New London looks to help Frontier grow jobs in city

New London — There were about 80 employees working at the AT&T call center in New London in 2013, when AT&T decided to shutter the center and shift employees to New Haven, leading to an outcry.

In May 2015, after Frontier Communications purchased AT&T businesses in Connecticut, it opened its call center in the former AT&T location at 200 State St., and it now has about 50 employees. Supervisor Derek Hurt is looking to get employee levels up to about 75 in the short-term — and to 100 or higher in the long-term.

His goal is to start a class of 20 to 30 new employees in October and, to do that, he and representatives from Communication Workers of America Local 1298 are asking for the city's help.

Hurt, Frontier Vice President Kira Howell and two union officials met with Mayor Michael Passero and Felix Reyes, director of the city's Office of Development and Planning, on Thursday morning to discuss these goals.

This followed a July 30 meeting union officials and Frontier held with U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District.

Katie Montalbano, Local 1298 vice president for commercial and marketing, said that Frontier has been more successful hiring in the New Haven location but she would like to see hiring ramp up in New London.

"We don't ever want to see it get back to the point where everybody's back in New Haven again," Local 1298 President David Weidlich Jr. said.

The two union officials speak much more positively of their relationship with Frontier than with AT&T, which Montalbano likes to say stands for "Arrogant Thugs & Thieves."

Most of the new jobs will be commission-based representatives, Montalbano said, noting that these are "really good, middle-class jobs" that allow people to make up to $70,000 or $80,000 a year.

"When you're making $23 an hour plus commission, that's a career," she said. "It's not just a regular job anymore."

Montalbano stressed that she wants to make sure Frontier is getting the right candidates — ones with sales, call center or customer service experience — but said some might not even know "they'd be amazing in it."

Passero said that "an employment opportunity like this right in the heart of downtown is just what we need." He said the city could help by possibly hosting an open house at City Hall on a Saturday.

The mayor spoke about housing opportunities in New London, the strength of the current market for old buildings, and wanting to take advantage of the nationwide migration to cities.

"We're a city, right, but the big criticism is always it looks a little dead," Passero said. "So what's missing in the city of New London? We're missing people."

Weidlich said he plans to work with the newly opened American Job Center in Montville. Despite the center's departure from New London being a sore subject for Passero, the mayor agreed that it is important.

They also left the meeting agreeing that the goals of Frontier are aligned with the goals of the city.

e.moser@theday.com

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