Meridian Star

Local News

August 7, 2008

10:30 a.m.: 250 jobs announced in Meridian

250 jobs announced in Meridian

By Fredie Carmichael

About 250 new jobs are headed to East Mississippi, Gov. Haley Barbour is expected to announce at 11 a.m. today at Mississippi State University-Meridian.

N.E.W. Customer Service Companies Inc. will house its 25,700 square-foot call center for Direct TV in Meridian off Highway 19 near the Highway 45 intersection. Most of the jobs will be front-line customer service jobs with a starting pay of $9.25 an hour, company officials said.

N.E.W. opened a call center in Tupelo in October of last year; that plant has already seen its employment nearly double. The site started with 250 jobs and now has 470, said Ray Zukowski, senior vice president, customer experience for the company.

"We like to set a community up for success, that's why we start out at 250 jobs," Zukowski said. "We're a high growth company ... and we've been around for 25 years."

Zukowski and Donna Neale, vice president, call center operations for N.E.W., said Meridian beat out about 200 communities nationwide as the top choice to locate its new call center, making it the company's 10th such center.

After narrowing the number to five locations, including sites in Utah and Florida, Meridian was chosen.

"It's not by luck or chance we picked Meridian," Zukowski said.

Once the list of 200 possible sites was narrowed to the top 5, officials said a group of company employees visited each of those communities. They spent about one week in Meridian in February, Neale said.

While most of the jobs will be customer service representative jobs, there also will be about 35 upper-level positions. All employees also will receive an extensive benefits package, which includes such perks as an in-house gym membership, free premium Direct TV and up to $5,000 in tuition reimbursement.

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