Governor Phil Bredesen and Dell Inc.  CEO Kevin Rollins this morning announced an expansion of Dell's Nashville call center that is expected to yield up to 1,000 new jobs and push the company's Middle Tennessee employment to 4,500.
Rollins told an exhuberant crowd of Dell employees that the hiring will take place over the next several months. Dell will be beefing-up sales, technology support and fulfillment. Other jobs will be added in manfucturing and distribution operations. Most of the jobs will be added in Dell's Nashville operation.
In a press briefing, Rollins told reporters that the jobs are not as entry-level as when Dell first arrived six years ago and would pay $30,000 to $40,000, annually. Much of the focus is on DellConnect, a remote-diagnostics tool by which Dell technicians can access a customer's computer to fix problems.
Rollins said the the company has had 450,000 user sessions since a pilot program was launched last year and claimed a more than 95 percent customer-satisfaction rating.
"We believe this is the wave of the future," Rollins said of DellConnect.
Bredesen, who recruited Dell heavily when he was mayor, said today's announcement should help address critics of the initial incentives deal to bring Dell here. He noted that the company continues to grow and add jobs, despite the rollcoaster ride in the tech sector.
As an example of the company's impact, Bredesen pointed to a recent report  from the American Electronics Association listing Tennessee for the first time as a Top 10 technology exporter. The association's annual Cyberstates study has Tennessee fifth with $702 million in high-tech exports. Florida is first with $1.5 billion.
Tom Jurkovich, Mayor Bill Purcell's economic development advisor, representing the mayor who was out of town, told the crowd that Dell's experience with the local workforce has been used often in recruiting other companies.
"The first thing companies ask about is quality of workforce," Jurkovich said. And economic development officials direct companies to Dell's Middle Tennessee operations.
Today's news reinforces founder Michael Dell's statement last year  that due to tight labor markets in Texas and other factors, Nashville would be focal point of Dell's workforce growth in coming years.
Dell announced in 1999 its selection of the Nashville area for its first Americas expansion outside of Central Texas, placing its 300,000 sq. ft. in Lebanon 's Eastgate Business Park and creating a call-center and services-oriented campus and a logistics operation in Davidson County. The three sites employ some 3,500 persons.
Some analysts have recently described Dell as "in trouble ." As reflected in today's announcement, Dell's turnaround strategy reportedly includes spending more than $100 million this year to improve customer service, with more than 2,000 sales and service slots filled in recent months.
"There is going to be a perponderance of new customer service talent," Rollins told reporters, this morning.
Dell is also expanding storefront demo locations to funnel more orders toward call centers, and is introducing new products and technological components. For example, earlier this week, Dell introduced new PC and notebook computers designed for digital entertainment. Dell has also announced it is adding AMD chips, as well as Intel, to its high-end servers, in a move some expect to spur sales of hardware and higher-margin service contracts.
Rollins and Chairman Michael Dell have in the past week reportedly acquired Dell shares valued at nearly $100 million, in separate moves that some analysts took as reflecting their confidence in future Dell performance.
Dell says it "sells more systems globally than any computer company," and the company ranks No. 25 among the Fortune 500. A recent release said Dell revenue for the most recent four quarters was $56.7 billion.
Along with the expansion announcement, Dell took the occasion to introduce Tennessee Titans rookie quarterback Vince Young − a product of the University of Texas in Dell's hometown, Austin − as a front man for Dell's Middle Tennessee TechKnow program, an after-school curriculum that provides underserved middle-school students access to technology.
Link: Company announcement