A customer service company operating at Brunswick Landing intends to triple its labor force by hiring 200 more people.
It’s the second major hiring announcement for hundreds of call center jobs at the same business complex, putting pressure on both employers to find workers in a tight labor market.
Wayfair, an online furniture seller, announced four weeks ago that it would be seeking 500 people to staff its new customer service center in Brunswick, and another 450 workers for jobs in Bangor.
That means SaviLinx will take extra steps, such as attending job fairs and streamlining the online application process, to reach potential workers, officials said.
“We’ll be more aggressive to find opportunities to make it easy for our employees to apply. We’ll be engaged in more outreach,” Savilinx CEO Heather Blease said Friday. The company also has an employee referral program that pays $100 for a new hire that remains a full year.
Blease has had experience with mass hirings in Maine. She previously led EnvisioNet, a tech support company that employed 2,200 until an offshore competitor wooed away a top client, eventually bringing the Brunswick-based company to bankruptcy in 2001.
Blease made the SaviLinx announcement Friday afternoon during a ceremony attended by U.S. Sen. Angus King and other dignitaries.
SaviLinx, which has been at Brunswick Landing for three years, specializes in handling customer service work for clients in business process outsourcing and technical support services. It recently landed a large contract that extends its scope of work for a New England-based insurance services provider, including quality monitoring and inbound phone inquiries.
The company currently employs 100 people at its Brunswick Landing headquarters and another 200 in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.
“We are delighted that our client has achieved measurable (return on investment) … and has chosen to expand their work with SaviLinx,” Blease said in a statement. “Our focus on developing long-term partnerships to manage complex customer service interactions is a great fit for this client, and we look forward to growing our exceptional team.”
The company said it has recorded double-digit, year-over-year growth and profitability.
Blease said the SaviLinx jobs are all full-time and pay a base of $16.50 an hour including benefits. Job candidates should be able to handle a variety of interactions with clients in a professional and respectful manner, and preferably have a year’s experience in customer service. Hiring will be phased in, beginning in May and completed by the end of July, she said.
According to data collected by the Maine Department of Labor, the 2014 median pay for a customer service representative in Maine was $15.89 per hour or $33,050 per year. But the Brunswick-area job market is relatively tight – the area’s unemployment rate in December was 2.9 percent, among the lowest in the state – and it can be difficult for employers to meet their hiring needs unless they pay well enough to lure candidates from surrounding areas.
Hiring large numbers of call center workers – for both Wayfair and SaviLinx – is more challenging now because seasonal summer employers are starting to hire as well, according to John Wagner, employee outreach specialist at the Southern Midcoast CareerCenter in Brunswick.
“It’s going to be tough,” Wagner said. “Maine is highly seasonal. In the wintertime, they’d probably have a better time (hiring for call centers.)”
Wagner said he has more than 50 employers, including SaviLinx, participating in a job fair on March 30 at the Brunswick Knights of Columbus building. Wayfair said it will have representatives at a job fair at Saint Joseph’s College on March 22.
Julie Rabinowitz, communication director for the Maine Department of Labor, said the state intends to help both companies meet their hiring goals. In particular, they could consider atypical candidates, such as retirees, new Mainers, disabled people and others for their openings, Rabinowitz said. The state is encouraging employers to consider hiring nontraditional job candidates as a workforce development initiative to help fill thousands of projected job openings as baby boomers retire.
The new SaviLinx contract, Blease said, is project-based and will conclude at the end of 2016, but SaviLinx expects to retain all the workers for a second-phase project with the same client that will begin at the same time.
Wayfair’s Brunswick location will be in the former Navy Exchange at Brunswick Landing and will focus primarily on sales. It expects to employ roughly 500 full-time workers, the Boston-based home furnishings and decor retailer said. Hiring already has begun for a projected May opening.
While Blease was the CEO of EnvisioNet, the company reported annual revenue north of $30 million. She managed the company from 1995 to 2001, garnering multiple awards for economic development and entrepreneurship. But in 2001, the company lost its Microsoft contract to an overseas competitor. EnvisioNet filed for bankruptcy in June of that year.