Call center expands and diversifies operation

Phil Castle
Phil Castle

Phil Castle, The Business Times

A Grand Junction call center has both expanded and diversified its operation in providing services to a health insurer.

The effort was bolstered by $240,000 worth of incentives offered through a coalition of organizations promoting economic development in Mesa County.

Startek announced it will provide services at its Grand Junction facility to Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina. Startek initially will assist people who receive coverage, but eventually could also assist doctors and other health service providers that work with the insurer.

Chris Higgens, site director at the Startek facility in Grand Junction, said the venture could result in the addition of up to 200 jobs while also diversifying and stabilizing the operation. “This is the cornerstone of what we’ve been trying to do.”

Geoff Gairrett, director of customer service for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina, said Startek has a reputation for providing quality customer service and the Grand Junction facility as one of the company’s top locations. “We wanted to have the best of the best.”

A publically traded company headquartered in Colorado, Startek provides sales and technical support for clients in the education, health care, retail and telecommunications sectors. Startek operates facilities in seven states and four other countries.

With a staff of nearly 600, the Grand Junction call center ranks among the largest operated by Starek as well as the largest private employers in Mesa County.

Higgins said the Grand Junction center provides services to clients in the education, financial services and telecommunications industries. The contract with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina constitutes the first step into what he hopes will be an expansion into the health care industry, including hospitals and pharmaceutical companies. Serving health care clients would result in not only more jobs, but also higher paying jobs, he said.

The Econonomic Development Partners assembled a package of incentives worth a total of $240,000 to help Startek with the expansion.

Most of the funding will come through the Mesa County Workforce Center to help cover the cost of training new employees. The Grand Junction Economic Partnership provided a cash grant of $30,000 and also will assist Startek in applying for state funds for training. The City of Grand Junction will offer technical assistance in identifying ways to provide additional parking near the call center, located in a 50,000-square-foot-space along North Avenue,

The Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce served as the lead organization. Diane Schwenke, president and chief executive officer of the chamber, said it’s important that economic development include efforts not only to recruit new companies and jobs, but also assist existing businesses in expanding. By one estimate, 80 percent of new jobs are created by existing businesses, Schwenke said.

The incentives also constitute an investment in upgrading the skills of the local workforce that will pay returns to the whole business community, she said.