By Joel Hall
Gov. Sonny Perdue helped usher in the recent expansion of Atlanta Gas Light (AGL) Company's Riverdale call center on Tuesday morning. Perdue, along with other state and local officials, welcomed 74 new local jobs, created when the company ended a four-year outsourcing agreement.
Perdue, AGL Resources President and CEO John Somerhalder, II, and Georgia Public Service Commission Chairman Lauren "Bubba" McDonald, participated in a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the center. The facility, located at 540 Ga. Highway 138, S.W., underwent a renovation to accommodate the 74 new call-center workers.
AGL's Riverdale call center was established in 1995, but from 2006 to 2010, the majority of its customer-service operations were outsourced to call centers in Pune and Mumbai, India, according to AGL officials. On June 1, the company diverted its call-center operations back to Riverdale, a move Perdue said was good for the state and local economies.
"This company has been around before we electrified the South, and is really Georgia's oldest corporation in that regard," Perdue said. "It says something when a company that is 150 years old continues to grow in it's home base, and home state.
"Companies like AGL had to look at the most efficient deployment of their resources" he said. "It's significant when a storied company like this realizes that hometown touch works. Really, we can do it as well as anybody in the world," the governor said.
The restoration of Riverdale's customer-service operation is a "win-win for Georgia" and having calls handled locally will improve customer satisfaction, said PSC Chairman McDonald.
"It will not only enhance the economy of this region, but if it's good for Riverdale, it's good for Georgia," McDonald said. "Not only do we have the creation of jobs, but it will improve customer service. It's good to know that when Georgians have a problem, or a question about their gas, they will have a Georgian on the line to help them with it," McDonald added.
In January, there were 2,200 applicants for the 74 jobs that were a result of the expansion, said AGL Resources Vice President of Customer Experience Connie McIntyre. When faced with the decision last year to renew its contracts in India, the company decided bringing new jobs to Riverdale was the right thing to do, McIntyre added. "In the state of the economy, we felt like it was time to bring jobs back to Georgia," McIntyre said. "It was a long-term strategy. It was the right move."
In addition to servicing calls throughout the state of Georgia, McIntyre said the new employees will also handle customer-service calls for AGL Resource's subsidiary companies Virginia Natural Gas, Elkton Gas of Maryland, Florida City Gas of Florida, and Chattanooga Gas of Tennessee.
The new jobs will have a ripple effect in the Riverdale area, said Clayton County Board of Commissioners Chairman Eldrin Bell. "When you look at 74 jobs, it's not just how many people are employed, it's how many other people those jobs will support," he said. "It's people spending their money in the neighborhood, eating lunch across the street. That makes it more than just a drop in the bucket."
Riverdale Mayor Evelyn Wynn-Dixon said the customer-call center will serve as an example to other businesses to remain, and return to Riverdale. "It's significant that they elected to remain here, when they could have gone somewhere else," she said. "You can just revamp and remodel. You don't have to move."