By John Denny Observer Reporter
(Brown Hill, Nevis) ” Many new jobs have already started and more are on the way with the opening of the new Brown Hill Communication’s call center. At a grand opening ceremony last Thursday, Oct. 23, Nevis Premier Joseph Parry said the new call center is an ideal way to diversify the Nevis employment market to weather hard times. While tourism will remain an important staple of the Nevis economy, the island needs to find other ways to employ people, he said. For too long, the economy of Nevis has relied heavily on the money generated from the Four Seasons Resort. This was made clear when the resort closed due to the destruction of Hurricane Omar, the Premier said. “We are vulnerable because we rely too heavily on tourism,” said the Premier. “Nevis is a small place and one hurricane can close down a good part of Nevis at any one time and push us back several years.” The tourism industry will be an important part of the island’s economy for years to come, but to protect the future of Nevis other revenue streams need to be developed. “The tourism industry is important to us, but right now they have a recession in the United States. They have a credit problem and a financial problem in the United States. Their economy is in a nose dive and the rest of the world is following,” he said. “It is good that we have an activity here that has its own market that will provide jobs for you so that Nevis will be spared the worst part of this recession. We have had our eggs in one basket for a long, long time. We have been dependent on Four Seasons to keep the economy of Nevis going since 1991. Seventeen years we have been dependent on the Four Seasons. Brown Hill Communications, geothermal and the (21st Century) telecommunications company who we signed a contract with (last week), will bring the diversification of jobs the young people of Nevis need. We are sworn to provide jobs for you young people. All we ask is that you educate yourselves.” The call center has had people working since early July and by Christmas, hopes to have nearly 100 people on the payroll. According to the Premier’s speech, the call center hopes to employ 180 people by this time next year. Call centers provide a number of services worldwide. Some specialize in technical support for computer users having trouble with either software or hardware, but the list of what services can be provided in a call center is long. Selling telephone and long distance services, conducting market research, processing insurance claims, fulfilling airline bookings and political polling are just a few of the myriad of jobs that can be done from a call center. Telemarketing, the direct selling of a product over the phone has yet to catch on in the Federation, but anyone with a landline in the U.S. can tell you: call centers are big business. Virtual or Internet based businesses such as a call center are perfect for Nevis. The main components of the business are an internet connection and trained individuals to talk to customers on the phone. India capitalized on the idea first, providing telephone customer service on a grand scale for people all over the world, primarily serving customers in the United States. NASSCOM, India’s National Association of Software and Services Companies, estimates that there are nearly 500,000 people employed in Indian call centers, most of whom are university graduates. The Brown Hill Call Center is a subsidiary of Bell Canada which is Brown Hill’s only client according to Managing Director Sheik-Nur Hagi. “Fortunately, this is not telemarketing,” said Mr. Hagi. “We provide service for Bell Canada customers. All of our calls are inbound from customers wanting different communication services, such as Internet, long distance and” service to name a few.” All full time positions at Brown Hill Communications start at EC$13 per hour. Treating employees well brings about good performance, Mr. Hagi said. “We are committed to our people,” he said. “Leadership and employee satisfaction are a performance expectation and a focus at Brown Hill Communications. We know that how we conduct ourselves and our business is as important as delivering outstanding service.”