Albuquerque Business First
By Sal Christ, Reporter
PUBLISHED: Feb 5, 2016

The “song and dance” of getting NORC at the University of Chicago to commit to expanding to Albuquerque required a lot of different hands: Albuquerque Economic Development, the Sandoval Economic Alliance, New Mexico Workforce Solutions and the broker at the real estate firm that closed the transaction for the organization’s lease at Copper Pointe — Paul Cook.

As Business First reported yesterday, the Chicago-based research organization not only chose Albuquerque as one of its new hubs, but has also doubled its expected recruitment goals from 200 people to 400. The organization has leased a 15,000-square-foot space at Copper Pointe, a mixed-use building at 10500 Copper Ave. NE near Eubank Boulevard and Interstate 40. As Sprint’s call center in Rio Rancho closes today— taking 400 jobs with it — the potential for new jobs is welcome for the area. We asked Cook, senior adviser at SVN/Walt Arnold Commercial Brokerage Inc., for an inside look at how the deal went down — from turnaround time, to the moment he found out that NORC said yes, to the possibility of more call centers coming to central New Mexico.

How did the deal come about?

It was actually a referral from a broker in Chicago and that broker originally sent that to Hunter Greene in our office. It was then transferred to me. NORC came in under the radar, for sure. We got them incentives with SEA, AED and New Mexico Workforce Solutions (NMWS) and we also toured aggressively — 4 different groups of people, leading up to the executive suite within a 60-day period … Once they decided to designate Albuquerque as one of their hubs, it was pretty aggressive. We’re limited [on real estate options] because of parking requirements for call centers and they’re an outbound call center, so they’re really different.

What kind of challenges came up during the process of trying to close the deal?

Albuquerque was on the radar, but they had also toured both Tucson and Phoenix in Arizona and were thinking of other possibilities. We really did a song and dance meeting with AED, SEA and all the resources they offered. It was a lot of information to take in within a short period of time and really, everyone in Albuquerque on those teams — our firm, AED, SEA, New Mexico Workforce Solutions — just went for it … There were a lot of phone calls going on, conference calls and such, so I was never able to tell what the exact time was when we knew they were going with Albuquerque.

What kind of incentives were key to the transaction?

The most that I gleaned from this transaction is how organized our resources have become with AED and the team that’s there, as well as the SEA. Jami Grindatto has really stepped up and it benefits a lot of counties — Sandoval, Valencia, Bernalillo. I really think the resources that NMWS has organized for the businesses are underutilized. … Because NORC is a nonprofit, their incentives were limited, but the services and assistance NMWS presented to them and what they have used as far as gathering data, prescreening employees and AED’s understanding of what incentives are out there for them made it clear to them to pick Albuquerque.

There has been a lot of call center activity — several opening, a couple closing. Do you think we’re going to see more call centers here?

There are definitely more call centers on the way later this year … Between Hunter and I, we’ve been involved in six to seven call center transactions here, so it wasn’t new ground for us … I think that there are a number of factors that have attracted call centers here: climate, available workforce — bilingual or near the colleges — and these call centers are sensitive to a lot of things [like weather]. In Chicago, a snowstorm can shut things down and that’s not good for call centers. Here, that’s not an issue.

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