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T-Mobile's 77,000-square-foot, $20 million call center at Airport Plaza in northwest Springfield will employ 700 workers. The plans were announced in October after more than a year of negotiations between city and company officials.
T-Mobile's 77,000-square-foot, $20 million call center at Airport Plaza in northwest Springfield will employ 700 workers. The plans were announced in October after more than a year of negotiations between city and company officials.

Behind the Big Deal: T-Mobile's plans for Springfield

Posted online
The Oct. 24 groundbreaking of the $20 million, 77,000-square-foot T-Mobile USA call center that will employ 700 at Airport Plaza in northwest Springfield almost never happened – twice.

Ryan Mooney, manager of business development for Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce, spearheaded the city’s negotiations and said Springfield was passed over twice for the call center after discussions began in July 2004.

“The thing about the site selection process is that it is always different,” he said. “This one had its own ups and downs.”

T-Mobile hired Texas-based site selection company The Staubach Co. to find a home for one of its massive call centers. The wireless-phone service provider already has 17 call centers sprinkled throughout the country, with three more, including Springfield’s, under construction.

One of four

When Mooney first got an inquiry in July 2004, he said T-Mobile and Staubach had already narrowed the likely sites to Springfield; Portland, Maine; Billings, Mont.; and a fourth unknown city.

At that time, Mooney knew only that the inquiry came from a national communications company. He didn’t know it was T-Mobile when he first met with company officials in Springfield about a week later so they could scope out the local business scene.

The same month, Mooney and other chamber and city officials flew to Dallas for a meeting where Staubach and T-Mobile officials spilled the beans. Officials from Portland and Billings were also in the room. The fourth mystery contender had been eliminated by that point.

Mooney said they already had their suspicions about the scope of the project before that meeting in Dallas.

“We wouldn’t have taken all those people down to Dallas if we weren’t pretty excited about the project,” he said.

It was multilayered courtship, in which Mooney said many people had a “handful of touches” in the process. Both city and state officials were involved.

However, he specifically recognized Greg Williams, head of economic development for the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce, Mary Lilly Smith, Springfield economic development director, and Jeff Reinhold, Greene County budget officer.

Springfield commercial real estate agents Tom Rankin and Jeff Childs of Rankin Co. LLC were hired by T-Mobile to find a plot of land suitable for the call center.

Over the next few months, prospects looked promising for Springfield to get one of its biggest new-job infusions ever.

However, while walking around Silver Dollar City looking at Christmas lights in November 2004, Mooney got a phone call: Portland won the competition. It offered better incentives.

There was a silver lining, though. T-Mobile officials said they found Springfield’s job market promising and assured Mooney that they would stay in contact.

“We still liked the work force in Missouri,” said Gary Yates, Staubach site selection consultant. “So we came back and looked at it again.”

Second life

Round two began in January 2005. This time Springfield was matched against Chattanooga, Tenn.

Local officials didn’t want the opportunity to slip away again, so they put together a refreshed incentives package, armed with the newly enacted Enhanced Enterprise Zone, which provides easier access to state tax breaks.

Both the Enhanced Enterprise Zone and its preceding Enterprise Zone allowed companies to reap tax benefits as long as they created jobs in economically depressed areas. The previous version, Mooney said, was laden with bureaucracy and forced companies to hire workers from only the Enterprise Zone. The enhanced version allows companies to draw from anywhere, as long as their company was stationed in the zone.

T-Mobile was only looking to build within the Enterprise Zone.

Land cost was also a T-Mobile complaint during the first go-around, so Rankin and crew found T-Mobile a much cheaper place to build – 50 percent cheaper.

They shifted their attention from an undisclosed site in northeast Springfield to Airport Plaza in northwest Springfield.

“That has been a rather ignored part of Springfield for too long,” said the chamber’s Williams about northwest Springfield.

“What’s going on?’

Another disappointment was still ahead, though.

In August, T-Mobile told Mooney that Chattanooga had won the competition.

“Our initial thought was, ‘What’s going on here?’” Mooney said.

But T-Mobile once again reassured Mooney that Springfield was a market they were eyeing.

A month later, Mooney got the word: T-Mobile was coming to Springfield.

The project was officially announced Oct. 24, coinciding with the groundbreaking.

The building will be finished May 5, according to Andrew Feinour of Atlanta-based developer Holder Properties. Key Construction Inc. of Wichita, Kan., is general contractor, while Atlanta firm Stevens & Wilkinson Stang & Newdow Inc. is handling most of the architecture and engineering. Springfield’s Archer Engineers is the civil engineer.

T-Mobile will spend a few weeks training associates and will take its first calls in June.

Mooney said T-Mobile has only hired its leadership team thus far, with a turnout that “absolutely blew them away.” The company will hire about 700 more workers for wages from $9.50 per hour to $11 per hour.

Mooney said Springfield’s metro workforce of 215,000 people is deep enough to fill every one of those positions.

T-Mobile’s call center will operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week. [[In-content Ad]]

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