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Barclaycard’s decision to open a new call center here and bring 1,500 jobs to the city by 2018 tied for Ohio’s single-site jobs commitment for 2015, according to JobsOhio.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony Monday underscored the magnitude of the international credit card servicing company’s decision, drawing more than 100 people, including local and state leaders.
Curt Hess, CEO for Barclaycard U.S. of Barclays, who said choosing to locate the company’s center in Hamilton to accommodate its next phase of growth was one of the first decisions when he started leading the company last year.
It also was one of his easiest, he said.
“What made it simple for me was the skilled labor market, quality real estate and infrastructure and the welcoming business climate (on) state, regional and local levels,” Hess said during the ceremony.
Last summer, the company secured a 10-year lease for space at the 55-acre, 365,000-square-foot site and launched a $10 million renovation project there.
Senator Sherrod Brown said Barclaycard’s investment in Hamilton underscores the region’s economic vitality and the strength of Ohio’s workforce.
“These are full-time jobs with good pay and benefits —the sort of jobs that help attract more families to the area, and grow a strong middle class,” Brown, D-Ohio, said. “Barclaycard recognizes that Greater Cincinnati’s workforce has the talent to grow the company’s business and meet its customers’ needs.”
Barclaycard is one of fastest fastest-growing top 10 credit card issuers, with 10 million customers and 3,000 colleagues nationwide with locations in Maine, Delaware, Nevada and now Ohio, according to Larry Drexler, the company’s chief privacy officer and general counsel.
During its search for a new call center, Hamilton and Vora Technology Park became the “yardstick” by which all other potential sites in Ohio and elsewhere were measured, Drexler said.
“When you see … site after site, they all start to look like the one before,” Drexler said. “When we came here we saw, first of all, (Vora Ventures Chairman and CEO) Mahendra Vora and team created a site that you could envision yourself in. For call center space, the ability to give your folks windows, a bright open space, is at a premium and this place when we saw it just immediately … said this looks like a place we could see ourselves.”
Everything the company learned about the building is what it used to determine the feasibility of all other sites, from location and parking to air conditioning and electricty options.
“You start realizing that this place has it all, and it gave us a great place to start,” Drexler said.
The company will work to fill Vora Technology Park’s fourth floor with its employees this year, then the third floor in 2017 and the remainder of the available space thereafter, he said.
“We love Hamilton,” Drexler said. “Hamilton’s a small community that’s on the rise and we have a chance to make a difference. If we went to Cincinnati, we’d be another company in Cincinnati. Here, we can contribute to the community right away and make a difference.”
Being located in Hamilton also means the ability to draw from both Cincinnati and Dayton, a “huge appeal” to the company, he said.
Barclaycard is expected to create all 1,500 jobs by the end of 2018, according to JobsOhio.
Sen. Rob Portman said the “hope and optimism” represented by the company’s opening in Hamilton is one of the ways Ohio communities can combat the scourge of heroin and a prescription drug epidemic.
“This is about people getting good jobs with good benefits,” Portman, R-Ohio, told the Journal-News immediately after the ceremony. “It’s also about having the dignity and self-respect that comes with work. That’s going to help not just create more economic growth in the area, but also improve our communities in other ways.”
The opening of Barclaycards Hamilton call center is in tune with the city’s overall strategy, according to Jody Gunderson, Hamilton’s economic development director.
“These are jobs of today, jobs of the future,” Gunderson said. “But also how does this impact our community from (the standpoint of) consumers? How is it that we build and get a much greater impact to our city? We’re doing a lot of that … from our parks and the RiversEdge Park and just the amenities and restaurants … all of those things, we hope, are going to be things that attract new employees.”
Staffing at Barclaycard was at 55 new colleagues when doors to the center opened Feb. 22 and that number is now up to approximately 100, according to Matt Fields, Barclay’s director of corporate communications
“We expect to reach 150 by the end of the summer and 250 by the end of the year,” Fields said.
Barclaycard announced last August it had opted to open the call center, promising to create about 1,500 new jobs in coming years and to invest more than $9 million in the project.
Not only is that Hamilton’s single largest announcement for new job creation in at least a decade, it’s one of the largest job-creating business projects of the last decade statewide, according to Ohio Development Services Agency, which administers tax credit agreements with companies.
Vora, who purchased the former Champion Paper headquarters for Vora Ventures in 2005, said the impact of having one large, quality brand with a long-term lease at Vora Technology Park is “really huge.”
“This building was really designed as a single tenant building and to convert it into (a space for) a lot of smaller tenants is very expensive, very time consuming,” he said. “This provides the step change, the delta jump for our city, for our community because it’s hard to build all the shops around, all the residents around when things are happening in small steps. When things happen in large steps like this, the city and the community and other developers can take risks. They can build the laundromats, they can build the Subways.”