Oct. 09--NEW BRAUNFELS -- Ibex Global Solutions has announced it will hire at least 600 people by the end of 2014 at the call center it's opening next month at the former headquarters of the Scooter Store.
"We lost about 1,200 employees here when the Scooter Store shut down, so having an opportunity to replace 600 or more of those is very significant," Mayor Gale Pospisil said following Ibex's acceptance of an incentive package worth just more than $1 million to open a branch here.
To ensure there's no power loss there, even in a citywide blackout, the city agreed to spend $450,000 in sales tax proceeds to install a generator and electrical equipment at the 87,000-square-foot building, part of a large complex.
Incentives approved last week by the City Council also include three payments of $200,000 if Ibex's payroll exceeds 600 local employees in 2014, 2015 and 2016.
"We believe New Braunfels will be an excellent location for our new site," Ibex CEO Steve Kezirian said in announcing the deal. "The high-caliber workforce will strengthen our global footprint to 10 state-of-the-art business process management operations."
To prepare for a November startup, the Washington-based firm, which currently employs 7,000, will hold a job fair at the New Braunfels location, 1672 Independence Drive, from noon to 5 p.m. Monday through Wednesday next week.
"We're looking for customer service skills," Ibex Senior Vice President Greg Rajchel said Tuesday, noting that starting pay ranges between $20,000 and $25,000 a year.
"We'll have 250 to 300 employees by the end of 2013, between 600 and 800 by the end of 2014, and the plan is, at the end of 2015, we'll be at 1,000," he said.
According to its website, it has 18 call centers in five countries.
Among those planning to apply is Tony Campos, who had not heard the Scooter Store was winding down operations after declaring bankruptcy in the wake of a February raid by federal agents investigating possible Medicaid/Medicare fraud over the marketing of its motorized wheelchairs.
"I'm definitely interested" in Ibex, said Campos, 24, who's unemployed except for working odd jobs. "People need jobs right now. It's hard times."
The troubles at the Scooter Store, once the community's largest private employer, also cut into business at nearby stores such as the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, said Marina Mata, a clerk there.
"It's been a dramatic thing for New Braunfels," said Mata, 23.
Over the summer, the Scooter Store vacated its former headquarters, which included a call center, after a bankruptcy judge allowed it to break its lease. Remaining employees relocated to 607 S. Business Interstate 35.
Rusty Brockman, economic development director with the Greater New Braunfels Chamber of Commerce, courted new tenants for the firm's prior location, called Heritage Business Center 1 and 2, which includes the call center and a three-story, 200,000-square-foot office building.
"They checked on us to see if we were the right place, and we checked on them to see if they were the right company," he said of Ibex. "It worked out well."
Performance safeguards were included in the Ibex package by city leaders still smarting over paying the Scooter Store $3.4 million in 2009 as incentives, which the city now is trying to recoup in a lawsuit.
It paid $1.2 million for electrical upgrades to the call center building and $2.19 million toward expanding its workforce, but the Scooter Store failed to retain the positions at the required salary for the designated period of seven years, the suit filed in April states.
Pospisil said the New Braunfels Industrial Development Corp. will retain ownership of the generator and electrical equipment used by Ibex and required a bond to ensure Ibex's performance on the job creation incentive.
Despite that, City Councilman Steven Digges was among two council members dissenting on the Ibex incentives.
"We should be spending (sales tax) money on better parks and streets and attract companies that way," he said Tuesday. "I don't think we should be offering any company any incentives."