Broker takes Allstate building marketing nationwide

by Lynne W. Jeter

Published: March 6,2000

The marketing of the Allstate building in south Jackson has turned into a national affair, attracting the interest of telecommunications companies and financial institutions.

“Selling the Allstate building is not only a commercial real estate project, it’s an economic development project,” said Mark S. Bounds, president of Mark S. Bounds Realty Partners of Madison, formerly known as Madison Realty Group. Jones Lang LaSalle of Chicago and Bounds are the exclusive co-brokers on the deal. “We’re not only marketing the building. We’re marketing the 1,200 well-trained employees that work there.”

The 195,000-square-foot, Class A, two-story office building, located five miles southwest of downtown Jackson on a 30-acre campus built in 1978, served as regional headquarters for Allstate and was one of the largest corporate headquarters in the metropolitan area. Real estate taxes for 1999 were $228,873.

Several prospects have already looked at the building, including company representatives from outside the state, and the property is being advertised in the The Wall Street Journal, Bounds said.

“Quite frankly, a great deal of our interest has come from the telecommunications industry so far,” Bounds said. “It would be wonderful to see the expansion of one of our local companies to put that many people back to work, or to work, depending on the timing of the deal, or to find someone outside the area to fill it up as well. I’m concerned that the real talented pool of people working there will dissipate as time draws near to close the facility. One of the most significant features of this particular building is the workforce in place today.”

Allstate is slated to close Sept. 30.

“It’s happening in incremental phases right now,” said Dale Woodruff, division manager of the Allstate Jackson office. “Sept. 30 is the termination date when all functions here should have ceased and migrated to other offices that will be picking these functions up. Right now, we’re in the midst of reducing staffing now as functions go away. It’s an evolving process.”

Reducing the workforce is a complicated process, he said.

“It varies according to what functions will go elsewhere,” he said. “As we go along, training is taking place in other locations that will be absorbing some of these functions. Technology comes along as well that mechanizes some of the processes. It’s not a defined science, by any means.”

Some of the employees will have the opportunity to transfer to other locations, Woodruff said.

A great deal of interest has come from national companies with call centers, Bounds said.

“The call center industry is growing rapidly,” he said. “It’s a hot market right now.”

Cothern Computers & Systems wired the building with CallPro, a computer telephony system the local computer company developed, installed and maintains.

“The market we mainly deal with includes fairly large organizations with formal call centers,” said Rick Cothern, vice president of Cothern Computers. “Some organizations have as few as 20 agents while others have several thousand agents.”

Similar to AS/400, a widely used computer system that provides an excellent platform point for integrating a company’s information system with its telephone system, works like this: When a call comes in, it is intercepted and routed through an information system platform. Then, based on Caller ID, ANI, or DNIS, the call is cross-referenced and routed to a specific person along with data. The call and the data arrive at the agent’s desk at the same time.

“It’s a complex integration environment,” Rick Cothern said. “To accomplish tasks, we get involved with the switch or PBX vendor. It also involves the long distance carrier and integration of the client’s software application.”

A majority of the 1,200-member trained workforce could easily transition into similar jobs in the telecommunications industry, Woodruff said.

Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne Wilbanks Jeter at lwjeter@yahoo.com or mbj@msbusiness.com or (601) 364-1018.

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