Vermillion losing major employer

Vermillion losing major employer
Nearly 60 employees will lose their jobs at the end of the month when an Omaha telemarketing company closes its Vermillion operation. Quality Telemarketing, which was founded in 1987, has been sold to American Pacesetters Inc. of Mesa, AZ, in a deal that closed Tuesday, The Associated Press reported.

President Mike Albers would not disclose the sale price. Albers confirmed Wednesday about 55 jobs in Vermillion and 25 in Winner will be lost, as well as 30 in Spirit Lake, IA. The company, which sells magazines, will close its Midwest operations, the owner said.

Albers sold his company to set up his retirement, he told The Associated Press, and because his labor markets couldn't keep up with his company's growth. The federal "Do Not Call" registry had no affect on his operations, Albers said, because he had contracts to do business-to-business calling.

While the Vermillion plant will close in two weeks, local officials expressed optimism Wed-nesday the affected workers will find jobs in the area.

"Any time that you

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"Our response as a community, in partnership with the state of South Dakota and our congressional delegation, to this transition has been rapid," she said. "South Dakota Career Center was on-site at Quality Telemarketing immediately, working with employees on programs available to assist them through this transition, as well as helping them line up new opportunities for employment."

While December is traditionally a slow hiring period, Ketcham pointed to the region's strong business activity. Clay County has maintained a very low jobless rate, but new and existing businesses have found needed workers.

"We are positioned well and are fortunate as a community and as a region to have a strong economy right now, with several area employers looking to hire people," Ketcham said. "Many people are working together quickly to ensure that we take care of the employees and their needs. While we regret the loss of Quality Telemarketing operations in Vermillion, we recognize that changes such as this are a normal part of business and we will get through the challenges together."

Vermillion City Manager John Prescott said Wednesday's announcement came as a surprise. Local officials checked with Quality Telemarketing for official confirmation about the closure and layoffs, he said.

"You hate to see something like this happen, but the owner made the decision best for the company at this point in time," he said. However, the Vermillion economy is seeing business openings and expansions which could absorb most, if not all, the laid-off workers, Prescott said.

"As far as I know, Polaris is hiring, and so is Wal-Mart. I believe they are also advertising at eTelecare, another telemarketing business," he said. "We do have some employers looking to hire for additional jobs at this place in time."

Quality Telemarketing hired a mix of full- and part-time employees, which means different needs and mobility for each worker, Prescott said.

"Part-time employees are more likely to stay here, whereas full-time employees are more likely to look elsewhere for jobs," he said. The Vermillion effort will include working with the Southeast Council of Governments (SECOG) and the Economic Development Administration (EDA), Prescott said.

"Our first priority is to help employees who are losing their jobs to find new jobs," he said. Local officials will meet to discuss developments when Ketcham returns today (Thursday) from an economic-development conference in Pierre, Prescott said. That action could include discussion with Gov. Mike Rounds and other state officials, the city manager said.

The VCDC would take the lead on recruiting new businesses or helping market the business, Prescott said. However, the city could help out in some areas, such as providing fill for property, he said. University of South Dakota students provide an attractive base of educated workers, Prescott said.

"We have the type of advantages that employers, particularly telemarketers, find appealing," he said. The Quality Telemarketing building could draw prospective businesses, Prescott said. "As I understand it, the building underwent some renovations and improvements, so it's not limited to any particular employer. There are a number of different possibilities," he said.

During the rest of this week, Vermillion officials will discuss prospects for the building, Prescott said. "It can be simple things, like if the owner is interested in selling the building quickly. That will help in looking at new employers." Vermillion could even get a second look from companies previously showing interest in the community, Prescott said. "We have an asset of a building in place along Highway 50, not far from the interstate (highway), which would be appealing," he said. Vermillion's loss of jobs is not unusual, said Greg Henderson, executive director of the Planning and Development District III office in Yankton. "We are facing the same issues in our region," he said. "They announced layoffs at Dakota Pork in Mitchell, with a report of 300 employees. And we are still working with Springfield on their (SKF) building and closure. They sent a delegation to Pierre (Wednesday) to talk with state officials."

Vermillion can use the current situation to tackle both short- and long-term goals, Henderson said. "They are able to work with SECOG about outside assistance and with planning how they want to look down the road," he said. "For now, the most immediate help will come from the state of South Dakota through job training and working directly with these affected employees."

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