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HEARD ON THE BEAT / ECONOMY

County at Cost Disadvantage on Corporate Call Centers

February 28, 1997|PATRICE APODACA

Orange County is one of the most expensive regions in the country in which to operate call centers--offices where banks of workers don headsets to field customer questions, take orders or hawk products.

The average annual operating cost for a 300-worker call center in the Anaheim/Santa Ana area is $19.2 million, the sixth highest out of 25 metropolitan regions studied by the Boyd Co., a corporate relocation consultant. The most expensive area cited in the study was San Francisco, with a $21.6-million average annual operating cost. Los Angeles was third, averaging $20.5 million.

The call center industry is one of the country's fastest-growing business segments, as corporations increasingly use telecommunications to connect with their customers, said John H. Boyd, president of Boyd Co. But these operations are increasingly being set up in far-flung locations where companies can keep a lid on expenses, he said.

Because of their lower costs, certain regions in Canada are emerging as preferred sites for call centers, Boyd said. New Brunswick province, which has attracted call centers for major corporations such as General Electric, IBM and Federal Express, has become known as the call center capital, Boyd said.

Orange County, a hub of high-tech industry, will probably see more companies establish their call centers elsewhere, resulting in the loss of jobs paying anywhere from minimum wage to $40,000 a year, he said.

But this could "make corporations more competitive, more fundamentally sound," he said. "So perhaps they'll grow at their headquarters in Orange County and add more jobs that way."

Patrice Apodaca covers economic issues for The Times. She can be reached at (714) 966-5979 and at patrice.apodaca@latimes.com.

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