Facing South

AOL abruptly shuts down Jacksonville call center

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Employees arriving for work this morning at America Online's Jacksonville call center were told their services were no longer needed. The move affects more than 800 employees. The company did not give two months notice to the Florida Department of Workforce Innovation as required by state law, opting instead to continue laid-off workers' pay for two months. As of this morning, AOL is still recruiting employees for the Jacksonville call center on their corporate website. Apparently, somebody didn't get the memo.

Employees, noting the falloff in call volumes related to AOL's declining subscriptions, apparently saw it coming, and newspaper reports said some had already been looking for other jobs. Perhaps they saw the handwriting on the wall when AOL shutdown their Orlando call center last October and cut back jobs at several others, including Jacksonville.

The Jacksonville call center was reportedly AOL's largest at one time, with 1500 employees. It had recently moved to a new $20 million office park near North Florida University. This move sparked debate about incentives, with AOL hinting other cities were courting them. Ultimately, local economic development officials decided it wasn't a good use of taxpayer money to provide incentives for moving across town, especially when they were trying to promote new economic development in other areas.

Internet archives don't go back far enough to find out if AOL received any incentives when they first came to Jacksonville in 1995. According to this article, they requested the city to provide a $500,000 backup power supply for an expansion in 1997. In 2004, officials in Columbus Ohio revoked tax incentives when AOL failed to create the jobs they promised.

Meanwhile, things are looking up at AOL India. Just as AOL was scaling back operations at U.S. call centers, they opened a new call center in India that is now apparently their largest.

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