FORT KENT, Maine — A new call center is set to open in Fort Kent, bringing 90 full-time jobs with it.
Canton, Ohio-based Ameridial is currently training its first batch of 45 local employees and according to a company official plans to be up and running by the middle of this month.
“We needed to expand and I knew what the Fort Kent area offered,” Michael McCarthy, Ameridial vice president for health care services, said Friday. “I have always had good luck here.”
Ameridial is taking up residence in the former MBNA building on Pleasant Street, which more recently was home to Synergy Solutions before that company closed its Fort Kent center in 2010.
The building has been empty ever since.
“You can find an empty building anywhere,” said McCarthy, who also was a manager at the former Fort Kent Synergy center. “And you can fill a building with people anywhere, but it’s the human capital that is here that is the big draw.”
Ameridial offers teleservice voice and data support for its clients in multiple industries, including health care, education, financial services and consumer products. The Fort Kent branch will offer customer support for an unspecified state’s health care program.
The company has signed a three-year lease for the building, currently owned by the Northern Maine Finance Corporation, a partner of the Northern Maine Development Commission.
Training is underway for the first 45 new employees, with the second training session for the next 45 set to start in two weeks, McCarthy said from the training class at the University of Maine at Fort Kent Friday afternoon.
Meanwhile, computer technology workers were busy up at the new Ameridial facility installing new computers, fiber optic lines and related technologies.
McCarthy laughed as he described his first visit back to his old place of work.
“It was like I stepped into a timewarp,” he said. “There were still signs up and writing on a whiteboard that were there the day I left.”
He said his new company also had looked at a vacant building in Presque Isle, but the Fort Kent facility was in better condition to meet his needs.
Once the decision was made to expand into a new call center, McCarthy said he made two calls.
“I called to see if this building was still available,” he said. “My second call was to Karen Deprey to see if she was available.”
McCarthy had worked with Deprey at Synergy and is familiar with her managerial skills.
“Karen really gets us and understands what needs to be done,” McCarthy said. “Having her on board really gives us a comfort level here.”
For her part, Deprey said she was thrilled when McCarthy contacted her last March.
“There is such a special quality to the people we have here,” she said. “There is a real work ethic and you don’t have to dig too deep to find it.”
Deprey pointed out the number of volunteers who showed up earlier this summer to spruce up the old building, inside and out.
“We had businessmen here in suits who took off their ties and picked up vacuums,” she said. “We had up to 20 people here at a time fixing the fence, pruning the trees and fixing ceiling tiles.”
The additional 90 jobs is huge, Deprey said.
“We are talking about a $1.5 million dollar economic impact on Fort Kent,” she said. “That is significant for our retailers.”
Town Manager Don Guimond agrees.
“Without jobs you don’t have a community,” he said Friday afternoon. “At the end of the day people have to work and earn a living.”
Guimond, who said municipal officials have been communicating with Ameridial representatives for several months, will continue to work with the company.
“We will work with them and others to help put together some training money for the employees,” he said. “We will do that as they move forward.”
Among those taking the current two-week training class are former Synergy employees Mike Ecker of Madawaska and Julie Bernie of Allagash.
“When I worked for Synergy I really enjoyed what I did,” Ecker said. “I’ve been working in retail ever since they closed here and I am looking forward to this [and] I liked working with Karen Deprey.”
Bernier has been working in a health care-related job for three years and is looking forward to putting that knowledge to work with Ameridial.
“It actually seems like it is going to be fun,” she said. “And 90 jobs for this area is great.”
McCarthy said the center will be working at half capacity by Sept. 16, “with the whole shooting match and 90 employees by Oct. 1.”
Ameridial, which also operates call centers in North Carolina and Ohio, is still hiring for the Fort Kent location.
Anyone interested in applying can go to www.ameridial.com and submit an application online. Computer access for the applications is also available at the Fort Kent site located at 69 Pleasant Street.