The top 10 U.S. locations for service centers

People working in a call center 131581032
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Metro areas with good schools and labor pools round out top 10 list of service center locations

Outside of China or India, Syracuse, in upstate New York, may be the top location in the U.S. to establish a service center, according to a new report.

The Hackett Group, an advisory and technology consulting firm, evaluated locations globally and ranked them for their capability to provide skilled workers and office space at reasonable cost. A services center can provide accounting, human resources and IT support services.

Large companies are becoming more selective about where they deliver services and less inclined to move operations overseas. It may cost more to deliver some services in the U.S., but stateside workers can do a better job in some cases, Hackett said.

"You are just more effective," said Mark Peacock, Hackett's IT transformation practice leader, about the delivery of some services in the U.S. "There's a sense of willingness to pay a bit more to get a better result."

The Hackett study looked at labor and office space availability and cost, the quality of the workforce, local laws, infrastructure, transportation, and other factors to arrive at its list of the best areas to set up a services center.

That criteria is a match for metropolitan areas with lower-cost office space and good labor pools with access to higher education.

In Hackett's national ranking, Syracuse was first, followed by Jacksonville and Tampa, Fla., and Lansing and Grand Rapids, Mich.

In the six to 10 spot are Atlanta, Ga., Allentown, Penn., Green Bay, Wis., Richmond, Va., and Longmont, Colo.

There are multiple trends prompting companies to consider U.S. locations, including high-end work that requires more knowledge, said Penny Weller, a program leader for Hackett's Global Business Services advisory.

Syracuse has about 5,000 call center services jobs, about half of which were added in the past five years, said an official there.

"Getting the people who are unemployed employed is our top priority," said Julie Cerio, the director of economic development in Onondaga County. The county's unemployment rate is 5.1%, while in Syracuse the rate is 6.1%.

Office space is in the range of $18 to $22 per square with plenty available. The area is also ranked high for affordability.

While Syracuse is tops in the U.S., it is ranked 38th on Hackett's global list. The top five locations worldwide are Chengdu and Guangzhou in China; Bangkok, Thailand; Mumbai, India; and Wuhan, China.

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