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RE: Locations
June 2003

The Kansas City Area:
A Really Smart Place For Call Centers

By James Beatty, NCS International, Inc.

The Kansas City Area Development Council, which is the economic development entity serving this 17 county, 50 community, bi-state area of Missouri and Kansas with a population of over two million people, proudly boasts in their information that this is a smart area. After spending a few days in the area, I can attest to not only the smartness of the area, but to the variety of intellect, brains and wit at the multiple call centers I had the opportunity and privilege to visit during my all-too-short stay.

There are 75 call centers in the area, employing some 23,745 people. The Kansas City economic development service area encompasses Missouri cities such as St. Joseph, Kansas City, Independence, Lee's Summit and Raytown. Kansas communities include Kansas City, Olathe, Lawrence, Overland Park, Topeka, Shawnee and Lenexa.

This regional economic model makes it easy for call center site selection prospects to cover significant territory with just one call. I was particularly impressed with the variety of industries that had customer care, customer service and contact centers in the area.

Industries such as pharmaceuticals, software, cable, telecommunications, finance, insurance, real estate, manufacturing, data processing, government, retail, transportation and utilities are well represented, with their call centers providing services and employment in the Kansas City metroplex.

This wealth of knowledge and experience in the area is not by any means new, as one need only look at the world-renowned Midwest Research Institute to understand and appreciate the legacy of innovation that permeates the area. The Midwest Research Institute (MRI) was established in 1944 to supply needed research to industry and to encourage programs using regional resources. While serving as the Research and Development arm for the J.A. Folger Company in the 1950s, MRI actually created a brewing device that became the principle behind today's automatic drip coffeemakers. MRI scientists also successfully invented the coating process that ensured that M&Ms candies 'melt in your mouth, not in your hands.' True story!

The 2001 population of the Kansas City, Missouri MSA is 1,803,445, which is an increase of 198,798 over the 1991 figures according to the U.S. Bureau of the Census.

Labor Force, Employment And Unemployment
As of October 2002, the Kansas City MSA had a labor force of 1,037,751, with 985,447 people employed and a 5 percent unemployment rate

Employment Growth
The area has successfully added 148,942 jobs since 1991, which is a rate of growth of 18.2 percent, versus the overall U.S. rate of growth, which was 14.7 percent over the same time period.

Educational Attainment
The area proudly boasts that 86.7 percent of its population over 25 has a high school diploma, compared to 80.4% of the U.S. population. Additionally, 28.5 percent of the area's population over 25 has at least a Bachelor's degree, versus 24.4 percent of the general U.S. population. The area really is smart!

The per capita income for the area is $20,374, versus $18,491 for the U.S. as a whole, with a median household income of $42,221 versus $38,365 for the U.S. This clearly demonstrates that for the most part, there are two workers per household.

Selected Mean Wage Levels In The Kansas City MSA

Telemarketers $10.92

First line supervisors $18.66

Bill and account collectors $12.03

Customer service representatives $12.82

Order clerks $12.40

Information clerks $10.47

Computer operators $14.88

Data-entry keyers $10.71

As I visited with several HR managers in the area, it was apparent that starting call center wages range from $10.00 to $12.00 plus benefits, and are considered competitive.

Real Estate
Office market lease space ranges from a high of $21.99 in Class A central business district to $19.71 Class A in the suburbs. Class B space ranges from a high of $16.48 in the suburbs to $16.13 in the central business district.

Colleges/Universities In The Area

Contact centers, call centers and customer service operations can successfully recruit from 25 four-year and two-year higher education institutions in the area, all of which have a combined enrollment of 123,148 individuals.

Four-year Colleges And Universities
Name & Enrollment Fall 2001

Avila College 1,644

Baker University 2,919

Benedictine College 1,348

Central Missouri State University 10,822

Devry Institute Of Technology 2,620

Haskell Indian Nations University 1,013

Kansas City Art Institute 531

MidAmerican Nazarene University 1,684

Missouri Western State College 5,102

Park University 1,510

Rockhurst University 2,730

Saint Mary College 772

University Of Kansas 28,190

University of Missouri-Kansas City 12,969

Washburn University 6,118

Webster University 854

William Jewell College 1,369


Two-year Colleges And Universities
Name Enrollment Fall 2001

Donnelly College 370

Johnson County Community College 17,116

Kansas City Community College 5,240

Blue River Community College 2,294

Business And Technology College N/A

Longview Community College 5,792

Maple Woods Community College 5,045

Penn Valley Community College 4,376


In fact, the community colleges offer programs for customer service representative and call center management training. These classes' duration ranges from one day to six weeks, and they include topics such as critical thinking, team building and managing stress, call handling and call center management laws. The Metropolitan Community College even manages a 64-position call center to provide contract training for area businesses.

The Kansas City area has plenty of fiber backbone and is protected with more than 60 SONET rings. According to a study entitled, 'The Internet Backbone and the American Metropolis,' Kansas City also ranked eighth in the U.S. with its Internet backbone capacity.

There are 13 POPS, or points of presence, in the area as well as multiple local and network providers. These providers include AT&T, Everest Communications, Qwest, Sprint (which has its world headquarters in the area) MCI, SBC, Level 3 Communications, Axon Telecom, Time Warner, Williams, Kinet and Intermedia, to name a few. There are almost 28,000 telecommunications workers in the area.

Call Centers

There are 75 call centers in the area, with some household names such as H&R Block, Sprint, Community America, Farmers Insurance, Daimler Chrysler, Caremark and Principal Residential Mortgage Inc.

I was very impressed during my visit to H&R Block, as they had just received a call from a TV station to conduct a telethon that evening for the area Red Cross to help tornado victims. They had all of two or three hours' notice and graciously made their facility available, staffed with volunteers. This sense of community spirit and pride was evident everywhere I visited and has to be the reason for the low turnover in the area's call centers. In some cases, turnover is under five percent!

It was also a treat to learn about the formal networking that exists among the many call center executives in the area through their organization, the Professional Teleservice Management Association, or PTMA. The PTMA is committed to the ongoing professional development and training for call center managers in the area and serves as a very visible commitment to excellence in call center management. I saw several PTMA banners gracing the walls of selected call centers that had been recognized for their excellence. Learn more about this organization by visiting their Web site at www.ptmagkc.com.

The area certainly has had to deal with its share of closings and downsizing, as 1,646 jobs had been impacted in 2002 and 2003. However, true to their Midwest work ethic, the Kansas City Area Development Corporation (KCADC) is still aggressively pursuing more call center operations as the region has demonstrated its ability to grow and create jobs. Any expanding operation should take a long, hard look at this great area, and start by visiting the KCADC Web site, www.smartkc.com.

Please send me your comments, suggestions and thoughts at [email protected] or at [email protected]. Remember to visit www.callcentersites. net, the official site for call center and back-office location information worldwide.

For information and subscriptions,

visit www.tmcnet.com or call 203-852-6800.

James Beatty is president of NCS International, Inc., which specializes in corporate site selection, community analysis and marketing.

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