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PENSACOLA, Fla. – Navy Federal Credit Union has inked a deal here to open a remote, inbound call center, the first such operation outside of its Vienna, Virginia-home base. The 55,000-square foot facility covering 19 acres will receive incoming calls from members and will include a branch office within the county,s new Bell-Heritage Oaks Commerce Park. The new call center will ultimately employ nearly 500 people, with the ground breaking anticipated to take place in March and operations projected to begin by December 2003, including the hiring of 55 employees. Employment is projected to reach 400 by the end of 2005 and nearly 500 by 2008. The credit union has also optioned an additional 10 acres of land adjacent to their initial site for future expansion. “Our goal is to expand service to our worldwide membership, while developing a corporate campus setting that both Navy Federal and the Pensacola community can be very proud of and enjoy,” said Navy President and CEO Brian McDonnell. Navy Federal and its consultant, the Staubach Company, evaluated a number of locations including locales in Virginia during the 18-month site search before selecting Pensacola for its “high-quality” labor force and prime location which is bordered on the west and north by Alabama, on the east by Santa Rosa County in Florida and on the South by the Gulf of Mexico. Because Pensacola is in the Central time zone, the new call center, which will be open seven days a week and 24 hours each day, will be better able to accommodate members, particularly on the West Coast, said Loren Moeller, Navy Federal’s public relations manager. “There’s a strong military presence here and a lot of Navy Federal’s employees have spouses in the military,” Moeller said. “Those were also some of the factors we considered as we looked at different locations.” The credit union currently has five call centers which includes separate facilities to field consumer loans, checking and savings, mortgage and equity, credit card, certificate of deposit and IRA queries. As the largest credit union in the world, with more than $17 billion in assets and 2.2 million members, the need for the additional call center was a result of its growing membership base, Moeller said. Navy Federal received more than 16 million calls to its call centers in 2002 not including the automated service lines. Moeller emphasized that no credit union employees will be forced to relocate to Pensacola, leaving the option open for headquartered staff to choose to move to the new facility. Indeed, the move is poised to bring welcomed employment to Pensacola, which is home to four military bases including Pensacola Naval Air Station. Shortly after the official announcement was made at a Jan. 10th press conference, the Pensacola Area Chamber of Commerce began receiving calls from residents wanting to know when hiring would start, said Mike Frey, the chamber’s vice president of economic development. “The local government has been very cooperative, from county and elected officials,” Frey said. “The county invested in some raw land and took some risks but this is going to be positive for residents here.” The first round of employees are expected to be hired by the end of the year and will earn an average of $16 per hour, well above the $11-per-hour county wage for private sector entry-level positions, Frey said. Navy Federal is the first to commit to using space at the 67-acre Bell-Heritage Oaks Commerce Park. Frey said the county is looking to woo up to 10 more companies in the research and development areas. -

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