Customer call center opens in Holland

September 3, 2010
| By Pete Daly |
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NOVO 1, which provides customer service reps to represent companies in dealings with their customers, has formally launched a new call center in Holland that is expected to create 350 new jobs over the next three years.

City, state and company officials were on hand last week for the ribbon-cutting ceremony at the new 37,000-square-foot customer contact center at 1351 Waverly Road in Holland.

The new facility was opened with assistance from a $1 million federal Community Development Block Grant through the Michigan Economic Development Corp. 

Greg Robinson, assistant city manager of Holland, said $500,000 of the block grant will be used to help pay for machinery, furniture, fixtures, computers and other related equipment. The other $500,000 will be used by NOVO 1 in training its newly hired employees, who will represent various client companies over the phone.

Robinson said the city of Holland also granted NOVO 1 a PA 328 abatement on all personal property taxes at the new business, worth an estimated $115,000 over the next nine years.

According to a NOVO 1 press release, it serves clients in industries such as health care, financial, retail, energy and logistics. A consumer seeking customer service will reach a NOVO 1 operator when calling one of its client companies, and the operator also will make return calls on behalf of the client companies. Robinson said the operators have to be trained in detail on how to handle those calls.

Robinson said NOVO 1 has committed to creating 250 new jobs in Holland within the first two years, and a total of 350 by the end of three years.

“Whether it’s a health care service, B2B logistics dispatch, or retail customer retention program, NOVO 1 provides a scalable, safe, and seamless extension to any business,” states the NOVO 1 news release. The Fort Worth, Texas, company bills itself as “a leading provider of inbound and outbound customer interaction solutions.” It is part of Glencoe Capital Michigan Opportunities Fund, a private equity fund managed by Glencoe Capital, which has invested in more than 30 “lower middle-market companies” and has offices in Chicago and Birmingham, Mich.

According to information compiled early this year by Allegan County officials, the total budget for the NOVO 1 project, including both private funds and the federal grant, is $3,117,500. Robert Grooters Development Co. owns the building that NOVO 1 is leasing. It was last used temporarily by Haworth when the office furniture manufacturer moved jobs from Canada to its Holland facilities.

As of the ribbon-cutting ceremony last week, there were 15 full-time customer service representatives working in the contact center.

“They took the first calls on July 12 at 1:20 p.m.,” said NOVO 1 spokesperson Jack Wilkie.

“As a matter of policy, we don’t identify our clients, but we are fielding inbound calls for a quasi-government agency from a state outside of Michigan,” said Wilkie.

The Allegan County documents state that approximately 85 percent of the employees will be customer service representatives with pay starting at $9 per hour. The remaining jobs will be in technical, supervisory and management levels with salary ranges of $40,000 to $70,000.

According to the NOVO 1 news release, “the new Holland contact center features a spacious and open design to facilitate collaboration with team leaders and agents. The center will accommodate 291 customer service representatives and 21 team lead stations. Three multi-synched training rooms feature state-of-the-art multimedia allowing for 72 training seats and three training instructor seats. 

Security at the contact center will be paramount, according to NOVO 1. Sensitive areas have three layers of security, and there are no exposed data cables from its network systems equipment to computers. The cables are routed through conduits buried in a concrete floor. Customized workstations physically secure customer service representative computers, and only designated IT personnel have access to the computers. No CD, DVD, media or USB thumb drive intrusion is permitted.

The center has state-of-the-art telecommunications equipment supplied by AT&T, and also “green” features including recycled carpeting and Energy Star computer equipment.

Robinson said the new company “adds to the diversity of the new jobs” that have materialized in Holland lately. He mentioned, as examples, the two electric vehicle battery plants and Haworth jobs.

“We don’t do too many economic development projects with the Community Development Block Grants because we are what’s called an entitlement community,” said Robinson.

“We receive a certain amount every year in Community Development Block Grants. It’s rare when they give us these specific project grants,” he said, in reference to the MEDC.

Robinson said a couple of the grants were approved for specific projects lately, one being for Johnson Controls, but the companies involved in both cases decided not to use them.

“We’re proud to have NOVO 1 as a new member of the Chamber and West Michigan business community,” said Jane Clark, president of the Holland Area Chamber of Commerce.

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