WYOMING — Priceline.com, the worldwide online travel company that uses "Star Trek" actor William Shatner in its advertising, announced today it has leased almost 46,000 square feet of space in the former Siemens Dematic facility on Eastern Avenue for a call center and will immediately begin the process of hiring 50 to 100 new employees from the local area.
The Michigan Economic Growth Authority, in collaboration with the city of Wyoming and The Right Place Inc., announced in June that about $5 million in state and local tax credits and abatements had been offered to Priceline.com as an incentive to select the Wyoming location. At the time, the Michigan Economic Development Corp. estimated that the new call center for the company's Booking.com division would create 424 jobs over the next five years.
"We literally have already started hiring," said Bob Mylod, chief financial officer of Priceline.com, which is headquartered in Norwalk, Conn. While they want to hire 50 to 100 people to start, he said, "We've rented quite a large amount of square footage. Obviously, that supports a heck of a lot more than 50 to 100 people. Assuming that the business continues to perform as well as it's been performing, we could have hundreds of people in that center over the next year or two."
Priceline.com booked $4.8 billion in worldwide travel arrangements in 2007. It's stock (PCLN) was selling at about $117 this week; one year ago it was at about $76.
Priceline has been granted a Michigan tax credit valued at $3.9 million over seven years, and the city of Wyoming has agreed to a seven-year tax abatement worth $1.1 million. In addition, the MEDC has offered up to $200,000 in job training assistance through the Economic Development Job Training program.
Mylod said the available employee base in the Grand Rapids area should "fit particularly well with what we are trying to do" with the new call center for hotel bookings, which will serve many offshore customers. He noted that a significant part of the population here can speak more than one language, including Asian languages.
Mylod said Priceline.com began the search for a new call center location about a year ago and "looked all over the country."
The former Siemens Dematic facility at 4147 and 4247 Eastern Ave., now owned by Franklin Partners of Chicago, has been vacant since July 2006.