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Call center lining up loans to aid $4.2m renovation

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A $4.2 million upgrade at the Stream Global Services call center on Arsenal Street will get financial support from three local economic development funding agencies for its project, which will accommodate the hiring of 300 employees and the addition of a major customer contract.

The renovations will be completed in phases within the footprint of the call center building, mainly with a new configuration of employee cubicles in the building at 146 Arsenal St.

“They want to accommodate the additional work force for more people in the future,” said Donald W. Rutherford, CEO of the Watertown Local Development Corp.

The project came up during Thursday morning’s WLDC meeting, as the agency, also known as the Watertown Trust, discussed a $250,000 loan to Stream.

The WLDC board unanimously approved the five-year loan with a 5 percent fixed interest rate. The Jefferson County Industrial Development Agency and the Development Authority of the North Country each are expected to lend the company $250,000. The firm’s parent company, Stream Global Services, is the guarantor for the loans.

The project is also in line for a $1 million grant from the Empire State Development Corp. and a $564,000 grant from JCIDA, in addition to a series of other public financing. The company intends to kick in $1.2 million in equity.

Before the vote, Mr. Rutherford told the board he was satisfied with the parent company’s financial performance.

The brunt of the project involves the purchase of new equipment, furniture and computers, according to documents in the city’s code enforcement office. It also includes a new employee cafeteria, main lobby area, restrooms, carpeting and painting, said Joseph Thornton, Stream’s senior director of brand names.

The upgrades are prompted partly by a new customer contract. Mr. Thornton would not identify the new customer, except to say it involves a leading company in telecommunications.

“We will be supporting hardware products for this telecom provider through Watertown,” Mr. Thornton said.

The first phase of the project will be completed within the next week. The remainder will be finished later this year.

Recently, Stream Global Services hired about 200 workers and the upgrades eventually could accommodate a total of 1,000. About 700 people work there. The company continues to hire for many positions.

With similar renovation projects planned at other sites, the Watertown facility is among the first to be completed, company officials said.

Working in cubicles at the 76,000-square-foot facility, employees provide round-the-clock technical assistance for customers on behalf of national companies in a diverse mix of industries: telecommunications, entertainment, software networking, insurance and business-to-business cloud computing.

Employees, who answer a collective 30,000 calls in the course of each day, help customers solve problems relating to movie rentals, haircuts, GPS units, satellite radio and life insurance.

JCIDA owns the building’s upper floor and leases it back to Stream. Local businessman Brian H. Murray purchased the lower story, at the building’s rear, last year. It houses several businesses in a strip mall.

JCIDA officials plan to meet with Mr. Murray to discuss the impact the project will have on his portion of the building and the common areas they share, said Donald C. Alexander, CEO of JCIDA.

Stream Global Services, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, set up shop in the renovated former F.W. Woolworth department store in January 2003. The U.S. company has about 50 call centers around the globe and is a Fortune 500 company.

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