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Progressive to hire 500 for call center

The additions at the Hillsborough site come after recent cuts at other bay area call centers.

By JEFF HARRINGTON
Published February 25, 2005


Progressive Insurance plans to hire 500 workers for its call center in southern Hillsborough County this year, partially offsetting a pair of huge job cuts by other area call centers the past eight months.

Progressive, the third-largest auto insurer in the country, employs about 2,250 at its Riverview center, a four-building complex at U.S. 301 and Falkenburg Road, southeast of Brandon Town Center.

Like most of the current workers, nearly all new hires will field inbound calls inquiring about buying a Progressive policy and existing customers with service or claim issues, said Patricia Edwards, area human resources director for the company's sales and service division.

The salary range will be between $11 and $14 an hour depending on experience and type of position, Edwards said. Most positions will be full-time.

"Awesome," Kim Scheeler, president of the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce, said Thursday when told of Progressive's plans. "It shows that even though there's some consolidation going on in the market, there's still opportunity for us to come out on top."

The hiring spree runs counter to recent history. Last month, JPMorgan Chase told 1,900 Tampa employees they would lose their jobs with the closing if its credit card call center here. Seven months earlier, Capital One said it was shutting down its sprawling credit card call center in Tampa, eliminating 1,100 jobs.

It also runs counter to a popular trend among call centers to move offshore, using cheaper labor in other countries.

"Our CEO (Glenn Renwick) has been very open and honest to his employees that (offshoring) is not something he is seriously contemplating right now," Edwards said.

His stance is partially because many of Progressive's employees are licensed to sell and service insurance, a requirement that would be difficult if not impossible to duplicate overseas, Edwards said. The Riverview center is Progressive's second-largest customer service location, after the company's headquarters and flagship customer service operation in Cleveland. The auto insurer has sites in Sacramento, Calif.; Colorado Springs, Colo.; Phoenix and Austin, Texas.

Progressive's employment base grew rapidly in recent years, from 900 in 2000 to 2,200 in 2003. It has remained relatively flat the past year.

In late 2003, Progressive was awared a $630,000 state training grant connected to an expansion that would create as many as 600 jobs. Edwards said some of the new jobs may be tied to the training grant but she could not specify how many.

Information from Times files was used in this report. Jeff Harrington can be reached at 813 226-3407 or harrington@sptimes.com

[Last modified February 25, 2005, 00:51:16]


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