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Debt-collection firm celebrates new Danville location with ribbon-cutting, plans to start hiring in January

Debt-collection firm celebrates new Danville location with ribbon-cutting, plans to start hiring in January

Bundles of cords lay on the floor of the former Telvista building. Nearly a dozen chairs sit empty around a table in what appears to be a conference room. The work space is devoid of desks and people.

There may be no hustle and bustle of business activity going on now, but early next year, PRA Group plans to fill that empty space with hundreds of employees.

The company plans to hold job fairs over the next few months and begin hiring workers in January, the company’s president and CEO said Monday morning.

Advertising for positions will begin in early December through PRA’s website, Indeed, LinkedIn and through the Virginia Employment Commission office in Danville. Operations are expected to begin soon after renovations are completed and new employees are trained.

The company, based in Norfolk, held a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the center in Airside Park, where it will operate its debt-collection center with the promise to hire 300 employees over three years.

Company officials initially announced the project in December 2018, citing plans for 500 employees, an investment of $15 million and was to begin hiring last spring. But those numbers changed, including the investment total — it’s now $11 million.

“This marks the start of a new journey between PRA and Danville,” PRA President and CEO Kevin Stevenson told local and state officials during the ceremony Monday.

As a result of the reduced job creation, the state and local incentives for PRA were decreased accordingly. City and state agencies initially had offered about $5.7 million in loans and grants for the project. Now, the incentives package is valued at about $4 million.

“Our [job] projections have changed due to a number of factors impacting our operations, including a heavier reliance on digital communications with our customers, a change in the nature of the types of accounts we have bought in the past year, as well as a strategic shift in our view on the optimal size for our call center operations,” Elizabeth Kersey said in August.

PRA paid about $6 million for the former Telvista property, which has about 60,000 square feet of usable space.

Telvista operated a call center for 13 years until it closed in early 2018. About 300 jobs were lost.

“This building holds a lot of opportunity for the future,” Stevenson said.

Mayor Alonzo Jones called the project one of the region’s blessings.

“Today we count PRA Group and this new call center among our many, many blessings,” Jones told the crowd.

The company’s purchase of the building underscores its commitment to the city, he said.

“PRA’s presence at this site is a win for Danville,” Jones added. “We wish you the greatest, greatest success.”

Tobacco Commission Director Evan Feinman said, “This is the kind of event I love to come to. We are very happy to support the expansion of a fantastic business.”

A phone call about 2¼ years ago from Del. Glenn Davis, R-Virginia Beach, to Danville Vice Mayor Lee Vogler about PRA planted the seed for the project.

“It wouldn’t have happened without Glenn making that phone call,” Vogler told the Register & Bee after the announcement in December 2018.

Soon after that call, PRA representatives met with Danville officials, including Vogler and Tucker.

“It’s been a long journey,” Stevenson said during Monday’s ceremony.

A bill introduced by Davis and passed in the General Assembly during the 2018 session eliminated Virginia’s double taxation on debt collection money from other states. The double taxation applied to debt-buying industries serving clients outside Virginia, Davis said.

Firms like PRA in Virginia were being taxed on debt collected both by the state where the debtors were located and by Virginia after that money entered the commonwealth. Under the legislation, firms like PRA only are taxed on money from whichever state the money is collected.

Davis emphasized to the crowd the teamwork that went into the project.

“It’s about everyone working together to create opportunities like this,” Davis said. “I can’t wait to see what this building becomes and what Danville becomes.”

During an interview after the event, Stevenson said pay for PRA employees should average about $19 to $20 per hour.

He also hinted at a possible expansion in the future. The company provides the software for its computer system in-house, but would like to possibly increase that department, he said.

“I need more of that in-house,” he said.

PRA employs about 5,000 worldwide and has major banks among its clients. It has locations in 17 countries and about half of its 5,000 employees are in Virginia, Stevenson said.

Crane reports for the Register & Bee. He can be reached at (434) 791-7987.

Crane reports for the Register & Bee. He can be reached at (434) 791-7987.

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