PITTSFIELD — A call center that got up and running in Pittsfield in a company-record 39 days in 2008 left town in one day last week.

Global Contact Services, headquartered in Salisbury, N.C., laid off 65 employees Friday and closed up shop.

Pittsfield Town Manager Kathryn Ruth said she and Tom Auger, landlord of the space leased by Global Contact Services in Somerset Plaza, both learned of the layoffs by reading about it in the newspaper.

“I’m shocked,” said Ruth. “The executives we met with had a good vision. They had never closed a branch before. It’s an unfortunate situation.”

“I was totally floored,” said Auger, who read the news at 5 a.m. Tuesday. “I would have given them a year’s free rent to stay if it would’ve saved jobs.”

Employees at the call center made customer service calls for insurance, financial and telecommunications companies.

According to the Global Contact Services website, clients have included AIG, Bank of America, Valero Energy, JP Morgan Chase, Verizon, Wells Fargo, Wachovia and American Express.

In a news release Tuesday afternoon, George Simons, vice president of marketing for Global Contact Services, said the company announced that it closed its Pittsfield center at the end of the business day Friday “due to a major client’s sudden decision to suspend services.”

The closing affected 65 people, Simons said.

“This unfortunate action is not a reflection of the performance of GCS as a company, nor due to any action of our associates,” he wrote in the news release.

“The client made an abrupt decision to cease work and gave us no warning or time to replace the business in the center. GCS have been pleased with our experience in Pittsfield since coming here in 2008. The hardest part of such a decision is always the effect it has on our dedicated employees and the community. Contact center jobs provide fulfilling work for many good people and communities like Pittsfield. We continue to look for long-term growth as an outsource provider of business services for our clients. It is our objective to remain on track opening centers, not closing them.”

In addition to the 65 families in the region losing a regular paycheck, Ruth said that other area businesses, including nearby gas stations and restaurants, also would be hurt.

According to the town of Pittsfield website, Global Contact Services was the eighth-largest employer in the 4,215-member Pittsfield community. Cianbro Corp. was first, with more than 300 employees; followed by UTC, Sebasticook Valley Hospital, School Administrative District 53, Maine Central Institute, Kleinschmidt Associates and C.M. Almy.

Ruth said the Career Center’s Rapid Response Team in Skowhegan will be assisting those who were laid off with various options, including unemployment benefits, training and employment assistance.

Auger said Tuesday afternoon that he had not been contacted by anyone from Global Contact Services about the five-year lease they signed in January 2008.

“I’ll call them tomorrow,” he said, wondering aloud whether the lease would be honored.

Auger said he repaved the parking lot, installed new carpet and helped pay for wiring in the facility to welcome the new business.

“I’ll be very aggressive trying to remarket it,” he said. “Pittsfield, to me, has always seemed semi-recesssion-proof; it’s in a comfort zone and had been on nice, level keel.”

Somerset Plaza also houses, among other businesses, Bud’s Shop ‘n Save, Family Dollar, Oz Hair Studio, Subway, Corrina’s Country Creations and Maine Eye Care.

Ruth said Pittsfield was chosen in 2008 to be the 12th location of Global Contact Services because of the quality of the job applicants and because the community and the landlord reached out to bring the company here.

“Due to the cooperation at the local and state level, it was the smoothest and quickest implementation in our company’s history,” said Bob Lynch, director of expansion for Global Contact Services, about the Pittsfield opening March 17, 2008.

“The town will do everything we can do to bring in a business,” Ruth said. “We’ve done it before.”

Beth Staples — 861-9252

[email protected]


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