By Jack Snyder, The Orlando Sentinel, Fla.
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
May 25--Time-share magnet David Siegel will turn a vacant manufacturing plant in Ocoee into a worldwide sales and customer-service center employing 1,300.
Siegel's company, Central Florida Investments Inc., said Friday that it purchased a 130,000-square-foot building formerly occupied by General Elevator Co. for $3.4 million. CFI plans to transfer about 600 workers from other locations in the Orlando area to the new site. The other 700 positions will be filled by new hires. The center will become Ocoee's largest single employer.
Hiring is scheduled to start in 30 to 45 days, with the center operational in 90 days, said Mark Waltrip, CFI's director of real estate and development. Renovations have begun. Telemarketers versed in English, Spanish and Portuguese will be sought. The latter language is necessary to market to Brazil. Most international calls from the Ocoee center will go to Central and South America.
Besides telemarketing, the center will house customer-and mortgage-service personnel and some company management. Waltrip said full-time telemarketers at CFI average $50,000 a year in salary and commissions. Part-timers average $28,000. The best can make more than $100,000 annually, he said.
Employees will be marketing CFI's time-share resorts in Orlando, Miami Beach and Daytona Beach. Siegel also is negotiating to buy a majority stake in the Debbie Reynolds Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas to develop time-shares there.
Siegel said Friday that CFI is expanding by about 30 percent a year. The company currently employs 6,000 in the Orlando area. With the addition of the Ocoee center, CFI will occupy about 250,000 square feet of space. Waltrip said he searched for weeks to find space that could accommodate the large number of workers and their parking needs.
The building, off State Road 50, has been vacant for about five years. The seller was Aid Association for Lutherans Inc. The real estate transaction was handled by Lyle Nelsen of Rebman Properties Inc. and Gil Daniel of Southeastern Realty Group Inc. Nelsen said the industrial building is unusual in that more than 30 percent of the space was set up for office use and nearly all of it is air conditioned.
Time-share resorts sell apartments by the week, with some in Orlando fetching more than $20,000 a week for peak seasons. This region boasts more time-share resorts than any other place, according to the American Resort Development Association, a time-share trade group.