City Councilman Wanda Halbert sat on the front row Wednesday morning as Gov. Bill Haslam, Mayor A C Wharton Jr. and Shelby County Mayor Mark H. Luttrell Jr. took the lead in welcoming Conduit Global to the Memphis area. Like most others gathered in the FedExForum lobby, she had been told little more than there would be a "big announcement."
By all accounts, a new call center, 1000 new jobs and an $8 million investment in building and infrastructure improvements to Goodlett Farms Office Park property in Shelby County adds up to a "big announcement."
Halbert was among numerous public officials who meshed with economic development proponents, business types and others on hand for the first public details about Conduit's move to Greater Memphis. She was among the few who openly placed the "exciting" news – which she immediately shared via her Facebook page – within the context of an ongoing local struggle with unemployment and underemployment.
"You know what, when you look at the demographics of Memphis, the majority of the citizens are African Americans and/or living as impoverished citizens who definitely need these jobs," said Halbert, who is the Council's liaison to EDGE (Economic Development Growth Engine for Memphis and Shelby County).
"Memphians are contributing far more than any other citizens for all of the economic development investments that are entering into our city. We definitely want them to benefit first and foremost because they are the number one contributors to those opportunities coming."
Conduit Global is one of the world's largest independent, fully-integrated business process outsourcing companies. It has operations in Europe, North America, Asia and Africa, with more than 7,000 employees in 9 countries.
Haslam was the first to share that the company plans to begin hiring immediately.
"They are going to begin immediately filling 300 positions on their way to 1000. ...In fact, people can apply online beginning today....You can see they are serious about getting to work right away," said Haslam.
Conduit has tentacles in several areas, including telecommunications, health care, financial services and technology. Bryce Hayes, Conduit's president, said he once lived in the Memphis area – Cordova, Bartlett, Millington – back in the '90s. Memphis, he said, was "an obvious place for us to do business."
"As a global call center BPO company, our focus is to try and find regions where we can attract talent. It was very clear to us that the Memphis area can help us meet those goals. We were looking for strong technology, we were looking for infrastructure and we were looking for employees."
Hayes emphasized that Conduit "will be hiring rapidly. We will be hiring quickly. I certainly would encourage any and all to come and join us as we continue to grow."
The company, he said, is looking for everything from those who can answer phones, agents...to IT specialists, to workforce analysts, to supervisors, center director, ...a wide range of positions. Literally everything that we hire will be local."
Training and skill sets needed? Agents, Hayes said, would need at least a high-school diploma, noting that college always helps.
"When we start talking about IT and supervisory positions we are talking about college graduates and those who can bring the professional skill set."
Mark Herbison, Greater Memphis Chamber of Commerce senior vice president of Economic Development, introduced Wharton and Luttrell as the quarterbacks of the local team effort to land opportunities such as Conduit.
"This is a win not merely for this particular city, but for this entire region. These are the knowledge jobs that we hear so much about," said Wharton, noting the importance of a coordinated approach to telling "the world that we can compete, nationally and globally...."
Luttrell made reference to the community's assets, including a wide range of people who "are willing to reach out, generous people who love to get involved."
Bill Hagerty, Tennessee's Economic and Community Development commissioner, said the Conduit Global announcement "underscores one important thing: that's the momentum that our state is enjoying right now. That momentum was recognized just last week when Tennessee was named the economic development state of the year."
Tennessee, said Hagerty, is the "most competitive state in the nation right now." He referenced Tennessee as a right-to-work state, a favorable regulatory climate and great logistics, adding that Haslam's "great leadership" was a major factor.
Said Haslam: "In Tennessee, we know that jobs are created when people put capital at risk. And in Tennessee we know that we are a great place for investment. ...We are going to continue to focus on things that make Tennessee a great place to work.
"It's important for us on the state level to have great local partners and I can tell you, as someone who had a local job and now a state job, that Memphis and Shelby County are doing all the right things to attract investment here and we are pleased to be your partner."
NOTE: Interested applicants are encouraged to apply online immediately at http://www.conduitglobal.com/careers/. Conduit also will host a job fair in February, with details to come.