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McClatchy-Tribune  06/15/2014 6:33 AM ET
Helpful governments, courteous culture in Memphis? Yes, says Conduit Global [The Commercial Appeal, Memphis, Tenn. :: ]

June 15--A courageous band of new Conduit Global workers performed a customized version of Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines" pop song for a ribbon-cutting to mark the start last week of providing customer service in the Internet age by telephone, e-mail or online chat.

From new bus service, for which Memphis Mayor A C Wharton said the federal Department of Transportation moved to support at high speed, to state grants, Conduit Global has received what the company's president called the most help its had from government partners.

Those state grants, according to Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development documents, will reimburse the company up to $1 million for construction, $250,000 for telecommunications system upgrades and $750,000 -- $750 for each of up to 1,000 jobs.

In return, Conduit Global is slated to create about 460 jobs this year, although company officials said it has hired about 150 to 180 and plans to boost the number to 450 to 600 by December. The company's president, Bryce Hayes, said the forecast is for up to 1,000 jobs in the next two to three years.

According to documents filed with the state, the firm plans to invest a total of $4.15 million in the building and data equipment this year and $1.25 million for each of the next four years.

The majority of workers, agents they are called, are starting at $10 an hour, with the potential of earning $2 more, based on performance, company officials said. Documents filed with the state show an average wage of $14.93 an hour, ranging from $10.22 for office workers to $22.36 for management. Full benefits, company officials said, are offered after 90 days.

Hayes declined to confirm or deny that the company's Memphis operation is expanding service it already handles in North Carolina for a major telecommunications company, Verizon. However, the firm lists in state documents awards won by its client, including Training Magazine's first-place winner in 2012 for training and development, which was Verizon.

"Their requirements for excellence and in creating a best-in-class environment for their associates, and as a result for their customers, are exceptional," Conduit Global officials wrote. "As their partner in expanding customer care into Tennessee, Conduit Global is chartered with creating not only a workplace, but a community."

Hayes, however, said that while Conduit Global is working with a large "telco" company, Conduit Global's goal is to bring several clients.

The company is rooted in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, while its parent company, kgb USA, Inc., is based in New York. With nearly 1,900 employees in the U.S. -- before adding Memphis -- and about 5,500 worldwide, other U.S. call centers are in Bethlehem; McLeansville, North Carolina; San Antonio; and Lubbock, Texas.

Hayes, who flew in to inaugurate the new center, offered a couple of insights about the company's choice of Memphis:

Conduit Global offered its client in North Carolina several recommendations for expanding, including Memphis, which was "the best cultural fit," he said. "The one thing we know about Memphis and about the South is that I think that there is just a general courtesy built into the culture."

The company has found diversity, but few men, as it continues to choose candidates from thousands of resumes. "We don't go looking for any particular type of person," Hayes said. "But what we have found certainly is that in this particular facility ... I think we have quite the diverse pool. In fact, I'm surprised there's not a lot of men."


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