Could local effort preserve Sitel jobs? Businessman hopes so

Published 1:19 am Saturday, December 31, 2016

Thursday night, Don Cotton threw a little idea out on social media.

Sitel workers. I understand there is a work at home option. If you don’t have or can’t afford high speed internet and or computer, I want to toss this idea out. I have room to set up several work stations in my 29 North Complex. Details to be worked out if anyone is interested or in need of such a facility equipped for use. Just a thought. I want to try and help keep people working if I can.

The idea took off.

Don Cotton

Don Cotton

Sitel announced in early December that it will close its call center in Andalusia in the spring. But company officials called attention to work-at-home opportunities currently available in the Southeast. The jobs require employees to have high speed Internet via wired cable or DSL service, computer equipment, and a quiet work environment.

“I think (company officials) don’t realize we’re so rural,” Cotton said. “A lot of people can’t meet those requirements at home.”

Cotton said he was talking with a former Sitel employee about the requirements when the idea occurred to him.

“I’ve got this building that could accommodate 30 to 40 people,” he said, adding that there are already two companies working out of the building, but their facilities are completely separated. He checked with Andy Cable about the ability to provide Internet service, then started talking the idea up.

“It would be easy enough to set up cubicles,” he said. “We could set up some security measures, and they could come and go on their own.”

Cotton said he had some experience with telemarketing in his own company, and had tried the work-at home concept. But his best employee wanted to go to an office to work.

“I just threw that out there, and it took off like it did,” he said, adding the he received lots of private messages.

“Most of them were along the lines of, ‘This would be great. We can’t get high speed Internet at home.”

While the response to his idea has been good, Cotton said he is in hopes that Rick Clifton of the Covington County Economic Development Commission and County Commission Chairman Greg White are able to work out a similar deal.

“The fFirst thing I’m going to push for is economic development ought to buy that (Sitel) building,” he said. “I hope they would A., buy the Sitel building; or B., if that doesn’t work, some of incubator buildings could be used.”

“We need to get these employees some help from somewhere so they can keep making money,” Cotton said.

“Hopefully they can work out something,” he said.

Cotton said anyone interested in the idea is welcome to join the discussion on his Facebook page, and any other action at this time would be premature.