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Fargo telemarketer to open new office in Duluth, bringing 200 jobs

A North Dakota telemarketing firm plans to open a new branch in downtown Duluth next month that will employ about 200 people.

Performance Centers Inc., based in Fargo, will open a telemarketing center about Aug. 9 on the entire fourth floor of the Wells Fargo building in downtown Duluth, said company owner Jerry Maley.

With a healthy volume of contracts that need to be fulfilled, PCI has outgrown the available work force in Fargo, Maley said.

"The economy has turned around again," Maley said of the uptick in contracts. "Some banks have gotten out of the foreclosure area and are doing well. Some of the overseas work is coming back."

The company, founded in 1999, mostly contracts work for credit card companies, banks and other financial institutions, he said.

Why choose Duluth?

"Duluth has a good work force and is close enough to Fargo," Maley said.

After working with the Duluth Economic Development Authority, the Area Partnership for Economic Expansion, or APEX, and others in the city, the decision was made to expand to Duluth. PCI also has a branch in Wahpeton, N.D.

"We've been working on this for three months," said CEO Rob West of APEX. "It's good for downtown, good for the Wells Fargo building and certainly good for Duluth."

The Duluth jobs will start around $9 per hour for telemarketers, but higher-paid management also will be hired, Maley said.

Job hiring details are still been worked out. But an ad seeking applicants should appear in the Duluth News Tribune early next week, a job fair is planned and interviewing for full-time and part-time positions will begin next week, Maley said.

While the jobs will start at $9 per hour, incentives will allow employees to earn up to $14 an hour, West said.

The company joins several other telemarketing firms that have call centers in Duluth, such as Tele-Resources and Epixtar Marketing Corp., that have been seeking new employees in recent months.

"We've heard repeatedly this area does really well with all kinds of call centers because of the voices and work ethic of people here," said Drew Digby, regional labor market analyst for the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.

While the area wants to see more jobs with higher-end salaries, new jobs are always good news, he said.

"They're OK for people who may not have other options," he said of telemarketing jobs. "One of the big struggles we will have in the next five, 10 years is finding jobs for people without a lot of education."

While some of the local telemarketing jobs require a high school diploma or equivalency, ads for telemarketing jobs with Epixtar in April that paid $7.25 to $9.25 per hour plus commission did not require high school educations.

Besides offering jobs to people who can't find jobs elsewhere, the arrival of firms like PCI is filling office space downtown, "which is always a good thing," Digby said.