Verizon to Build New Call Center in Lincoln, Nebraska

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.

"I guarantee there's no city in the country that would turn away this kind of project," Berger said. "We are not talking minimum wage jobs here."

And, yes, he's aware of the kind of winter weather to expect during the construction period: In determining what construction materials to use, he looked up the history of temperatures from Dec. 1 to March 1 several years ago.

He also has personal experience:"I have had entire car water lines freeze up somewhere near North Platte," he said.

Reach Deena Winter at 473-2642 or .

ABOUT VERIZON COMMUNICATIONS

On the Web:

Headquarters: New York

Stock: Verizon(VZ),traded on New York Stock Exchange. One of 30 stocks in Dow Jones Industrial Average. Merged with MCI Inc. on Jan. 6.

The company: Verizon Communications delivers broadband, wireless and wireline communications to residential, business, government and wholesale customers.

It operates three divisions:

VERIZON WIRELESS

Customers: Nearly 57 million nationwide

States:49, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico

VERIZON BUSINESS

Operates wholly owned global IP network

Countries:More than 140

Employees: More than 30,000

VERIZON TELECOM

Telephone and broadband service networks

U.S. telephone access lines: 46 million

Wireline broadband connections: 6.6 million

Source:

VERIZON HISTORY

Verizon Communications Inc., based in New York and incorporated in Delaware, was formed on June 30, 2000, with the merger of Bell Atlantic Corp. and GTE Corp, two of the biggest telecommunications companies in the world.

The name came from combining veritas, the Latin word for certainty and reliability, and horizon, signifying forward-looking and visionary.

Verizon's predecessors have operated in parts of Nebraska since the 1980s, according to news archives.

The wireless company upgraded its network and service from Omaha to Lincoln and Fremont earlier this year. It has a store at Westfield Gateway shopping center.

LINCOLN'S LARGEST EMPLOYERS

Lincoln's largest employers are all government agencies. The following totals were provided earlier this year by the Lincoln Partnership for Economic Development. They include full- and part-time employees.

5,000-9,999 employees

1. University of Nebraska-Lincoln2. State of Nebraska3. Lincoln Public Schools

2,500-4,999 employees

4. BryanLGH Medical Center5. BNSF Railway Co.

1,000-2,499 employees

6. City of Lincoln7. U.S. government8. State Farm Insurance9. Duncan Aviation10. Lancaster County11. Saint Elizabeth Health Systems12. Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital13. Ameritas Life Insurance Co.14. B&R Stores Inc.15. Kawasaki Motors Mfg. Corp. USA16. Hy-Vee Food Stores Inc.

500-999 employees

24 employers

WHAT IS TIF?

Tax increment financing, or TIF, is an urban investment tool usually used in economically depressed areas.

Here's how it works: The increased property tax revenue generated by the development is used to make payments on a TIF bond. The money can be used to help make the project happen, from buying buildings to offering land to providing water and sewer service or just sprucing up the surrounding area.

Once the bonds are paid off, usually in about 15 years, the taxes begin flowing into the customary coffers of the city, county and school district.

In this case, the city has suggested it could help acquire the property; relocate gas, water and electric lines; build a storm sewer; extend streets; and do landscaping.


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