MCI to hire 400 for sales center at Hunt Valley 'Friends & Family' drive brings training for entry-level jobs

Bracing for Bells' foray

Expansion is boost for region hurt by high vacancy rate

November 08, 1995|By Michael Dresser | Michael Dresser,SUN STAFF

MCI Communications Corp.'s Hunt Valley service and sales center, which employs about 700 people, will add 400 workers in an aggressive push to sign subscribers to its popular Friends & Family discount long-distance plan.

The nation's No. 2 long-distance company said yesterday that it will hire and train sales employees throughout November, and will have the operation up and running next month.

The jobs will include 150 full-time day-shift jobs and 250 part-time positions on the 5:30 p.m.-to-10 p.m. shift, the company said.

MCI spokesman Steve Fox said the jobs would be "entry-level" positions with typical salaries of $7 an hour plus commissions.

While the jobs involved are not the high-tech, high-paying jobs economic development officials covet most, government spokesmen nevertheless welcomed them.

"The entry of 400 jobs in the area is certainly a positive, as far as we're concerned. It's also a chance for people to get into a reputable company, to get a good start," said Jay Doyle, spokesman for Baltimore County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger III.

"Obviously, MCI's gain is the state's gain also," said Charles Porcari, a spokesman for the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development. "It's a sign of a strong company recognizing that this is a strong state to do business in."

Unlike some recent corporate expansions, MCI's comes without any cajoling or carrot-dangling by state or county officials. Mr. Fox said there was no government role in the decision to expand.

MCI's expansion is the latest sign of an economic rebound for Hunt Valley, one of Baltimore County's largest employment centers. Mr. Doyle noted that the area's office vacancy rate, which rose to about 25 percent at the height of the recession of the early 1990s, had dropped to 11 percent by this summer.

The current expansion will be the second in the last three years for the MCI center, which has been in operation for more than 14 years.

In March 1993, the center announced it would hire 100 people -- an expansion it also attributed to the 4-year-old Friends & Family program.

Keri Gascoyne, senior associate at TeleChoice Inc. in Verona, N.J., said the Friends & Family program has been very successful. "It definitely has name recognition, and people are using it," she said.

Late last month, MCI announced it would build a 75,000-square-foot sales and service center in Newport News, Va., that eventually would employ 1,300 people. The center is to open in January.

Ms. Gascoyne said the expansion of MCI's marketing effort reflects an effort to nail down as much market share as possible in advance of the regional Bell companies' expected entry into the long-distance business within a few years.

"They're all starting to wake up to the fact that things are changing and that they're going to be much more competitive in the business," she said.

MCI does not release figures on the number of Friends & Family customers except to put the number at more than 10 million. But Mr. Fox noted that MCI's traffic volume increased 19.3 percent in its most recent quarter compared with the same period a year ago -- well above the industry average.

He said Friends & Family had been "a significant contributor" to the increase.

Mr. Fox noted that MCI has set up dedicated phone lines to handle calls from applicants for the jobs -- (410) 785-2910 for voice calls and (410) 527-2300 for faxing resumes.

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