Center Buildings And Sites
By James Beatty, NCS International
Now that I have covered three basic call center site selection
strategies, Small Town, Urban/Inner City and Global, I would like to turn
attention to the subject of buildings and sites. Regardless of which
strategy your firm deploys for its search, at some point a building will
have to be selected that meets your needs and, most important, meets your
approval. How do you select a building, whom do you talk to, what should
you look for in a facility, should you build, remodel, retrofit, buy,
lease, etc.? Let me give some ideas in this arena.
I would be remiss if I did not encourage you to use the services of a
real estate broker, qualified consultant or economic development officials
during this component of your search. I have found that brokers,
consultants and economic development officials are increasingly more
knowledgeable and understanding of the particular needs of call centers
than they were even five years ago and, as such, can usually find some
interesting and good deals on attractive locations. In fact, some of the
more savvy real estate firms and consultants even specialize in the
contact center industry and many economic development organizations have
also developed internal expertise to cater to the call center industry.
This is truly a sign that the industry is seen as a growth market capable
of generating significant inward investment and hundreds of good paying
jobs in a single project. Brokers, consultants and economic development
officials aren't the only source of all knowledge, as I have found that
many call centers have developed internal expertise as well, probably out
So let's focus on the basics. What should you look for in a facility?
Here are some of the most common traits I have been asked to research and
find for call center facilities over the years. The two that are always at
the top of the list are parking and telecommunications. Parking usually
requires 7 to 10 spaces per 1,000 square feet, so if the building size is
30,000 square feet, 210 to 300 spaces would be needed to accommodate your
call center. Telecommunications proximity is a must. Certainly the nearer
to the point of presence (POP) of the interexchange carrier of your
preference the better. I have been told many horror stories about call
centers that somehow failed to specify the need for telecommunications
access and wound up paying several thousand dollars monthly for access to
the proper telecommunications services, such as DS-1/3 facilities. Can you
hear me now?
Other concerns are nearby amenities such as day care, public
transportation, fast food and other restaurants as well as hotels to
accommodate clients and visitors. I have even seen call centers purposely
locate near apartment complexes to maximize their proximity and
attractiveness to the workforce.
What kind of building should you consider? Generally it has been a
single-story Class B or Class A facility depending on the desired degree
of curb appeal and impression to clients and potential employees.
Here are some examples of buildings and sites that will assist you as
you go about your search and may cause you to rethink where to research.
Former Military Bases ' I receive e-mails, letters and faxes
from this group and I am always amazed at the offers they are willing to
put on the table for the right company. This includes offering buildings
for free, complete with furnishings, or if not free, then leased at an
attractive rate that is tied to the employment generated over a specified
time. I visited the former Loring Airbase in Maine several years ago and
was pleasantly surprised to see the offerings the Development Authority
had put on the table specifically for call centers.
Current Military Bases ' While on the famous Red Carpet Tour
in Georgia last year, I was once again pleased to learn of the willingness
and tremendous desire of the officials at Warner Robbins AFB to develop
more civilian use of the base by recruiting firms to expand to their site.
I need not tell you how attractive it is for a call center to be located
in or even near a military base given the number of spouses and dependents
available with a variety of backgrounds and talents including multilingual
Shopping Centers ' One of the best I have seen is the
1.1-million-square-foot facility in Tampa known as Netpark. I was privy to
have been there during the construction phase and have been back since it
was occupied. This is an excellent use of space and the center actually
houses several call centers while providing common amenities such as food
service and video conferencing. By the way, parking is no problem at these
sites. Many mature (former) shopping centers are repositioning themselves
as office sites and are worth your consideration
Closed Centers ' Many call centers close for various reasons,
such as mergers, business downturn, owners selling, etc. These facilities
can make ideal locations for your facility. You have a ready-made facility
that with little additional investment can accommodate your needs. In many
cases the equipment and furnishings can also be included in the deal at
very attractive rates. What I have found most attractive is that there is
a workforce ready and able to continue, especially if the timing is right.
Educational Campuses ' That's right, several school
districts, community colleges and four-year institutions I have spoken
with over the years have indicated a willingness to allow companies to
build or lease space on their campus or in facilities they own with the
idea of creating jobs for the students as well as the community at large.
In some cases, the institutions have even made transition space available
while permanent facilities were being constructed. In many cases, they are
also able to use their tax-exempt status to sweeten the deal.
Former Retail Facilities ' Retailers with big box footprints
such as Wal-Mart, K-Mart and several supermarket chains have become
aggressive in making their vacant facilities available for call center
use. They certainly fit one of the key attributes, as parking is generally
not an issue. Many even have off-the-shelf drawings on what their facility
would look like if converted to call center use. Several even have their
own construction companies or work closely with construction firms that
have expertise in call centers.
Information/Business Parks ' Many economic development
organizations working with local developers such as telecommunications
companies have invested in business and industrial parks. These
developments have deployed significant telecommunications infrastructure
such as fiber optics and other services to cater to information-intensive
firms such as call centers. You will see clever names such as smart
buildings, smart parks and information parks used to convey to the
marketplace their commitment to serve the call center industry.
These are a few examples for you to ponder as you select your next
facility. If you have other ideas or thoughts on this topic or other
economic development topics you would like to have covered, please e-mail
me at email@example.com.
I want to thank all the readers who take time to e-mail me. I do answer
each and every one. Please do not hesitate to provide feedback at any
James Beatty is president of NCS International, Inc., which
specializes in corporate site selection, community analysis and marketing.
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