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Published: Saturday, 10/12/2013 - Updated: 10 months ago

Marketing firm in Toledo to open Mich. call center

BY TYREL LINKHORN
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

A Toledo-based company that answers phone calls generated by television infomercials is expanding into Michigan.

Universal Marketing Group plans to invest more than $568,000 to open a new call center in the former Borders headquarters building in Ann Arbor. The plans were announced Thursday by the Michigan Economic Development Corp. and confirmed by company officials Friday.

Founded in early 2003, the company has its headquarters and call center on Airport Highway. The Ann Arbor location, expected to be operational by the end of the year, will be the company’s second location. The headquarters will remain in Toledo.

Universal Marketing Group works with companies that sell their products through television ads and infomercials.

The company says it is the No. 1 call center of its kind in the United States, working with major clients including Beachbody, which sells fitness programs such as Insanity and P90X. Universal Marketing Group deals solely with incoming calls, making no cold-call sales pitches.

In a news conference with Toledo Mayor Mike Bell late last month, the company announced that it intended to add up to 125 jobs in Toledo, bringing the office’s total employment to 325 people.

At that time, officials said about 40 percent of the company’s 200 employees were full-time.

Sean Parker, the company’s human resources manager, said Friday the company now has about 250 employees in Toledo and is still hiring.

“I would like to have an additional 100 to 200 employees here in Toledo,” he said. “That’s the sheer amount of call volume we revive.”

The office is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, year-round.

Mr. Parker said the company remains committed to the city and northwest Ohio, but needed to look outside Toledo to dip into a new labor pool.

“Based off what we need, we’re hiring as many people as possible from Toledo. You add a second labor pool, whether it’s Ann Arbor, Cleveland, or Columbus, you get additional staffing. We’re doing the very best we can hiring northwest Ohio folks,” he said.

High turnover rates had been a challenge for the company, but last month Tammy White, the company’s training manager, said they had made strides to improve that.

The Michigan Economic Development Corp. said Ann Arbor was competing with Columbus or Bowling Green for the company’s new office.

The state of Michigan awarded Universal Marketing Group a Michigan Business Development Program performance-based grant worth up to $600,000 to help offset the cost of establishing the new office and lure the company to Ann Arbor.

Under the terms of the grant, Universal Marketing Group must create 180 jobs by Sept. 30, 2014, to receive up to $200,000. The company can receive an additional $200,000 by having a total of 300 jobs by Sept. 30, 2015, and another $200,000 by reaching 400 employees by Sept. 30, 2016.

The company only does hiring through its Web site, umg1.com.

Contact Tyrel Linkhorn at tlinkhorn@theblade.com or 419-724-6134.



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