Webster lands Xerox call center - at a cost to taxpayers

Jan 26, 2012

Xerox is bringing a new call center to its Webster, N.Y. manufacturing campus.

But not without a hefty aid package from the state.

"We've got call centers in more than a dozen states," says Xerox spokesman Carl Langsenkamp. "We could have put the call center anywhere."

Xerox is spending $4.3 million on the new customer care center and planning to create up to 500 jobs by the end of 2013, according to Langsenkamp.

To land the project, the state's economic development arm is dishing out up to $6 million in incentives and Monroe County is chipping in with $271,000 in tax relief.

One observer says the cost far outweighs the benefit.

"For the 300 to 500 families who will get a job at the call center, this is great news," Reuters columnist David Cay Johnston tells the Innovation Trail. "For everybody else, this is awful.

"It is the latest example of corporate socialism."

Worth it?

Johnston, who examined corporate incentives in his book Free Lunch, says the Xerox package is especially egregious. 

He says the message from Xerox is similar to that from scores of other companies: "You give us tax dollars or we'll put up jobs in another jurisdiction," says Johnston.

Xerox's Langsenkamp says the incentives offered to the company were a key reason for choosing Webster. He says the public support "made this an attractive option."

Speaking at an event at the Rochester Business Alliance, Lt. Gov. Bob Duffy defended the move. He says the Cuomo administration is "very, very proud of the announcement today."

"And you know what?" Duffy said. "If the state was not there to build a call center in Webster and help with Xerox and work with the county and COMIDA and everybody to make this happen, I can assure you that other governors and other states would be right at their back door offering to build this."

Xerox will begin hiring in March, according to Langsenkamp. The company hopes to bring on 350 workers by year's end and 150 more by the end of 2013.

Langsenkamp declined to offer a pay scale for new jobs, saying only they would be competitive with average call center salaries.

According to spokeswoman from the state's Department of Labor, the median salary for call center workers in the Finger Lakes region is $28,240.