Call center may answer the need for jobs in Kayenta
Kayenta Township Manager Gabriel Yazzie is trying to find a new economic venture that will help his community as Kayenta Mine is set to close, and he believes a call center could be the answer.
He knows that replacing the jobs that will be lost after Navajo Generating Station and the mine shut down in December will be challenging and a call center may not offer the high wages the mine had given but is a start.
“The primary reason is to help with the economic downfall,” said Yazzie. “A good portion of Peabody employees was paid well beyond $90,000. The call center wont replace those job as far as how much they were paid, but we are looking for innovative ways to bring job opportunities to the community members and affected region.”
Last Wednesday, Yazzie met with President Jonathan Nez to discuss this possibility. Also at the meeting were JT Willie, director of fthe Division of Economic Development, Rex Kontz from the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority and Christopher Becenti, director of the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission.
“With the impeding shutdowns, people in the area will be leaving for other opportunities,” said Nez. “So what we are wanting to do is provide the community with an opportunity.”
The township has been meeting with customer care company Valor Global. The firm’s infrastructure spans the U.S. and Costa Rica to the Philippines, with centers in Phoenix and Los Angeles.
Yazzie said he would like the Nation to invest in a building for the call center.
“Right now we are in the process of finding tenants who can fill this call center,” said Yazzie. “Valor Global’s specialty is a call center. They go in and train their employees.”
He said Valor Global’s training is done right on the floor for various companies and right now they are looking to fill 400 jobs. Yazzie hopes Kayenta will fill at least 100 of them.
“Valor Global, you can have 100 or 200 seats in that building,” said Yazzie. “You can have 20 seats dedicated to NTUA, another 50 seats can be dedicated to Direct TV, another 50 can be dedicated to Sprint or T-Mobile. I’m looking at President Nez’s office to sign off on that support letter to support the venture.”
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act had given a grant to Navajo to place fiber-optic lines throughout the Navajo Nation, and this isn’t being used to its full potential. The call center would be a great use of these lines, Nez said.
Since President Donald Trump continues to place tariffs on countries such as China, Nez said he sees this as an opportunity for not only Navajo, but also Indian Country.
“There’s a big push to keep companies here in the United States,” said Nez. “So Indian Country should be taking the lead in bringing in U.S. companies into their communities. We can lead Indian Country if we do it correctly. A lot of it is planning and that’s what we are doing is planning.”
Spanish is the second-most spoken language in America, said Becenti, and at least some of the employees will need to be proficient speakers.
“Speaking Navajo will be amazing, but Spanish is going to be hit hard,” he said. “We’ll need bilingual speakers.”
Becenti also said housing will also be an issue and Valor Global may need it for months at a time. This will be the most expensive aspect of the operation and needs to be consistent, he noted.
“I’m just hitting things that you’ll potentially be hit with along the way,” said Becenti. “Food for thought.”