ATLANTIC CITY — More than 100 empty chairs are pressed against a wall inside the first floor of the Atlantic City Contact Center.

On the last chair sits a cardboard poster detailing the layout of the soon-to-open business, which occupies the first and third floors of the Claridge Hotel and sandwiches the Miss America Organization on the second floor.

The call center will open in three weeks and employ more than 300 people by the end of January, CEO Warren H. Golden said.

But work is still going on to get it ready. On the third floor, wires hang from the ceiling, and a worker was caulking walls on a recent weekday.

The company received a 10-year, $32.7 million tax break from the New Jersey Economic Development Authority as part of its Grow New Jersey Plan. It has hired 50 employees to start and will hire another 50 in November and 200 more in December and January, Golden said.

The deal is a five-year lease with two five-year options.

Golden said the influx of new hires should continue, with more locations opening in coming years.

“Certainly we expect that the employees we hire are going to have a good, long-term job,” Golden said. “While we are hiring 332 for this project, our intention is then to select another location and build out three to four more in the city. The ultimate goal is to have 1,300 to 1,400 agents working in A.C.”

The company will provide call-center services for customer service, retail, technical support, product ordering and order follow-up.

Starting salaries will range from $12 to $13 per hour, and manager salaries will be based on experience. Golden said he has his sights set on one place in particular for a second location but would not identify it.

“I’m hoping to do it sooner. I’m looking for the appropriate location that is economically feasible. If we make the selection earlier, then there is no reason why we wouldn’t open it sooner,” he said.

The CEO said he sees real growth through his employees and his potential customers.

“There are a lot of qualified potential employees, and we interviewed 400 at the job fair. If that is any indication of what’s out there, then we will have the ability to grow it,” Golden said.

But John Whiten, deputy director of New Jersey Policy Perspective, is concerned by what is spurring that growth: a huge tax break that could be a risk for the state as a whole, he said.

“The issue is that the state legislation had written that this company can reap all the benefits but not stay there any longer than the time allotted,” Whiten said. “There’s no reason for New Jersey to open up to that risk.”

Whiten said this has happened before with other businesses.

“Companies are known for coming in to a location, getting all the benefits and tax breaks, and then shopping around after a few years. We’re hoping that state lawmakers could make that not the case anymore.”

Golden disagrees that the tax breaks are a risk for the state.

“The deal with the state is that we get our tax credits as long as we keep our locations there. And we have to keep the locations for 10 years to get the full benefits,” Golden said. “I believe this will definitely benefit the employees, and this will last beyond the committed time. Once it starts, our customers will want to stay in the city.”

Contact: 609-272-7258

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