After all the construction and celebration, the Provo Sears Telecatalog Center began doing Thursday what city, county, Chamber of Commerce, state and Sears officials had said for months it would be doing - putting hundreds of Utah County residents to work.
Marie Osmond placed the first order to the center, ordering a tool box for her husband. On the other end of the line was Sears catalog consultant Linda Robinson."I'm the perfect person to place an order, because I love to shop," Osmond said as a crowd of invited people witnessed the ribbon-cutting and ceremonial first order.
Sears already has hired 700 people to take telephone orders from customers in eight Western states, and will hire 500 more within the next five weeks, said Sharon Campbell, manager of the Provo center. In August the company will hire 400 temporary employees for the Christmas rush.
When the company made the site announcement, one of the reasons given for selecting Provo was its work force. Campbell said she's already impressed with the company's newest employees. "The people we've hired are outstanding."
The facility, in the city's East Bay industrial park, was built in approximately five months, which to some seemed like an ambitious goal. "We were told that with this climate and our time frame we'd have a tough time with a March opening," said Jim Rohrer, national manager of Sears Telecatalog Centers.
But five months and a week after the center was announced, the Provo facility opened its doors.
The jobs are going primarily to students, retirees and others in need of part-time work. Rohrer said there were more than 5,000 applicants for the Sears catalog consultant positions.
Gov. Norm Bangerter said the Sears facility is one example of the direction in which Utah's economy is heading. "I think it's no secret that the Utah economy is on the move."
Provo Mayor Joseph Jenkins said Sears' role in Utah County is a major one for part-time workers. "Sears has almost singlehandedly turned around the job market in that they have done something for the unemployed or underpaid, and that is to give them jobs," he said. "And that trickles down so that employment increases momentously and significantly in Utah County."
Steve Densley, chairman of the Provo-Orem Chamber of Commerce, said the catalog center was a constant source of excitement in the chamber office ever since its announcement. "There's nothing in the past three or four years that I've received more calls about."