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Data Listing Services to lay off employees; 164 at call center face end of jobs next month

The volatile nature of call-center work has triggered possible layoffs for up to 164 employees of Data Listing Services.

"We have a very fluid business model," said Kathy Kippley, human resources director for the Minnesota-based company, which operates the Jamestown center.

Employees have been issued Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notifications, and the layoffs are scheduled to be completed in mid-September.

The company hires and fires employees as specific contracts dictate. Each call-center employee is attached to a client, so when a client is lost, the employees are issued WARN notices. Those employees could be transfered to a different client if a new client comes in, Kippley said.

"If a client comes in, we could extend existing WARN notices," she said.

There were 326 employees at Data Listing Services at the beginning of the year.

The company has received several local and state incentives for job growth.

In 2008, it received a $90,000 loan from the Cattaraugus County Legislature for the call center. The loan could be forgiven if the call center reaches employment goals.

Data Listing Services would have the entire loan forgiven if there were 350 employees at the site between June 1 and July 1. The Legislature will probably not know about the specific numbers until later this month, said Crystal Abers, director of the Cattaraugus County Department of Economic Development, Planning and Tourism. If there were 250 employees, then one-third of the loan would be forgiven. The remainder of the loan was based on the job counts on July 1, 2009, and July 1, 2010.

"That loan we made them was probably the best loan we've made," said James Snyder of Olean, who represents District 10 in the Legislature and was on the board when the loan was made. "The call-center business, they fire people, they hire people all the time. It's just the nature of their business. They've been pretty good corporate citizens."

Data Listing Services also received a JOBS Now grant from Empire State Development in 2010 of up to $700,000, of which they have received $525,000, said Laura Magee, the agency's public affairs specialist. The grant is also tied to job creation, and the amount received was because Data Listing Services had at least 375 full-time employees.

"They have to make regular reports back to us," Magee said.

The employment report for 2011 is due Feb. 1, 2012, Magee said. That is when Data Listing Services may be required to pay back some of the grant if the employee count has dropped significantly.

email: mtighe@buffnews.com

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