Call center opens in Myrtle Beach

Tim Ruedy, the area general manager for Frontier, addresses the crowd Wednesday morning.

Frontier Communications opened a call center in Myrtle Beach Wednesday morning, and it's home to 116 employees.

The company plans to eventually hire more workers, but they haven't said how many.

The company announced in May the facility would be opening.

Officials held a job fair in July to find the workers.

Frontier says the decision to locate the call center on the Grand Strand was workforce driven, in part by the fact that customer service jobs are a good fit for this area.

"Myrtle Beach, with its hospitality and its tourism, has the type of people we were looking for," said Frontier's area General Manager, Tim Ruedy.

Officials with the Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development Corporation are making an effort to land more call center jobs.

They say the lack of an interstate highway makes it hard to attract manufacturing jobs. Also, they say this area can take advantage of the fact that companies that formerly placed their call centers in foreign countries are now changing their minds.

"A lot of the Fortune 500 companies today are saying, look, we're having issues with offshore customer support and service. There's a demand now to bring those jobs back. We know that some of the large Fortune 100 companies are doing that right now," said MBREDC president Brad Lofton.

Lofton said the MBREDC is still trying to land another call center, code named Project Blue, that would bring a thousand jobs to the area, though Horry County Council has delayed taking a final vote on an incentive package for the unnamed company.

Just as Frontier opens a facility with 116 new jobs in Myrtle Beach, it's closing a call center in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, laying off about a hundred people.

The Idaho jobs paid more than the $12 an hour that workers will earn in Myrtle Beach.

Coastal Carolina University economics professor Rob Salvino says that kind of move is part of the economic development game.

"Union wages up there, not down here, that is one of the things that's leading to the growth in the whole Southeast," Salvino said.

Salvino says if that kind of competition between regions of the country leads states to change their policies to encourage more economic development, eventually the whole country wins.

"So in that case, you could see competition over the long term ending up making our whole policy environment more conducive to economic growth, overall."