Tempe lost 270 jobs when Alaska Airlines moved its reservations call center from an industrial park at Hardy Drive and Alameda Avenue to a new, 30,000-square foot office in south Phoenix.
The new office at 14601 S. 50th Street opened officially Thursday, thus ending the Tempe-based operation after 18 years.
The initial investment for the new location was $5 million, according to Alaska Airlines.
The move to the Phoenix office is part of a plan by the Seattle-based airline to hire more bilingual sales agents, especially Hispanics, said Amanda Tobin Bielawski, company spokeswoman.
“We’re recruiting bilingual agents and by year’s end we hope to double the number of bilingual agents at our new call center,” Tobin Bielawski said.
Tempe Mayor Hugh Hallman said he was not upset by the call center moving out of his city.
“Tempe is focusing on attracting high-dollar companies and I don’t think this kind of business contributes a lot economically to our city,” Hallman said. “I think its more appropriate for south Phoenix.”
When asked about the call center loss, the mayor said he had just returned from meeting with owners of KPMG, a major accounting firm that has just relocated from Phoenix to downtown Tempe.
However, Councilwoman Shanna Ellis said she was disappointed by the move.
“We don’t like to lose any jobs in Tempe,” Ellis said. “Tempe prides itself with its high level of transportation and, it seems, workers can travel easily from outside of Tempe to our city.”
Alaska Airlines, which began flying to Phoenix in 1985 and opened its call center in Tempe in 1989, currently has 30 bilingual agents, mostly Spanish-speakers here who handle ticket reservations.
It operates an average of six daily flights between the Valley and Seattle and three between the Valley and Portland, Oregon.
Besides the new Phoenix location, Alaska has 850 reservation agents at centers at Boise, Idaho and Seattle.
A recruitment session for more bilingual and English-speaking job candidates for the new office in Phoenix will be 9 a.m. Sept. 6 at Tempe Mission Palms Hotel, 60 E. Fifth Street.