Spokane Journal of Business

Colville location picked for new WDS call center

Dental benefits provider’s expansion to bring 30 jobs in customer service, claims

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The states largest dental benefits provider, Seattle-based Washington Dental Service, has chosen Colville as the site for a new call center thats initially expected to create nearly 30 new customer-service and claims-processing jobs in that Northeast Washington community.

WDS will become the first tenant in a fiber-optic-linked call center to be developed under an $880,000 federal grant awarded in June to the Tri-County Economic Development District, a federally funded agency thats assisting in the economic development of the area, which has struggled to diversify its economic base.

Jim Garrison, president and CEO of WDS, says the company has outgrown its Seattle facility and chose to expand to Colville because of the availability of workers and high-speed telecommunications infrastructure there.

It keeps Washington Dental Services business in Washington state and provides economic-development opportunities to a rural area of the state, Garrison says.

Serving about 1.5 million customers across the nation, WDS is a non profit organization that employs about 250 in its Seattle office.

Hiring and training for the new positions are scheduled to begin in January, and the center is expected to be staffed in a phased approach and become fully operational by the second quarter of 2002, says Craig Gowdey, vice president of information technology and facilities for WDS. The jobs to be created in Colville will require some computer and customer-service skills, he says, and all but a few will be filled locally.

The call center will be housed in an 8,000-square-foot space in a former restaurant building on Main Street in downtown Colville. The building is one of two bought by the economic development district to help attract new customer-service and technology jobs to Colville and to create an incubator for small businesses, says Marty Wold, the districts executive director.

Remodeling of the call center, which could accommodate up to 60 employees, is expected to begin soon, he says.

The Northeast Tri-County area, which includes Ferry, Stevens and Pend Oreille counties, is one of the first federally designated economic-development districts in the nation, Wold says.

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