By Tim Leeds
Advantage Line President Mark Hardy said that with the withdrawal of contingencies on the funds for training reimbursement, Advantage Line will be building a new telemarketing center in Havre.
Hardy said yesterday that the schedule right now is for the center to be up Nov. 1.
"The state approved what we wanted them to," Hardy said yesterday, "now we're working to get lease agreements signed and service agreements with Triangle."
He said the hiring for the center should begin at about the same time, the end of October or the beginning of November. He said he has already hired a local Havre resident to act as manager for the center, although he said he does not wish to release her name yet.
Rick Stevens of Triangle Telephone Cooperative (TTC) said Advantage Line sent them a request for services yesterday. He said they are being asked to provide a T1 high-speed communications circuit and a couple of voice circuits, with the possibility of expanded service to Advantage Line in the future.
Stevens said they are ready to begin work installing the circuits as soon as they receive right-of-way to install them into the Holiday Village Shopping Center. He said they have not received notice of the right-of-way from Ocwen, the owners of the Holiday Village, as yet. He said once they receive notice it should take about eight weeks to install them.
Andy Belew of Ocwen said they are in final negotiations to finish the five-year lease contract with Advantage Line.
"All the economics have been negotiated," he said, "just legalese to finish."
Belew said he has not had any information about providing right-of-way to install the communications circuits. He said the particulars about how the service is provided are up to Hardy.
Belew said the right-of-way situation should not be a major issue, just a minor technicality in the negotiations.
Belew said the work to bring Advantage Line to Havre should be a major economic benefit to the area.
"It's been a good effort on everyone's behalf," he said.
The City of Havre, applicant for the Community Development Block Grant for reimbursing Advantage Line $2,500 for every full-time position created, received a letter earlier this week from the Montana Department of Commerce (DOC) saying they had withdrawn contingencies on the grant which had concerned Hardy.
Craig Erickson of Bear Paw Development Corporation said support from Pam Harada, manager of the Havre Job Service Center, and Sen. Greg Jergeson, D-Chinook, Sen. John Tester, D-Big Sandy and Rep. Antoinette "Toni" Hagener, D-Havre, was very helpful in getting the contingencies removed.
He said, for example, Harada gave information about the 32 entry-level jobs listed at the Job Service, where the average starting wage was $5.49 an hour and only three provided benefits. He said this showed that, by area standards, the 300 positions the Advantage Line center could bring are good jobs.
The DOC had originally placed contingencies on the acceptance of the grant that would have reimbursed Advantage Line for every person working 1,600 hours a year with benefits, instead reimbursement for the full-time-equivalent positions originally sought.
Hardy plans to eventually have 100 workstations operating in the center, which will be running 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week.
The company answers inbound calls placed to various organizations, such as catalog companies, magazines, and item-of-the-month clubs.
Advantage Line currently employs more than 600 people in centers in Williston, N.D., Glendive and Billings.