Tube City Almanac

December 05, 2008

New Tenant in Place at RIDC Park; Dish Future Unknown

Category: Local Businesses, News || By

Rumors continue to swirl that Dish Network will close its call center at the business park on the former U.S. Steel National Works site.

Meanwhile, there's word that the park's newest tenant is in place --- and has plans to grow.

A Colorado-based satellite TV operator that was formerly part of EchoStar Communications, Dish Network's lease on the former pipe mill building (now known as McKeesport Commons) expires in March.

The nation's third-largest pay TV company, Dish opened the call center in 1998. As of last year, it reportedly employed about 800 people in the city, and it continues to accept applications for the McKeesport call center on its website.

Although Dish Network has refused to comment on the future of the city's facility, Dish employees, speaking anonymously for fear of retribution, have told the Almanac and other outlets that they heard the center will close early next year.

Fueling the speculation is an advertisement on the website of the Regional Industrial Development Corp., which developed the industrial park.

The ad offers a 105,445 square foot "former call center that seated 1,000" (emphasis added) featuring "a multi-level auditorium" and "large break room with vending area," which would describe the Dish Network facility.

F. Brooks Robinson, Jr., RIDC vice president of marketing, says the ad "does not mean" that Dish is leaving. "All that means is that if they ever would leave, we want to make sure we have someone available to fill that back up," he says.

Robinson --- who helped bring the call center to McKeesport --- declined to speculate further, but says RIDC has not been told, officially or otherwise, that Dish is leaving.

Weak consumer spending and a sagging stock market could ultimately dictate the fate of the McKeesport facility. Dish Network last month reported that its net income fell by more than half during the third quarter of 2008. Dish Network's earnings were 20 cents per share during the three months that ended Oct. 31, versus 47 cents per share during the same period in 2007.

The company blamed the $108 million decline on "impairments on marketable and non-marketable securities" --- losses related to the turmoil on Wall Street. Although it lost 10,000 subscribers in August, September and October, Dish currently has a subscriber base of almost 14 million households.

. . .

However, the RIDC park's newest tenant is up and running. Consolidated Power Supply of Birmingham, Ala., took over the former Total Marine Solutions building on Center Street in July, says Bobbie Snowball, RIDC leasing manager.

"They're gearing up now," she says. "It's a good tenant and I think it's a great thing for McKeesport."

Along with Camp-Hill, CP Industries and Dura-Bond, Consolidated Power Supply is helping to keep "tubes" in the Tube City.

According to information submitted to RIDC, Consolidated supplies tubes, pipes, fittings, plates and other equipment to nuclear power plants. Its clients include Westinghouse Electric Co., currently based in Monroeville.

The McKeesport office currently has three full-time employees but expects to have 10 to 12 employees within the next three years, and may also hire subcontractors, including engineers, welders, inspectors and "general maintenance" personnel.

After years of neglect, the nuclear power industry is in the midst of a revival. Demand for electrical power in the developing world continues to increase while scientists are becoming alarmed about the effects of air pollution from coal- and oil-fired plants.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration expects the amount of electricity generated by nuclear power to increase from 2.6 trillion to 3.8 trillion kilowatt-hours by 2030.

China --- which in 2007 awarded a contract for four new nuclear plants to Westinghouse --- is planning to spend $50 billion over the next 20 years to construct 30 new reactors.

And Westinghouse last spring announced plans to build four new plants in Georgia and South Carolina for utility companies there.

"I think there's a lot of potential with this company," Snowball says.

. . .

(P.S.: Tip o' the Tube City hard hat: Alert Reader John)

Your Comments are Welcome!

No disrespect intended, but is Bobbie Snowball a real name and not one you found online, late at night, if you know what I mean? That has got to be one of the best names ever.
Dan - December 08, 2008

I’ve been in warm Florida since before Thanksgiving but needed to reply to this. In the beginning of 2006, I got a job at Dish and while going through the training program, we were introduced to one of their “top” people who ..we were told, was going to India for at least two years to train people for a call center there.

Just like every greedy American company owner thinks…...“I got mine, and I want more”. Yep, ship the job out to whichever country is happy with a pittance.

Isn’t greed one of the problems behind the economic collapse?
Bill - December 12, 2008

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