Call Centers: Mister Rogers' New Neighborhood
By James Beatty, NCS International, Inc.
What do you think of when Pittsburgh is mentioned? Perhaps smokestacks,
foundries and steel mills come to mind. Years ago, that would have been
true. Now as they say, 'Pittsburgh Is On It.' Today, it's more accurate to
think of CRM, high-tech, info tech, fiber optics, life sciences, logistics
and research and development. The 'New Pittsburgh Region,' as they refer
to themselves, has been transformed.
Not only did the venerable Mister Rogers call this place home and
produced his popular 'Mister Rogers' Neighborhood' show on public television
for 30 years, but dozens of call centers and back-office operations have
made this region their neighborhood as well.
According to the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance (PRA), which graciously
arranged my visit, tour and briefings, there are almost 4,000 firms
employing nearly 60,000 people in financial services, major back-office and
CRM operations in the area. Call centers alone account for over 17,000
employees in the region.
The PRA is a non-profit economic development organization formed in 1995.
It works with public, private and civic organizations in the 10 counties of
southwestern Pennsylvania. Its focus and mission is to generate and serve
business creation, expansion and relocation as well as to aid in the growth
of the skilled workforce.
Contained in the next several tables are some of the reasons call centers
are thriving in the 10-county region.
10 County Region 2,656,007
Pittsburgh MSA 2,358,695
City of Pittsburgh 334,563
Sources: U.S. Census Bureau, Pittsburgh Regional
Gender, Age And Per Capita Income
The region is 48 percent male and 52 percent female. There are 320,771
people in the 25 to 34 age bracket and 418,866 in the 35 to 44 age bracket
Per capita income in the 10-county region ranges from $19,932 in Greene
County to $34,431 in Allegheny County. The average for the 10-county region
10 County Region 1,306,133
Pittsburgh MSA 1,180,300
City of Pittsburgh 162,675
Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Census
Bureau, Pittsburgh Regional Alliance
According to data compiled for November 2002, the unemployment figures
for the region range from a low of 4.7 percent in Allegheny County to a high
of 7.7 percent in Fayette County. The 10-county regional average for the
same time period was 5.3 percent.
An analysis of hourly and annual wages for selected call center-related
occupations reveals the following data for the Pittsburgh MSA.
Average Annual Occupation Hourly Wage Wage
Sales managers $35.51 $73,870
HR managers $27.70 $57,610
Computer programmers $20.21 $42,040
Network and computer administrators $20.21 $42,040
Telemarketers $10.63 $22,110
Office supervisors $12.08 $25,130
Bill collectors $12.30 $25,590
Customer service reps $12.12 $25,210
Computer operators $12.91 $26,850
Retail salespeople $8.70 $18,100
Sources: Pennsylvania Department of Labor, Pittsburgh
The region produces over 28,000 high school graduates annually, with
28,443 in school year 2000 and 28,883 in school year 2001. This large pool
of high school graduates represents a great opportunity for call centers
considering the area.
In 2000, there were a large number of degrees granted, as well.
Associate's degree 2,922
Bachelor's degree 13,920
Master's degree 5,968
There are 129,583 students enrolled in the region's 33 colleges,
universities and community colleges. A partial listing of colleges and
universities and their enrollments includes:
Art Institute of Pittsburgh 2,497
(The Andy Warhol Museum is in Pittsburgh.)
Butler County Community College 2,913
California University of Pennsylvania 5,899
Carnegie Mellon University 8,514
Community College of Allegheny County 15,556
of Beaver County 2,188
of Westmoreland County 5,272
Duquesne University 9,667
Indiana University 13,410
Robert Morris University 4,958
Slippery Rock University 6,952
University of Pittsburgh 26,329
The region is well wired, with AT&T, MCI and Sprint operating major
primary switches. AT&T has its International Operations Center in
Pittsburgh, further attesting to the area's network reliability. Sonet rings
and redundancy are provided in the region by over 30 competitive local
exchange carriers (CLECs) and Internet companies. The area is also
establishing itself as a cyber security hub, as it is home to the Software
Engineering Institute's CERT Coordination Center, the Sustainable Computing
Consortium and one of the world's largest computer security firms.
In the Pittsburgh market, Class A real estate in the central business
district is $22.39 and Class B is $16.19. The suburban Class A is $20.04 and
Class B is $14.80. As an average, Class A is $21.54 and Class B is $15.65.
The region has 24 different and creative incentives and has demonstrated its
ability and willingness to meet the needs of the call centers in the area.
Job training and assistance ranks at the top of the list of programs
available. There are also programs to help mitigate the usual corporate
taxes. All of these programs can be accessed through the Pittsburgh Regional
Call Centers Operating In The Region
As of the latest count, there are 60 call centers in the region,
employing 17,480 people. This represents 1.3 percent of the region's total
workforce, with plenty of room for growth to 2 percent (26,122), which would
allow the addition of another 9,000 people with minimal upward pressure on
Table 1 is a list of the call centers currently operating in the region.
During my talks with call center managers, I was pleasantly surprised to
learn of the variety of call centers in the area and their affordability. I
was very pleased to learn about the great working relationship among each of
the 10 counties served by the PRA. This cooperation makes the review and
research process very simple ' a kind of 'one-stop shopping.' The area can
easily absorb another 9,000 or more call center agents and not miss a step.
The region is low cost, ranking at 96 on a scale where 100 is average, as
computed by ACCRA, and offers workers and management a tremendous quality of
life and a wealth of great cultural and ethnic experiences. Even arriving at
the airport was fun, which is a seldom-used word these days to describe air
travel. When you fly into the Pittsburgh International Airport, you feel as
though you have landed in a major shopping mall. Perhaps this is the reason
why even the airport is rated among the world's top five.
As usual, if you have any comments or suggestions for new stories, please
contact me at
firstname.lastname@example.org and visit my Web site
www.callcentersites.net for the
latest on call center and back-office location information worldwide.
For information and subscriptions, visit
www.TMCnet.com or call 203-852-6800.
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