Sedgwick County Commission approves $200,000 loan to Starwood Hotels for call center

Starwood Hotels and Resorts will get a $200,000 forgivable loan from Sedgwick County that commissioners approved Wednesday to help offset the cost of building a call center in Wichita.

Starwood plans to put a call center at the former Office This building on East Harry at the old Wichita Mall.

Starwood owns brands such as Westin, Sheraton and Four Points. The Wichita call center will be the company’s largest in the United States. Starwood owns 1,146 hotels worldwide and has 171,000 employees.

In exchange for the county’s money, Starwood has promised more than 900 full-time equivalent jobs paying an average hourly wage of $13.40 within a five-year period, adding jobs every year.

The city of Wichita also approved a $200,000 forgivable loan, also tied to job creation. Starwood will get $1.6 million in incentives from the Kansas Department of Commerce. As part of its agreements with the city and county, Starwood has promised to create 532 full-time jobs in its first year at an average hourly wage of $11.45, not including overtime. That translates to an average annual salary of $23,816 and a total payroll of $12,670,112.

By the end of five years, Starwood has pledged it would employ more than 900 people, paying them an average $13.40 per hour not including overtime, an average annual salary of $27,872 and a total payroll of almost $25.3 million.

“I think it’s a great use of a wonderful space,” Commissioner Tim Norton said, saying that jobs are the community’s No.1 priority.

Commissioner Richard Ranzau voted against the loan, saying such incentives hurt other businesses.

Residents who spoke against the loan told commissioners they should ask themselves if Starwood would build the call center without the county’s and city’s $200,000 loans.

Commissioners voted 3 to 2 to approve the loan, with Ranzau and Commissioner Karl Peterjohn voting against it. They questioned a lag in the timing of jobs compared with the payout of the loan. Norton and Commissioners Jim Skelton and Dave Unruh voted for it.

Contributing: Bill Wilson of The Eagle

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