- Associated Press - Sunday, January 22, 2017

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - An old bowling alley in Montgomery will soon be transformed into a call center.

A $2 million makeover is underway inside the Brunswick Woodmere Lanes, The Montgomery Advertiser reported (https://on.mgmadv.com/2k5AKa6 ).

“Obviously it’s in pretty bad disrepair,” ASK owner Rick Burley said as he stood on a debris-covered lane. “It has to have a new roof, a new parking lot. We’re going to floor over the lanes and pop up the cubicles.”

Burley plans to move his call center company there from its current, cramped office building a few doors down on Carmichael Road, the newspaper reported. The firm plans to add about 300 employees, nearly doubling its payroll.

It’s a big change from 2013, when the company was called ASK Telemarketing and they had about 50 workers. That’s when they switched from telemarketing to an inbound center and started handling customer care for companies across the United States. They take phone calls, reply to emails, conduct customer Web chats and more.

ASK’s renovation project at the old bowling alley comes about 15 months after the city landed 800 new call center jobs in a two-week span. That was when Expert Global Solutions announced an expansion and 300 new jobs, and days later Sykes Enterprises announced plans to build a $3 million hub in east Montgomery and hire 500 people.

“Companies are looking to get rid of people off of payroll,” he said. “If you’ve four or five folks doing customer care, we can do it cheaper than you can pay them to do it and we do a better job.”

As for why so many call center jobs are coming to Montgomery, Burley said the workforce “fits the model” - people with at least a high school education, who speak well and live in a city where it’s relatively easy to get around.

Starting salary at ASK is $9 to $10 an hour, ramping up to about $14 an hour within the first year.

The company plans to start filling the former bowling center with new hires in July, a process that Burley said will involve hiring dozens at a time, training them, then doing it all again.

“I’m happy we’re going to be able to re-use a building that’s been vacant for so long,” he said.

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Information from: Montgomery Advertiser, https://www.montgomeryadvertiser.com

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