Possible call center draws biggest crowd at job fair

Wednesday, October 18, 2006
People waited in line, right, to fill out applications at National Asset Recovery Service Inc., while hundreds of others, left, walked around to view the other organizations represented at the Career Fair at the Show Me Center in Cape Girardeau on Tuesday. (Diane L. Wilson)

The fair was an opportunity for area officials to convince NARS executives to locate in Cape Girardeau.

Hundreds of area residents turned out for a job fair Tuesday, many of them waiting patiently in line for the chance at landing a job with a prospective new call center in Cape Girardeau.

"Wow. That's great," said industrial recruiter Mitch Robinson as he surveyed the long line of job applicants in the Show Me Center.

The proposed call center was one of 52 businesses and institutions that handled inquiries from job seekers at the fair.

Robinson and other civic leaders hope to convince St. Louis-based National Asset Recovery Service Inc., or NARS, that the Cape Girardeau area can provide the work force needed to establish a call center.

The new center would employ an estimated 350 people, local officials have said.

The job fair, sponsored by the Southeast Missourian, provided an opportunity for economic development officials and civic leaders to attempt to convince NARS executives to locate in Cape Girardeau.

NARS, founded by Cape Girardeau native Chris Buehrle in 1993, could make a decision by the end of the month, Robinson said.

Buehrle wasn't ready to decide Tuesday. But he welcomed the interest of job seekers. "It looks great," he said, eyeing the long line of people waiting to be interviewed.

While dozens of businesses had booths at the job fair, NARS drew the biggest crowd.

Clarence Geiger of Cape Girardeau braved the long line for a chance to land an $8.50-an-hour job. "I am looking for something steady," said Geiger, who works off and on in construction.

Geiger and other applicants are drawn as much by the promise of medical benefits as the salary. "A lot of jobs don't offer benefits," he said.

The job fair came at the right time for Mary Seabaugh of Scott City. Seabaugh, a single mother with two daughters, most recently worked as a nurse's aide at a local hospital but is now unemployed. "They need more jobs around here," she said.

Seabaugh said she likes her chances to secure one of 350 jobs if NARS opens a call center in Cape Girardeau.

The NARS Web site describes the firm as a business process outsource company that was founded as a collection agency. NARS has an 1,100-employee facility in Panama City, Panama, and more than 1,000 employees at a center in Montego Bay, Jamaica.

Cape Girardeau Chamber of Commerce president John Mehner said recently the proposed call center would handle mostly customer-service calls. NARS' biggest client is Sprint Nextel, which provides more than 60 percent of the company's business.

The former Sears building at 2101 William St. has been mentioned as a possible location for the call center.

mbliss@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 123

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