Washington-based Receivables Performance Management signed a lease on Tuesday to open a new call center at the Ruffin Building at 9111 E. Douglas.
“The whole working with people in Wichita I found to be quite refreshing,” says founder and CEO Howard George. “It’s been a very positive experience.”
RPM is in collections for major telecommunications, satellite and cable companies. It has a call center in Lynnwood, Wash., north of Seattle with more than 150 employees. It also has a contract relationship in the Philippines for 60 to 100 workers.
George says the Wichita call center will be “our second that’s our own.”
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In RPM’s first six to 12 months in business, George says he expects to hire 30 to 50 employees at between $11 and $13 an hour with possible bonuses of up to $1,000 a month.
By the second year, that number could expand to 100 to 125 employees.
The Ruffin Building lease is for 5,000 square feet with another 5,000 square feet immediately available. Stephanie Wise of John T. Arnold Associates handled the deal.
George says a high minimum wage in Washington — it’s going up to $14 an hour depending on the size of a business — and the number of jobs added every month caused him to look outside the state.
“That’s where Manila’s helpful, but they’re not skilled,” George says.
He says Wichita has a skilled workforce, a good economy and a lower cost of living than Washington so “it creates a better long-term solution for the employee.”
“A family can support themselves much better in that environment than they do here. . . . Hopefully we can retain a better workforce.”
George has been in the industry since 1983 and started RPM in 2002.
He says he looked nationally at where his customers and competitors are. Two of his larger customers — he says he can’t say who they are — are based in Kansas City and St. Louis.
George says it was also attractive to find a site centrally located instead of even farther across the country from Washington, which will offer remote support to the call center.
RPM managed $1.9 billion in debt over the last year and collected more than 70 million in money and equipment.
The new call center will open in early January with 53 work stations available.
“We like the building,” George says. “It’s got tons of parking.”
He says he also likes the area in addition to all of Wichita.
George says he noticed a lot of little things while visiting Wichita, such as the high ratio of employees to diners at restaurants.
“People work hard, and they’re busy, and they’re polite,” he says.
George says he also has the feeling that Wichitans seem to truly appreciate new companies.
“There’s other places you can go that don’t give you that feel.”
George says he’d like to reciprocate.
“We are trying to learn how to be quality Wichitonians,” he says. “Local culture has a big thing to do with a business’ success.”