Regional census center opens in Rosedale, one of four in the country

Facility will employ 2,500 people, process data from the Northeast

June 18, 1999|By Laura Cadiz | Laura Cadiz,SUN STAFF

The Baltimore Census 2000 Data Capture Center opened its doors yesterday in Rosedale, the first of four regional centers to open nationwide and the eventual home of 2,500 employees who will help count the 2000 U.S. Census.

The center -- which officials say will pump about $30 million in salaries into the local economy -- will be responsible for counting census data from throughout the Northeast, expected to be more than 40 million forms.

"By the project's end, we hope to send a newly trained work force into the community," said Susan Mann-Hammack, spokeswoman for Computer Sciences Corp., a California firm responsible for hiring and training the employees. "It's a perfect entry-level job because we provide all the training."

Fifty people have been hired to fill the management positions in the center's 224,000-square-foot, $7 million warehouse on Kelso Drive. About 225 temporary employees will be hired and trained to conduct a trial run during August and September.

In October, the center will start hiring employees to work March possibly through September 2000 to process the forms.

The temporary positions include full-time and part-time mail clerks, document-preparation clerks and key-entry operators. The average pay is about $11 an hour.

The employees will use Lockheed Martin Corp.'s high-speed imaging technology to scan the census forms into computers. That technology can read handwriting, an effort to make the counting more efficient and accurate. Previously, the forms were recorded on microfilm.

The center "is not about more information, it's about getting the information of the census into the hands of American people quickly and accurately," said Kenneth Prewitt, U.S. Census Bureau director, who attended yesterday's event.

The center is working with community organizations, churches and colleges to recruit the workers. The state Department of Labor Licensing and Regulation and Maryland Bible College and Seminary in Baltimore have promised to recruit 500 employees each. The Computer Training Center in Catonsville has agreed to bring in 300 employees.

To help keep the workers employed after the census is done, the center is trying to develop a partnership with other companies that might hire the employees after September. So far, Clorox Products Manufacturing Co. in Aberdeen has expressed interest.

This is the first time the U.S. Census Bureau has contracted with private companies to help operate the census. Computer Sciences Corp. and TRW, a Virginiasystems and information technology company, are in charge of the Rosedale operations center.

DynCorp will operate the center in Pomona, Calif., which will open in July; National Computer Systems will run the Phoenix, Ariz., center, which will open in September; and the U.S. government will operate the fourth center, in Jeffersonville, Ind.

Maryland Secretary of State John T. Willis said the Rosedale center will be an important factor in developing a more accurate census count. In 1990, more than 100,000 Maryland residents were not counted in the census, which created a loss of about $1,000 a person in federal funding.

"In terms of making this center a success, Maryland wants to be a model operation," Willis said.

Pub Date: 6/18/99

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