In what's being called an economic development victory for Davis County, Sears Payment Systems Inc. announced Thursday the construction of a facility in Layton that officials say could eventually employ 700 people.

The majority of those employees, however, would make only between $5.50 and $7.50 an hour.A firm that provides credit card services for businesses, Sears Payment Systems hopes to be in its new facility by April, said company President Robert L. Wieseneck, during a press conference at the Oakridge Country Club in Farmington. The announcement was attended by numerous top political, bureaucratic and business leaders.

Gov. Norm Bangerter said Sears Payment Systems was wise in choosing Utah because, "We are clearly among the leaders in job-growth development in the country."

Bangerter said he's pleased to see economic growth outside of Salt Lake County. "(Davis County) is an excellent place to do business. This county is on the move."

Layton Mayor James L. Layton agreed, saying, "I anticipate long-term benefits for Layton and neighboring communities in jobs and economic development."

Sears Payment Systems provides credit cards and credit card management for retail merchants, such as Pier 1 Imports and Phillips 66, two of the company's biggest clients. The Layton facility would process credit applications, authorize credit sales and collect payments.

Two other Sears Payment Systems facilities in South Dakota and Tennessee employ 700 and 900 people, respectively.

Wieseneck said the Layton facility would be similar to the one in South Dakota, which has an annual payroll of about $10.5 million, or an average of about $15,000 yearly income per employee.

Only about half of the positions would be full-time, said Al Crawford, who will be general manager of the new facility. Asked about wages, Crawford said most of the jobs would be clerical and telephone jobs competitive in salary to bank tellers and phone operators. When pressed, Crawford said it would be in the $5.50 to $7.50 range, "depending on the position and experience level."

Company officials, however, would not speculate on how many employees would be hired when the facility opens and would not project how many it might be employing by year's end.

"We have great concern about the economy right now," said Wieseneck. "We would hope to fill the facility as quickly as possible."

The one-story, $5 million facility, 1200 W. 2250 North, Layton, is being built by Price Development and will be leased by Price to Sears on a 10-year lease with an option to buy, said Crawford.

Sears Payment Systems, headquartered in Riverwoods, Ill., is a member of the Dean Witter Financial Services Group, a subsidiary of Sears, Roebuck and Co.