Canadian firm calls on Cd'A - Coeur d'Alene Press: Local News

Canadian firm calls on Cd'A

Research company expands, offers 80 new jobs

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Posted: Sunday, January 13, 2013 12:00 am

COEUR d'ALENE - These are the people call centers call for help.

Canadian market research company SQM Group is expanding to Coeur d'Alene, seeking applicants right now for 80 jobs that will be filled by March 1.

SQM - Service Quality Measurement, based in Vernon, British Columbia - conducts customer satisfaction research surveys with people who have just used a call center, said Mike Desmarais, the company's founder and president. Through its call center in Canada and soon in Coeur d'Alene, SQM's unique research and data analysis has helped more than two-thirds of its 450 clients improve their call center customer service and reduce their operating costs, Desmarais added.

"Our clients are Fortune 500 companies such as Blue Cross and Blue Shield, U.S. Bank, Office Max, Capital One and Marriott," he said. "As more than 70 percent of our clients are U.S.-based, it's important to service them from the U.S. rather than Canada."

The 80 new jobs in Coeur d'Alene are telephone survey representative positions (see the ad in today's Classifieds section) who will work at the company's facility on Mineral Drive. Starting pay is $12 an hour, plus health and other benefits.

What sold SQM on North Idaho was PPP - professionalism, proximity and politics.

"Steve Griffitts and his team, they're absolutely the best there are," Sarah Kennedy, SQM's vice president of business development, said of North Idaho's economic development agency, Jobs Plus, Inc. "And from a practical standpoint, Coeur d'Alene is ideally situated. You can drive from Coeur d'Alene to Vernon in about 5 hours."

And then, there's politics. Kennedy described Idaho as "pro-business," and Desmarais took it a step further.

"We were always looking at the West, but when you're conservative and Republican like I am, Coeur d'Alene was natural for us," he said. "Spokane and Seattle didn't speak to us. They weren't a fit for us culturally."

Desmarais said the recruiting process, which began in earnest with a visit to Coeur d'Alene in August 2010, picked up momentum because of two Steves - Griffitts from Jobs Plus and Meyer from Parkwood Business Properties.

"Steve Griffitts was probably the key factor [in deciding to expand to Coeur d'Alene]," he said. "I've had a chance to work with a lot of people in business development, and Steve and Hilde [Shetler] and Jame [Davis] have been absolutely amazing. I've never seen anyone work as hard as Steve has to help us make this move."

Though they don't necessarily agree on all things from a political perspective, Desmarais was equally effusive in his praise of Steve Meyer and his son, Chris.

"Steve and I really hit it off," he said. "We have a lot of similarities and he's been extremely helpful."

That helpfulness was widespread here, Desmarais noted.

"I got this vibe that a lot of people were helping me, giving me that kind of support, from everyone at Jobs Plus to Steve Meyer to our attorney there, Jason Whiteley from Witherspoon-Kelley. He's been absolutely terrific.

"You have a beautiful city with a dynamic downtown corridor. You've got great curb appeal. What really makes it attractive is when you talk to people, it's less about bureaucracy and more about getting things done."

Desmarais said he's confident the region's available work force will fit his company's needs. He pays more than most call centers and offers better benefits because, he said, "It's the right thing to do.

"The job is a good job and it's a very important job. I don't want anyone to look at it and feel like I'm taking advantage of them. We want to be viewed as an employer of choice - we pay people fairly and it's a very happy place to work. Yes, I pay a little bit more but I have a premium product as a result of it."

Kennedy, the company's vice president of business development, said SQM's low turnover rate since its opening in 1996 and major growth several years later speaks volumes about its desirability as a workplace.

"You'll find many of our staff have been with us since the beginning," she said. "That's almost unheard of in the call center industry. We like that - we want that tenure."

Griffitts said SQM will be every bit as good for North Idaho as North Idaho is for the company.

"When you walk into that organization, you recognize right away they have amazingly qualified people in every cluster," he said. "They're cutting edge people. They won't accept mediocrity in themselves and their organization, and they'll make everyone they work with better.

"The words 'call center' should never be used with them."

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  • taxpayer posted at 2:23 pm on Mon, Feb 4, 2013.

    taxpayer Posts: 343

    another frontier

  • DoBaLSOS posted at 1:08 pm on Mon, Jan 21, 2013.

    DoBaLSOS Posts: 33

    My Own: You had me until your last line. The middle class in this country was built on union workers fighting for livable wages, health care, weekends, safe working conditions, overtime to name a few. Making Idaho a Right to Work for Less state was the beginning of the end for the working class. If unions failed in the past or in the future its because of the members became disengaged. The same reason our government fails to represent us, because we fail to make them listen.

    Look at the school district privatizing the buses and custodial workers. Every one of those people will no longer have money to shop in our stores, buy houses, share in the responsibility of supporting our government. Unions are the tide that lift all boats. If you aren't in one you should be or at least be supporting the people who are.

  • aayupp posted at 11:18 pm on Mon, Jan 14, 2013.

    aayupp Posts: 319

    SQM - Service Quality Measurement, based in Vernon, British Columbia - conducts customer satisfaction research surveys with people who have just used a call center, said Mike Desmarais, the company's founder and president.

    oh brother - yawn!!!!!!!!! Turnover Rate-- Extreme !!! i would guess. but, a job's a job i guess????

  • concernedcitizen posted at 6:28 pm on Mon, Jan 14, 2013.

    concernedcitizen Posts: 2530


    I agree with your and Caius post. The point is this area was set with an eclectic mix of just about everything but the powers that be got greedy which drove out the ONLY livable wage jobs then helped make the property prices (not values) go through the roof. Sub minimum wage does not pay the bills. We can thank the area leaders for this.

  • SamuelStanding posted at 10:42 am on Mon, Jan 14, 2013.

    SamuelStanding Posts: 621

    Caius is on to something here, think about it! Griffitts / Jobs Plus brings business here who lobby for FREE land to build a structure. Now with talk of eliminating equipment purchase tax, and the incredibly low wages ID offers.. These NEW businesses only real cost is payroll. Albeit, that is the biggest cost in any business, if wages are kept low employees still have all the costs of living outlined by Caius. The cost of the employee to work for the business is higher than the cost of the employer to hire minimum waged employees. These businesses are making money (still talking about the ones getting land and other substantial Freebies) compared to those of us paying for ALL business costs.

  • taxpayer posted at 6:40 am on Mon, Jan 14, 2013.

    taxpayer Posts: 343

    if the frontier management people are hired to supervise God help the workers, they are evil people who will come down on you for no reason if they dont like you, you have to be good at sucking up to them, they are power hungry, selfish greedy, they practice the arrogance of power, they do it because they can

    they way in over their heads to manage people in a call center, micro manage fits their style very well

  • Irock79 posted at 9:19 pm on Sun, Jan 13, 2013.

    Irock79 Posts: 58

    Seattle & Spokane are pretty similar to Coeur d' Alene "culturally" last time I checked, sounds like they think only republicans live here, typical republican thinking.

  • CaiusCosades posted at 8:22 pm on Sun, Jan 13, 2013.

    CaiusCosades Posts: 380

    Say you live in a modest home, mortgage is $900/mo. You have a 2 children that need childcare so you can work so another $1100/mo, then food for four people probably about $400/mo if you're lucky and are very wise spender, 2 cell phones with no data are $100/mo, power $60, gas bill $45, city to pick up garbage $45, car payment on a small cheap car $180/mo, gas if you're lucky $80/mo, internet $50/mo

    Grand total = $2960/mo

    Wage at $12/hr = $1920/mo before taxes, I would imagine $1290 after taxes and deductions
    2 parents @ $12/hr = $2580

    Difference = -$380

    so you're already 400 in the hole out of the shoot per month, that doesn't include any entertainment, any clothing, student loans, any unforeseen expenses, any anything.

  • concernedcitizen posted at 7:36 pm on Sun, Jan 13, 2013.

    concernedcitizen Posts: 2530


    Less than ten years ago the cost of living was a little less than $11 per hour. Of course that was before the boom. Average pay was about $12 per hour. A family could survive on one income. Then everyone got greedy and destroyed the very reason people live and move here.

  • CaiusCosades posted at 5:59 pm on Sun, Jan 13, 2013.

    CaiusCosades Posts: 380

    Having a 4 year degree in Idaho is nearly useless unless you specialize in a specific field like accounting or get a doctorate or something. 2 year degrees in North Idaho far outpay 4 year degrees because most 2 year degrees are specialized, like ultrasound technician or something.

    These call center jobs while great we have more jobs, they are dead in jobs where you will be in the same spot making 12$ an hour forever, there's generally no room for advancement. You're talking hundreds of people sometimes with maybe 10 manager positions that rarely have turn over. I don't know many folks that could raise a family on 12$ an hour. This really isn't a big win for our area.

    You better have a good idea and a lot of capital if you want to be wealthy in Idaho.

  • Godmother posted at 5:52 pm on Sun, Jan 13, 2013.

    Godmother Posts: 8

    concerned citizen - you got some things right - we all know that er can do what he wants cause he's part of the "club". he still owes me for a 500.00 decorating job for his brothers wedding back in the 90's. low lifers never change their color. Jobs plus won't get employees $ but they will get our "tax payer" $ with their cheating ways. To keep sane one just needs to learn how to dig for the skeletons in the closets and use them to your advantage.

  • efromm posted at 2:23 pm on Sun, Jan 13, 2013.

    efromm Posts: 704

    LOL although there is no comparison between the two. Logging is dangerous. Working at a call center not so much. Same goes with cup cakes. We are only one campfire away from losing all those trees. And the beautiful forest we all love. Managing the forest is better than letting it burn down...

  • concernedcitizen posted at 1:59 pm on Sun, Jan 13, 2013.

    concernedcitizen Posts: 2530

    The powers that be will NEVER let business of that magnitude enter north Idaho. The elite would loose their $3.35 per hour slave laborers.

    Where else can one bankrupt their restaurant without paying their employees or debt and shortly after open another.

  • heatherfeather posted at 1:56 pm on Sun, Jan 13, 2013.

    heatherfeather Posts: 297

    Silly. There is no "Jobs Plus" deduction for employee pay. The only deduction is for FICA, and whatever else you agree to on your W-4, as well as deductions for benefits, which are also voluntary.

  • angryNIdaho posted at 12:18 pm on Sun, Jan 13, 2013.

    angryNIdaho Posts: 81


  • efromm posted at 11:49 am on Sun, Jan 13, 2013.

    efromm Posts: 704

    We need industry here. 80 jobs is nice. 800 would be much better. Remember those saw mills we used to have? Thousands of people were employed because of them. And it was cheaper to build houses because of them.

  • my own opinion posted at 11:33 am on Sun, Jan 13, 2013.

    my own opinion Posts: 397
    look at that! Welcome to the business to come here to take advantage of right to work trapped slaves. How could they not benefit? Why do Idahoans lay down or bend over? We can do better. The people we work for can start showing some respect instead of the door for asking the simple question. I don't need to work for a Union but some basic human rights laws should be imposed on local business for balance and pay.

  • concernedcitizen posted at 10:53 am on Sun, Jan 13, 2013.

    concernedcitizen Posts: 2530

    Probably the only way you will get a job there is through the extortion program of jobs plus. How else are they going to steal the other half of your paycheck.

  • sueclanton posted at 10:46 am on Sun, Jan 13, 2013.

    sueclanton Posts: 37

    Sorry about the misspelling of the word subsription. Just a little p$$sed off about your miss respresantation CDA press .

  • sueclanton posted at 10:41 am on Sun, Jan 13, 2013.

    sueclanton Posts: 37

    Hey i looked for job postings on line then purchased a hard copy of the cda press still nothing. No wonder some of us won't pay for your subrciption. Any comments or suggestions are highly recommended CDAPress?????

  • justeatdonuts posted at 9:45 am on Sun, Jan 13, 2013.

    justeatdonuts Posts: 78

    Well I looked for job posting and did find anything in the classifieds!

  • NoName posted at 9:38 am on Sun, Jan 13, 2013.

    NoName Posts: 253

    Mike Desmarais, let me warn you now- Idaho is not business friendly! (unless you are in the good ol boy network) Idaho will let you create and register your business online in less than 3 minutes. It's a trap! They make it as easy as possible to create more targets for mandatory audits, fines, penalties, license fees, personal item taxes (double taxation since you paid sales tax on those items already) etc.

  • my own opinion posted at 9:25 am on Sun, Jan 13, 2013.

    my own opinion Posts: 397

    Is it 40hrs? I missed that or forced overtime? (pay to the taxman for you working to much overtime) Is it steady or hrs all over the place? Do they send you home early or have you call an hour before your shift to see if you are "still" working that day because the call volume is down? Call centers are just such. Lets try to get some real jobs in the area that actually get people earning a little savings on the side (meaning live within your means and don't buy a bunch of stuff you do not need). I love my job and would never trade for this one just because the $hr rate is higher. I really hope this works, jobs are needed in this area and long hauls in the dead of winter across state line are not easy for some. I wish this good luck and welcome.

  • truthful1 posted at 9:18 am on Sun, Jan 13, 2013.

    truthful1 Posts: 554

    Congrats! We're now a country that gets outsourced jobs!

  • concernedcitizen posted at 8:29 am on Sun, Jan 13, 2013.

    concernedcitizen Posts: 2530

    "Starting pay is $12 an hour, plus health and other benefits."

    WOW even Canadians see the benefit of better pay unlike the greedy local thieves. My question is how much of that $12 is jobs plus keeping out of the employee pay?

  • ancientemplar posted at 8:08 am on Sun, Jan 13, 2013.

    ancientemplar Posts: 1287

    Na, voxpop, The "other" Mike Patrick is the editor.

  • Tim Herzog posted at 7:56 am on Sun, Jan 13, 2013.

    Tim Herzog Posts: 414

    Don't be too critical. This may be a job opportunity for you. They need people that are open minded and non judgmental to conduct these surveys. Pun intended!

  • voxpop posted at 6:16 am on Sun, Jan 13, 2013.

    voxpop Posts: 738

    Schlepping with the masses there Mike? "Staff writer?"

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