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Nextel facility should employ up to 500
"If things proceed as hoped, a new call center locating in unincorporated Kitsap County near Bremerton could have a positive impact on South Kitsap's employment rate and economy.While economists cannot directly predict potential employment and economic benefits by region, the cumulative effects of a primary job provider like Nextel Communications, Inc. could be likened to a ripple that emanates from a pebble dropped into a pond. In this case, the pond is Kitsap County and Port Orchard lies in the ripple's path.What economists from the Kitsap Regional Economic Development Council do expect is that Nextel will hired skilled local workers and provide them the opportunity to work in the county, cutting down on commute times and keeping money in Kitsap.Because Kitsap County is situated the way it is, Nextel anticipates hiring all over the county. That's the beauty of having this kind of development here - our workers won't have to drive somewhere else, said Zoltan Szigethy, executive director of the Kitsap Regional Economic Development Council.He added the company also will invest a few million dollars in infrastructure on Wheaton Way - infrastructure the county didn't originally have.It will boost employment opportunities throughout the county, including South Kitsap, said Kevin Dwyer, director of business and marketing for the Kitsap Regional Economic Development Council. People in South Kitsap who are commuting might see this as an opportunity to work in Kitsap County. That's especially true of women who might have kids. This is an opportunity to be closer to their kids.Melode Sapp, executive director of the Port Orchard Chamber of Commerce, agreed. This will have a very positive impact, she said. It's not too far to drive. It's providing people the opportunity to work in the county.The 60,000-square-foot call center is expected to house about 500 full-time employees hired to take calls and answer questions about the accounts and services Nextel Communications, Inc., provides.Even in its infancy, the call center will provide jobs in the way of construction, contracting and specialized services. Starting wage at Nextel is expected to be somewhere between $9.50 and $10, and those with greater skill or experience would likely make more.Over the course of a year, that works out to about $20,000 for each employee. Multiply that by 500 employees, and Nextel could be pumping as much as $10 million in income into the county.That's because Nextel is a primary job source, meaning the fees for services it provides will be paid by people outside the county to the business in the county, which will then pay its employees.Those employees will then use their paychecks on services provided by secondary job sources - those in which the money might leave the county for goods made or sold elsewhere.The money people earn in pay and then spend on rent, gas, groceries and entertainment will provide a boost to the region's economy, Szigethy said. That $10 million will swirl around at least once or twice before it leaves again, he said. In terms of economic impact, this could be the equivalent of $30 million in income to the county annually.Nextel is expected to start construction soon at the Wheaton Way site and has plans to occupy the building by August. The company should be hiring 60 to 90 days before then.Because Nextel is located in this region, most of the people who will be hired probably live in Kitsap County. The majority of those will likely have jobs they will be leaving because a move to Nextel would represent some degree of upward mobility for them.That means about 500 jobs will become available for a new workforce to enter. Then, others will move in to take those jobs, Szigethy said. They're moving up the economic ladder and those jobs will be back-filled.Given a relative dearth of commercial employers in Kitsap County, some marveled at Nextel's choice to locate here. Szigethy said the Kitsap Regional Economic Development Council worked with Nextel for 11 months before it agreed to locate here. But, ultimately, the choice was logical: Nextel is a big company and Kitsap County has a comparably big labor force. It's a combination of military spouses, military retirees, people in the workforce for whom Nextel might be more appealing - college students and commuters, Dwyer said. It's a sizeable workforce.The Economic Development Council estimates the Kitsap County workforce is about 94,000, with a fluctuating 4 or 5 percent unemployment rate. Between 16,000 and 18,000 Kitsap County residents commute somewhere else to work each day.While Nextel might not be a career calling for someone, it might represent a bump up for someone working in the service sector - a huge part of Kitsap County's job market - and it offers some marketable skills. This affords people the opportunity to develop some phone skills, sales skills and computer skills. That gives folks some upward mobility, Dwyer said.And housing is cheap in Kitsap County, meaning Nextel's employees will be able to afford to live in homes and have a fairly decent standard of living on the pay they make with the company.The principal assets are the educated labor force ... and low housing costs. That has terrific ramifications in terms of how much people have to earn to live, he said. The labor can afford to live here.The fact that Kitsap County had the necessary infrastructure available also contributed to Nextel's decision to locate here, as did the lower cost of building.Ultimately, the hope is once Nextel sets up shop -provided they're successful - similar companies won't be far behind. That's our hope and our strategy, Szigethy said.Dwyer concurred. We feel this will be a great opportunity for us to be beginning to be on the radar screen to other like companies. It sends the message to the corporate world ... that you can do business in Kitsap County. Nextel is going to help us sell that to the world.Hopefully, the world will come knocking. I think it's exciting, Sapp said. Any time a new business that's nationally known comes to an area, it causes other businesses to look at the area. It's not only a remarkable opportunity for jobs right now. The real promise is it may cause more industries to take a second look. "