BY WILLIAM F. WEST
SPRING HOPE — A Raleigh-based call center company is now operating a facility in a former textile plant on the south side of Spring Hope and is anticipating employing more than 270 people in the future.
The company, Millennia, had been looking at possibly locating a call center either in Wake County or Georgia before selecting the site of the former Devil Dog Manufacturing Co. in the 600 block of South Oak Street. Millennia has signed a five-year lease with Raleigh businessman Scott McLaughlin, who’s the landlord.
Millennia has been in business since 2012. The company works to support hospitals, physician offices and urgent care facilities coast to coast in the education of and engagement with their patients about financial responsibilities.
The company since late last year had been operating a call center at the former PNC Bank location in downtown Spring Hope, with the number of employees growing to approximately 18-20.
The building along South Oak is 74,000 square feet in size.
Millennia Chief Executive Officer Tom Ormondroyd, 41, said Monday that Millennia is using 5,000 square feet of 20,000 square feet of space being leased to the company by McLaughlin.
Ormondroyd said Millennia is presently employing approximately 40 people at the South Oak location. Ormondroyd said he’d like to employ as many as 450 people at the location, but he said he told the Rocky Mount-based Carolinas Gateway Partnership he plans to employ anywhere from 275-277 people there. The partnership is the nonprofit agency that works to recruit business and industries to the Twin Counties.
Ormondroyd said the company is employing approximately 180 people in total, with part of the number being comprised of what’s called virtual call center agents. Virtual agents do the same work as agents at a call center, but in their homes.
The company once had a call center in Raleigh, but Ormondroyd said, “One of the challenges with Raleigh in that area is that recruiting folks and retaining them in a more metro area for a call center is a little bit more challenging.”
Ormondroyd said a couple of reasons could perhaps be the job choices and the pay rate not being as interesting to those in and right around Raleigh.
“Once we had the challenges in Raleigh, we knew we had to get to a place where the rate of pay was going to be what I would consider more appreciated,” he said.
Additionally, he said lots of physician offices the company serves are typically outside metro areas, so putting the call center in a more rural location seemed to probably be better suited for the clients.
“And it was just by chance that bank location was available and it worked for our short-term need,” he said. “And then quickly we filled it, so then we had a space problem.”
He said Millennia’s starting pay is $12 an hour, with the potential for increases based on performance and experience.
As for why’s there such a call for Millennia’s service, he said part of the reason is because offices in the health profession, while good at sending out financial statements, lack the resources and the technology to collect bills.
He said the average collection rate on medical accounts payable is presently 22 percent nationally at a time when patients rank second behind Medicaid and Medicare in paying bills.
He said although some patients pay what’s listed in their bills, if one checks the list of what they pay when they pay all of their bills, health care is at the bottom.
He cited going out to eat as an example of the problem, noting, “When is the last time you went to a restaurant and you left and then they sent you a bill for what you ate two weeks later?”
“I mean, that’s what health care does — and then they expect those people to pay when they’ve already had the service rendered,” he said. “So you’re seeing individuals that either stretch it or they’re not going to pay it.”
He said Millennia collects anywhere from 55 percent to even as high as 85 percent of amounts owed.
Carolinas Gateway Partnership President and CEO Norris Tolson said Monday he and his team are delighted by Millennia’s decision to bring more jobs to Spring Hope.
Tolson said in the Twin Counties, one is dealing with a workforce comprised of people with strong empathy and added, “You won’t find a better work ethic anywhere in America than right here.”
Carolinas Gateway Partnership Vice President Krista Ikirt, who works Nash County, said Monday that Ormondroyd has been great to work with.
“We’re just so excited we can have these jobs come to a part of Nash County that usually you don’t hear a lot of announcements in,” Ikirt said. “So, that’s awesome for Spring Hope.”