Waste Management picks Oak Harbor for 120 jobs

A lot of good jobs with benefits are coming to Oak Harbor. Waste Management of the Pacific Northwest announced plans Tuesday to open a regional customer service center in Oak Harbor.

Workers from Concrete Nor’West smooth out wet cement as they finish a sidewalk Thursday morning in front of the Oak Harbor building that will house the new Waste Management regional customer service center employing 120 people.

A lot of good jobs with benefits are coming to Oak Harbor.

Waste Management of the Pacific Northwest announced plans Tuesday to

open a regional customer service center in Oak Harbor.

Waste Management will employ approximately 120 customer service representatives to serve 924,016 residential and commercial customers throughout Washington, Oregon and Idaho.

Sharon Hart, executive director of the Island County Economic Development Council, said she’s “very happy” to hear the official announcement. “It’s fabulous.”

Hart has been working on the project for nearly two years, with help from elected leaders and county and state officials. The governor has a fund that contributed $50,000 for workforce training.

Oak Harbor was selected after a regional search based upon factors such as sufficient office space, a suitable workforce, workforce stability and the availability of required technological support.

Katherine Salinas, a Waste Management spokesperson, said the choice came down to several finalists, including Pasco, Spokane, Mount Vernon and Oak Harbor. She cited several factors that favored Oak Harbor, including its quality of life, close connection to Skagit Valley College, and solid support from the mayor’s office, Island County EDC and Whidbey Island Naval Air Station.

“They’ve all been extremely helpful and that’s been really crucial,” Salinas said.

The new customer service center will begin operating in January and is expected to be fully-operational by March 2009.

Its location will be in the new Harbor Station development on Highway 20. KT Development of Bellingham worked with Waste Management on a suitable building.

“This will be a world-class call center providing service excellence

to all of our customers. Waste Management is pleased to join the Oak Harbor business community and to provide employment opportunities to the Oak Harbor community,” said Jamey Desoer, market area general manager for Waste Management of the Pacific Northwest.

Hart said starting pay for entry level jobs will be about $12.50 an hour plus a benefits package. That compares to a countywide average pay of $12 an hour often with no benefits.

The jobs provide a local employment opportunity for Navy spouses. Such jobs have been scarce. Hart said Waste Management is an enormous company with operations “all over the world,” so it’s “good for the Navy.” Locally, Waste Management owns Island Disposal.

The timing of the jobs announcement couldn’t have been better, Hart said. “Its serendipitous when the overall economy is so miserable,” she said.

Waste Management will host a “meet and greet” for those interested in learning more about the call center and its employment opportunities on Sunday, Nov. 16, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Skagit Valley College’s Whidbey Island Campus. To inquire about employment opportunities please call 1-877-220-JOBS, or visit www.wmcareers.com.

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