The Verizon Call Center in Mankato is closing, and Greater Mankato Growth said that news is a bit concerning – but adds that the local economy remains strong.

GMG Director of Regional Business Intelligence John Considine.

GMG Director of Regional Business Intelligence John Considine said, “What we’re most concerned about is that the families that are impacted by the closure are able to get reemployed within in the marketplace and make sure that they can either stay with the options Verizon has laid out; otherwise there are several local employers that are looking for employees right now.”

Verizon spokeswoman Meagan Dorsch said the company is transitioning the current customer service model to a home based one – meaning customer support workers will work from a home office rather than a corporate building. Considine added there are local resources that can give Verizon employees that don’t think working from home is a good fit for them some help finding a new job. “The Workforce Center is a great resource for folks that want to move to a new industry or occupation,” he explained, “They can also pursue training opportunities.”

Dorsch said eligible employees that would rather move to a new location and continue to work in one of the company’s brick-and-mortar call centers will have an opportunity to do so, and that Verizon is offering a “generous” severance package that includes help finding a new job.

It’s not the only such blow to the area’s business community in the last year or so, but Considine said local workers weathered previous such storms successfully. In 2017, he stated, “We had some retail closures in the beginning of the year, and then Quad Graphics closing in the fall; employers were very eager to scoop up those employees so that they could implement growth strategies within their own businesses.”

In fact, he said last February – around the time of those retail closures – wages increased by ten percent and, “That’s really reflective of a tight labor market, and so employers are going out and scooping those people up and employees that are available seem to be selecting positions that were of a higher wage than they were previously receiving.

Considine explained that the same held true following the closure of Quad Graphics and, “The wages in October jumped up by eight percent; that’s a significant jump.”

Dorsch said Verizon will provide employees with the necessary tools and training to work from home, as well as a stipend of $65 per month for internet access. Some are concerned that slower internet speeds in the more rural areas of the region may impact the ability to operate a home office. Considine said local providers have been constantly upgrading their systems to improve internet access and speeds and, “We’ve been looking into that a little bit more, even this morning, to better understand what employees would need so that they’re able to select the option that Verizon laid out of working from home.”

The changes will have no impact on customers, and Dorsch said they will contact customer support by phone using the same numbers they always have.

The Mankato Call Center will close by the end of September 2018. Verizon is closing six additional call centers in other locations.