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Jon Winkel

Winkel

SERGEANT BLUFF | Sergeant Bluff will lose its largest employer when Convergys shuts down its Sergeant Bluff call center in April, eliminating nearly 180 jobs.

The affected employees were notified Tuesday of the Cincinnati, Ohio-based company's decision.

“Well, I guess we’ll have to get busy and find somebody else for that building,” Sergeant Bluff Mayor Jon Winkel said Tuesday afternoon after hearing the news from a Journal reporter.

The contract work performed at the Sergeant Bluff site will be consolidated at other Convergys sites in the United States, company officials said.

“It’s a business decision that just took place,” spokesperson Brooke Beiting said. “We don’t take these things lightly, but it is something that is helping us serve our customers.”

Beiting said displaced workers are encouraged to apply for positions where they could work remotely from their homes or at other Convergys sites. By setting April 14 as the final day for the center, the company complies with a federal law that requiring employers to give at least 60 days notice of a major plant closing

Tuesday's announcement comes seven months after Convergys said it would add about 250 jobs at its offices in the Pioneer Mall, 102 Sergeant Square Drive. At the time, the company listed its local workforce at around 300. The new openings included health insurance agent positions.

The company provided contract services to several large firms, including some on the Fortune 500 list, but made it a practice not to identify them by name. Agents at the Sergeant Bluff center handled inbound customer service calls.

At its peak, Convergys expected employment in Sergeant Bluff exceeding 750.

As top executives at Long Lines in the 1980s, Winkel and Chuck Long built the 160,000-square-foot call center that Convergys now occupies. After signing the nation's first "equal access" agreement with MCI, Sergeant Bluff Long Lines became the first local phone company to enter the long-distance telephone business. The deal became the model for the nation in the aftermath of the breakup of AT&T's phone monopoly.

Long Lines later sold the Sergeant Bluff call center to MCI. The 600-employee center closed in 2006 after Verizon acquired MCI.

Local business leaders recruited Stream Global Services, a third-party contract services firm, to fill the vacated space in Sergeant Bluff.

Convergys acquired the center in 2014 as part of an $820 million acquisition of Stream. 

Journal staff writer Ty Rushing contributed to this story.

 
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