New West Media on the “Call Center Ecomony”

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From Albuquerque, where AOL announced this morning they would lay off 900 workers from its call center, Emily Emerston writes:

rom an economic development viewpoint, call centers make for nice headlines. They tend to employ a great number of people (“AOL to add 900 jobs to Albuquerque Economy”) and they capitalize on the fact that many of our residents are bilingual (which I think is a major advantage these days). They provide some entry level work for students and others. But unlike manufacturing jobs, call centers come and go in the breeze. They aren’t great for long-term career building. It’s a lot easier to set up a call center (some high-tech phones, some cubicles, a big empty supermarket or office space) than it is to set up a factory (huge space requirements, lots of expensive equipment, employee training).

[snip]

But call centers can be difficult to sustain. Former Secretary of Economic Development John Garcia, who served during the call center recruitment hay-day of Governor Gary Johnson, predicted that call centers would become a “double-edged sword” — providing jobs but not lifting the state’s wages and economic standing.

Read the whole thing.