said Rosemary Hanratty, StarTek director of marketing and communications. “They are talking to people, and it’s really very much of an investigation to see what the labor market looks like in Enid, since we’ve been out for several months.”

StarTek announced last January it was concluding its client contract for the Enid call center, and the company ceased local operations last March. StarTek shuttered, but retained ownership of, the former Sears building at 116 E. Randolph.

Hanratty said talks Thursday with former employees would gauge support for a possible return of the business to Enid, if a new client for the call center is secured.

Hanratty said StarTek is talking to prospective clients, but there currently is not a client or contract for the Enid call center.

“We don’t have a client for the site,” Hanratty said. “We have several prospects, but nothing is firm.”

She said the data gathered at Thursday’s meeting could help StarTek land a new client for the Enid location.

“The intuitive data we gather will help us in moving forward, and possibly in securing a new client,” Hanratty said.

StarTek was brought to Enid in 2000 with the assistance of a payroll incentive, funded by a voter-approved sales tax.

Hanratty said she’s not aware of any discussions between the city of Enid and StarTek regarding incentives to bring the company back to the city.

“I don’t think there’s been any discussion of that at all, either way,” Hanratty said. “I think that would be premature at this point.”

Enid Mayor Bill Shewey said he was not aware of any discussions between the city and StarTek regarding the possibility of incentives to bring the company back to Enid.

The incentive package for StarTek’s previous tenure in Enid provided almost $1.8 million in payroll subsidies between 2002 and 2009.

In a contract dated March 7, 2000, Enid Economic Development Authority promised incentives for StarTek if it opened a call center here. A Jan. 11, 2000, election provided for a quarter percent sales tax, beginning April 1, 2000, to raise $2.5 million as incentive money to bring StarTek to Enid.

Officials believed StarTek would generate 500 jobs within three years of startup, with an annual payroll of $8 million. However, the facility did not generate $8 million in payroll until 2008. The contract called for EEDA to pay StarTek at its first meeting in January, April, July and October of each calendar year, 3 percent of its gross quarterly Enid payroll, based on a written qualified statement from the company certifying the gross payroll for the previous quarter.

The contract called for the suspension of payments if the gross annual payroll did not reach $5.6 million by Jan. 1, 2004. Payments were made when the payroll reached the desired amount.

StarTek was paid: $293,830 in 2002; $110,818 in 2003; $138,061 in 2004; $419,467 in 2005; $239,541 in 2006; $58,215 in 2007; $257,205 in 2008; and $281,212 in 2009.

Through 2009, a total of $1,798,350 was paid to StarTek.

Startek employed about 200 call center workers before the last client contract concluded. Hanratty said the company currently is not accepting applications for Enid.



Staff writers Robert Barron and Cass Rains contributed to this story.