Cingular In Spotlight At Hancock Bank Symposium

Frank Duke is a customer service representative at the Cingular Wireless call center. He signed on with Cingular right after the company moved to Ocean Springs. "Coming to work everyday, it isn't always the same thing," Duke said between customer service calls. "It's always different. And the people really make it worthwhile."

Eighteen months ago, Cingular turned an empty Ocean Springs Wal Mart into the wireless company's regional call center. More than 730 people answer questions from Cingular customers. Another 60 people should be hired by the end of the year.

Catherine Allen is the call center's director. "In terms of labor force," she said, "we've had a good response from the day we opened here."

Allen told Cingular's story at the Hancock Bank Economic Symposium. Afterward, she took WLOX News on a walking tour of her call center. As she walked through a maze of computer terminals, Allen talked about what makes Cingular successful. "I think the wages, the competitive wages that we pay along with our benefits make us an attractive employer," she said.

Ocean Springs Mayor Seren Ainsworth was at the Hancock Bank program. After he watched the Cingular presentation, he complimented the company for its dedication to his city. "I think it's doing more than I actually thought it would," he said. "I'm pleasantly surprised."

An example of how Cingular benefits the entire community could be seen in its break room. That's where Tammy Kile sat behind a table, selling pizzas. Her Ocean Springs pizza parlor has a contract to sell the hot lunches six days a week. "It's worked out great," Kile said. "Our sales have gone up during lunch time. It's brought it back to life."

Just like Cingular brought an old Wal Mart building back to life, when it set up call center computers in Ocean Springs.

Cingular estimates that it pumps $32 million a year into the Jackson County economy.