New London — Frontier Communications officially opened its 20,000-square-foot State Street call center on Wednesday in the same building where generations of operators helped connect customers to the outside world.
“It’s good to be home,” said Paul Quick, a senior vice president and general manager of Frontier’s Connecticut operations, to enthusiastic applause during a ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by about 100 people.
AT&T had closed the longtime downtown call center more than a year ago, forcing local employees to drive an extra hour to a centralized operation in New Haven. But shortly after Frontier bought AT&T’s landline and U-verse businesses in Connecticut for $2 billion, the company announced that it would be returning operations here and restoring about 100 jobs to the economically struggling city.
“This is the best news that has hit New London in many many months, if not years,” said Tony Sheridan, president of the Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut. “This is good news for the region.”
U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, called the move a “brilliant decision” by Frontier.
“The bones of this city are still good,” he said. “New London is just an outstanding city with great people.”
“What a great day for the city of New London,” said Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio. “Thank God they are back and hopefully here to stay.”
New London had between 300 and 400 employees in New London several years ago, but the staff was slowly cut by AT&T as the landline side of its business dwindled. The last few dozen operators in Connecticut, including several dozen in New London, were cut last year when AT&T decided to rely more on automation.
New London has had a phone-company presence for more than 100 years, Finizio said, including several of his relatives.
William Henderson, president of the Communications Workers of America Local 1298, lauded Frontier for its return to the city and its commitment to veterans, pointing out that 15 percent of the 440 new jobs the company has committed to over the past few months were going to people who had previously served in the armed forces.
“Every person who works for Frontier is an American,” he said. “No job is shipped overseas.”
The newly renovated call center houses 69 employees, 52 of whom moved from the New Haven operation. A new class of 25 recruits is expected to join them shortly, backed by several more managers.
Frontier officials said the average job at the call center will pay $22.65 an hour. But more important, they said, employees have got 10 hours of their lives back by not having to drive back and forth to New Haven every day.
“I feel like on Feb. 5 (the day Frontier announced the State Street reopening) we won the life lottery,” said Joanne Kenyon, a 17-year veteran of the call center who spent 16 months commuting to New Haven.
Kenyon said the return to New London felt like a family reunion. It also has allowed people to spend more time volunteering with Girl Scouts, Little League and other worthwhile causes, she said.
“We’re very grateful to be here,” added Nancy Corina, who has spent 25 years as a call center worker, dating back to when it was operated by Southern New England Telephone Co.
Corina said the Frontier management team was a breath of fresh air after dealing with AT&T.
“They care about us, not just our numbers,” she said.
The newly renovated call center, a wide open space spiced by Frontier’s red-and-white corporate logo and signs delineating various teams, includes a break room with a pool table and some comfortable sofas. At one end of the call center stands a buffalo — Frontier’s corporate mascot — that has been painted by employees with symbols of the region, including a whale, submarine, the Coast Guard Barque Eagle and New London Ledge Light.
A separate training room has work stations where up to 44 people at a time can get instructions on call-center protocols.
On the day of the call center’s official opening, employees were eligible to win gift cards and special prizes every hour for reaching the highest sales plateaus — another effort, managers said, to “surprise and delight” workers to try to make their day.
“It’s nice to feel like we’re proud of doing work in Connecticut,” Kenyon said.May 27th, 2015