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BPO firm grooms Leyte as next BPO hub

By Anna Valmero
First Posted 16:05:00 10/16/2008
MANILA, Philippines – Business process outsourcing firm APAC Customer Services Inc. is investing P100 million for a call center branch in Leyte, which will house up to 1,000 employees.

Located at the Leyte Academic Center (LAC) in Palo, the 35, 000-square-feet campus will be APAC’s fourth site in the country, and Leyte’s first call center.

"Leyte is our top choice for our provincial strategy due to its fiber optic backbone, talent pool and government support," said Doug Almond, APAC vice president for international operations, in a briefing.

Initially, the branch will employ 140 professionals for its first client program slated to begin in January 2009. Hiring for the new facility will start in November.

According to Leyte Governor Carlos Petilla, "The province produces about 6,000 graduates per year from a dozen reputable universities, a talent pipeline that is enough to support large-scale BPO operations."

Petilla said Leyte has an industry-academe forum which allows businesses to explicitly define their employee qualifications and work with the academe to meet this.

The academe, in turn can revise its curriculum offerings to fit these qualifications and help ensure their graduates get jobs based on their expertise. One segment of this forum is grooming graduates to become qualified BPO professionals.

Three other contract bidders applied to set up a call center at Leyte but Petilla said they chose APAC due to the company’s long-term commitment to tap the local talent pool for its operations, as evidenced by the number of seats it wants to operate in the center.

Based on the agreement between APAC and the Leyte provincial government, the BPO company would lease for three years an area at LAC.

Petilla said the renovated LAC campus is a PEZA zone so the government will not tax APAC for at least six years.

He said the province will benefit from the investment from the jobs it will generate and the increase in disposable income people will spend in the province.

At present, the Leyte government has no plans to increase the target of hiring 1,000 employees for its budding BPO industry.

Petilla said they want to make sure the province can provide enough graduates to meet the existing demand before increasing its targets.

Almond said that depending on how the Leyte campus will perform as support center to its U.S. offices, APAC is open for expansion in the region in which Leyte belongs.

Almond said APAC is bullish on its prospects in the Philippines, especially with its provincial strategy plan.

"We are in an aggressive growth phase in the Philippines. Under the provincial strategy program, we aim to achieve 80 percent of our growth over the next five years in the provinces," the APAC executive said.

About 95 percent of APAC clients are from the U.S., which is now under a financial crisis.

Almond said this will not hinder APAC to continue growing in the Philippines because the company’s financial accounts only comprise 5 percent of its total portfolio.

APAC handles accounts in markets such as healthcare, business services and logistics, publishing, travel and telecommunications.

Currently employing over 8,000 contact center professionals, the NASDAQ-listed BPO firm already operates three sites in Manila, two in Alabang and one in Quezon City. It also operates nine contact centers in the U.S with over 4,000 employees.

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