Verizon to Build New Call Center in Lincoln, Nebraska

Ground broken this week for beginning of $18M office building

Verizon reportedly bringing hundreds of jobs here

City officials are in the final stages of sealing a deal in which Verizon will bring about 800 jobs to Lincoln, according to sources familiar with the project.

A groundbreaking on a call center is planned for Monday.

News releases are being prepared.

Shovels are being readied.

Dirt is scheduled to be turned in the University of Nebraska-Lincoln technology park in northwest Lincoln, and construction of an $18 million office building is set to begin soon thereafter.

And if everything goes as planned, hundreds of people could start reporting to work in October to what are described as "reasonably well-paying" jobs.

Starting pay at other Verizon call centers has been reported at $27,000 to $28,000 annually plus benefits.

Although the details in this case aren't yet clear, call center employees typically field service-related questions from customers.

Verizon Communications operates three divisions, Verizon Wireless, Verizon Telecom and Verizon Business. It's unclear which division is coming to Lincoln.

In order to offer Verizon incentives to come to Lincoln, the city declared the UNL technology park blighted, making the project eligible for the city's economic development tool of choice, tax increment financing.

As is standard procedure with other redevelopment projects, the city issued a "request for proposals" -basically a call for bids -inviting developers to build a 100,000-square-foot office building on a 13.5-acre piece of land.

Developers had two weeks to respond - an unusually small window of time for a major project.

By comparison, the city recently put out a request for proposals for a 5,000- to 11,000-square-foot animal kennel and gave developers more than five weeks to respond.

The deadline for proposals on the Verizon building was noon Thursday.

Despite the short time frame, three companies made proposals: Lincoln construction company Ayars & Ayars Inc., Lincoln real estate developer Speedway Properties and Doppco Development Co., an Ohio real estate development company that does retail development for Verizon.

Doppco acquires and develops property that it leases to national retailers such as Starbucks, Panda Express and CiCi's Pizza.

Doppco Vice President Stuart Berger said his company proposed to build a 112,000-square-foot, single-story office building, which would be leased to Verizon.

If Doppco gets the bid, construction would begin next week and should be complete by August, Berger said.

His brother Alan Berger is a former Verizon employee who launched Doppco in 2005.

And while that might make it appear it's a slam-dunk for Doppco, it's not the only company that put in a bid.

Normally after bids are received, the mayor appoints a selection committee, which decides which bid it likes best. Then the city and developer negotiate a redevelopment agreement, which is forwarded to the City Council for approval.

It's not clear whether the city will follow that process this time.

Mike Tavlin, chief financial officer for Speedway Properties, said Speedway submitted a fairly comprehensive bid to construct the building, although he has no clue whom the tenant will be.

"We worked hard to submit a proposal in good faith," he said. "We thought it was responsive to what the city was looking for. It was obviously a difficult situation given the relatively short amount of time in which to work, but we worked hard at it and are obviously hopeful that it will be favorably received."

Dave Kleopfer of Ayars & Ayars said he couldn't comment, referring calls to Mike Ayars, who could not be reached.

If Doppco wins the bid, all construction workers below the superintendent level would come from the local labor pool, Berger said.

"It will be your local labor force that will build this facility," he said.

It would be a standard Verizon office building, Berger said, with an exercise facility, locker rooms, cafeteria, training rooms and conference rooms.

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