Remember when Verizon Wireless bought Alltel in early 2009 in a $28 billion buyout?
At the time, the threat to Alltel’s Arkansas workforce, the site of the company’s headquarters, was substantial and indeed there have been terminations, transfers and old-fashioned departures since the merger.
Verizon officials quickly revealed that Little Rock would be a regional headquarters for the national wireless carrier as well as a major call center complex. Company leaders said publicly – and consistently – that Verizon expected the Alltel workforce of around 3,000 to shrink to 1,200.
Double that. And then some.
In an interview with Talk Business, Verizon Wireless Regional President Steve Smith said that by 2011 he expects his company to employ up to 2,500 in Arkansas with nearly 2,000 of those workers at the Little Rock campus.
“I’m very excited,” Smith said. “This is great news all around.”
Smith said that plans for the call center have been bumped up to around 1,400 employees, including additional management and operations hires.
The staffing at Verizon’s Little Rock campus will also grow beyond original plans of 100 to around 600 white-collar jobs.
Verizon plans to locate a national network division in Arkansas, which will increase staffing levels in engineering and information technology. Those jobs will carry average salaries of around $70,000 annually.
Smith says it wasn’t much of a “hard sell” to his higher-ups at corporate.
“It was about recognizing the talent that was already here in Little Rock. The talent convinced Verizon Wireless. I didn’t have to do a lot of that,” he said.
The former Alltel campus in Little Rock’s Riverdale development hosts five corporate buildings that Verizon inherited in the blockbuster deal.
There have been major renovations taking place on the campus lately. According to Smith, nearly $30 million worth of construction work will be completed this year.
He said that about $10 million has been spent to upgrade a state-of-the-art data center in its Little Rock facility.
Another $20 million is being spent on renovations to other parts of the campus, such as a workout area, a new cafeteria and updated offices.
“We needed to make better use of the space and improve some efficiencies,” Smith explained.
Smith is quick to note that “as much as 80% or more” of the work has been handled by local contractors and vendors.
He ultimately expects Verizon to occupy two of the major buildings at the headquarters. The remaining three buildings are being shopped and have near-weekly prospects gauging their viability, he says.
Verizon also announced earlier this year that it spent $56 million upgrading its wireless network in Arkansas. Smith added that in the first quarter of 2010, Verizon has added another $15 million in network development.