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Why governments want your network center.

The business of attracting your business is a growing field for cities, states and even nations. Telecomm and networking operations are clean, decently paid enterprises with the look and the feel of long-term growth and stability.

Little wonder places as diverse as Oklahoma City, Richardson, Texas, and Israel are scrambling for users and manufacturers to call their places "home."

When a tourist in Boston dials 800-I-GO-HOJO for a room at a Howard Johnson property in Orlando, the call is taken in Oklahoma City. HoJo handles 15,000 to 16,000 calls daily and the people answering the phones must be friendly, helpful and motivated.

"People here have a good work ethic," says David Fuzzell, manager of human resources. "We get good people at reasonable wages."

Hertz, too, found Oklahoma City a Number One location for its call center. Wayne Bowman, vice president/worldwide reservations, says worker turnover fell from 110% when the first came to Oklahoma to the 22% range today.

He echoes Fuzzell's feeling about the work ethic, adding, "Anybody can buy technology. You have to get good people to use it."

"People are committed to staying here. They are local and have family and friends in Oklahoma," Fuzzell says. The company provides good benefits and incentives, and that helps, too. Average length of employment for a supervisor is 12 years, the shortest being eight. Agents with 10 to 12 years on the job are not unusual.

Still reeling from the oil patch collapse, Oklahoma wants to bring in new, secure jobs. Telecomm is a prime focus.

Oklahoma offers tax incentives, including a law exempting business from sales tax on 800-number, WATS and private line systems. There is one-stop environmental permitting, tax exemption on distribution facilities, and major support for training or re-training workers. Data-processing firms get a five year property tax exemption.

Sometimes the challenge is getting companies together for their, as well as a region's, mutual benefit. Israel--with a disproportionate amount of telecomm and networking firms for a country its size--has several programs to get people to work together.

Zev Adelman, director of electronics and computer resources with the chief scientist's office in Israel, sees his office's mission as "fostering faster economic growth" both for Israel and the companies doing business there.

His office supports industry with cash: $170 million last year. "Our government knows we have no raw materials. We do have a highly trained workforce. The strings attached to our grants are that the firms have to show us they have the know-how, that knowledge, in theory at least, has to stay in Israel, and a sizable part of the production has to be done here." He will fund 50% of a project. New, or especially promising ventures may get 66% funding, up to $150,000. In return, his office gets royalties of 100% to 150% of the grant as a payback on successful projects.

The Chief Scientist is more liberal than the BIRD (Bilateral Industrial R&D) Foundation. BIRD is a U.S./Israeli group which funds non-military projects jointly run by companies from both nations. "It is risk money ... we dare to share the risk," says Executive Director Ed Mlavsky. BIRD vets every project closely. Few proposals are rejected by BIRD, but weak firms are not encouraged to continue the grant process. On-going funding comes from royalties from successful projects.

The results of such programs have been stunning. Uri Har, manager of the Manufacturer's Association, notes that exports are 63% of Israel's revenues. Sales per employee were $109,636 last year, double the figure five years ago. Firms like Adacom, Fibronics, Motorola, Nice, RAD and Tadiran have all benefitted.

The successful are wins big--both for itself and the companies which participate. Just as successful as Oklahoma or Israel is the area around Richardson, Texas. From a town of 1,289 people in the 1950s, Richardson has become a hightech center. The "Telecom Corridor" includes such big-name firms as Alcatel, Rockwell, Northern Telecom, Ericsson, MCI, Spectradyne, Texas Instruments, Honeywell, Hewlett-Packard and Fujitsu.

Today there are over 400 telecomm and networking firms in the Richardson-Dallas-Ft. Worth area. Contrast that to the 250 around Boston's Route 128, and about 500 in Silicon Valley.
COPYRIGHT 1992 Nelson Publishing
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Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Harler, Curt
Publication:Communications News
Date:Dec 1, 1992
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