By Tim Leeds
Mark Hardy, president of Advantage Line, Inc. was in Havre today meeting with the parties who would help bring his business here.
Hardy met at 9:30 a.m. with Rick Stevens, Bud Borlaug and Robert Pleninger, all of the Triangle Telephone Cooperative (TTC,) Dick King and Craig Erickson of Bear Paw Development Corporation North Montana (BPDC), Pam Harada of the Havre Job Service, Tiffany Korb of the Havre Holiday Village Shopping Center and Debbie Vandeberg of the Havre Area Chamber of Commerce.
The purpose of the meeting was to exchange information about what Advantage Line will need to come to Havre, what it will cost on both sides, and what a realistic time frame is for the project. Hardy said he plans to have made his decision about where to locate his business's new center by the end of June.
Hardy said the two largest expenses in his business are labor and telecommunications. He said he must be sure the Havre area can provide a labor force for his business, and that telecommunications access is available at a competitive price. He said they would start with about 50 workstations, increasing to about 100 within three years. He said they generally need about 200-300 workers to staff such a center.
Harada said statistics indicate that there are enough workers in the area to staff the center. She said there are currently about 600 people listed as unemployed in Hill County alone, which doesn't include the part-time and underemployed. She said having Montana State University-Northern in Havre will also help with the employment situation, especially providing business graduates for the management side.
Hardy said the most pressing issue at first is management. He said he would like to have at least two resumes or applications by the end of June for a prospective site manager and a shift manager. He said the site manager job would pay between $20,000 and $30,000 a year depending on experience. He said experience managing large groups of people is the main experience desired in such an employee. He said they would probably be trained in Williston for at least 60 days, depending on experience, before starting in the Havre center. He said they usually work through the local Job Services for applications. Harada said anyone interested in positions at Advantage Line can come to the Havre Job Service.
Hardy said he wants the new center to be running by Sept. 1. Stevens said at first that it would be nearly impossible to have the work completed by that date, although TTC would work with Advantage Line as much as possible on the project.
Hardy said he could probably expedite shipping time for equipment. He said the main issue is having lines available to the location in the Holiday Village, and having enough equipment installed to start the operation.
Stevens said they need to know specifics about how Hardy wants the operations set up. He said if Advantage Line can help with the time-line, they might be able to meet the requirements, although more information would be necessary to determine how long it will take. Hardy said he can have specifications about all of the issues sent to TTC by the end of the month.
Hardy said what he is interested in is having TTC purchase and install the equipment, and Ocwen remodel and furnish the facilities for the center. Advantage Line will then lease the facilities and equipment from TTC and Ocwen, and pay rates to TTC for the service provided. Hardy said standard procedure for his company is to purchase the equipment and furnishings from the companies it is leasing them from at the end of the lease, at fair market value.
King said BPDC could make loans from their revolving loan fund to both TTC and Ocwen to reduce the expenses for remodeling the facilities and purchasing and installing the equipment. He said the leases could be set up to pay off the loan, reducing the rates the companies would need to charge Advantage Line to profit from the transaction, and reducing the cost to Advantage Line.
Hardy was scheduled to meet with Kraig Erickson, vice president leasing/management with Westfield properties, the properties management company for the Holiday Village, at 1 this afternoon.