N.E.W. Customer Service Cos. Inc. of Sterling, Va., will begin hiring immediately to fill positions at its first permanent call center in Pennsylvania.
The company, which announced in December it plans to bring 480 customer care jobs to Altoona, will hold a job fair from 10 a.m.to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday at the Blair County Convention Center.
N.E.W., a leading provider of extended service plans and buyer protection plans for consumer products, will lease the former Martin's Food Market building on 25th Avenue from 25th Avenue LLC, a partnership comprised of Donald Devorris and Lawruk Properties.
Gov. Ed Rendell speaks as Ray Zukowski of N.E.W. Customer Service Cos. Inc. listens during a press conference Thursday in Altoona. (Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski)
Gov. Ed Rendell, who was in Altoona Thursday for the announcement, called N.E.W.'s decision to bring the jobs to Blair County great news.
"What is important is that 481 families will have income coming in, and it couldn't happen at a more important or difficult time," Rendell said.
The call center, which will be N.E.W's 11th in the U.S., is scheduled to open in April and will be home to a customer care team responsible for fielding and managing in-bound consumer calls for N.E.W.'s retail customers.
N.E.W. officials cited the area's work force as the primary reason to locate in Altoona.
"When we were looking for a place to expand, we were looking for a thriving community and an educated work force with a solid work ethic, and we found all of that here," said Terri Feely, senior vice president of human resources.
Mayor Wayne Hippo echoed her sentiments.
"We have always known of the work ethic of our work force being second to none," Hippo said. "This is truly a great economic development initiative in the city, equivalent to catching a pass in the end zone with 35 seconds to go," alluding to the Pittsburgh Steelers Super Bowl XLIII win.
Ray Zukowski, senior vice president of customer experience, said that made the decision a simple one.
''It wasn't by luck or by chance your community was chosen for our 11th customer care center,'' Zukowski said.
About 430 of the job openings are for customer care representatives. There will be another 50 management and operational-level jobs.
Feely said the customer care representatives will start at $9 an hour with the opportunity to advance.
''We offer competitive wages for the other positions,'' she said.
Bringing N.E.W. to Altoona was a cooperative effort between Rendell, the Governor's Action Team, the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, Altoona Blair County Development Corporation, state and local elected officials and the City of Altoona.