J.C. Penney Co. Inc. is considering Bountiful as a site for a catalog order center employing as many as 800 people, state and company officials said.

J.C. Penney's district manager Ken Dall confirmed Bountiful "is one of several sites for the center."He declined to disclose additional details until a final decision is made. "It's still in the development stages and might not happen," Dall said.

But a state official close to the negotiations, who requested he not be identified, said Bountiful and a site in Arizona are the two top contenders for the regional facility.

He said the state and Metro Utah, an 11-county economic development organization for the Wasatch Front, are working together to bring the J.C. Penney facility to Utah.

An announcement of the final selection is expected sometime in December, he said.

The Bountiful location is the second floor of the J.C. Penney's store at 101 W. Pages Lane. The store's main floor is used for retail business, while the upper floor is under-utilized, the state source said.

"They (Penney's) wouldn't be shutting down the retail section, but just use the space available in the building."

The facility would create from 500-800 part-time jobs, mainly phone operators taking catalog orders from customers in a region of several western states.

A similar facility for Sears, Roebuck & Co. is scheduled to open in Provo's East Bay Business Center in March next year.

Sears said it plans to hire up to 800 students, homemakers and retirees to fill part-time shifts taking catalog orders by phone from customers in six Western states.

National retailers with catalog sales are shifting those operations from the retail stores to regional phone centers, improving customer service and delivery for catalog sales.