Byline: Sherri Buri McDonald The Register-Guard
Revealing what he called possibly "the worst-kept secret in the state of Oregon," a Royal Caribbean executive officially announced Thursday that the company will build a $60 million, 180,000-square-foot customer service center in Springfield's Gateway area.
The center will employ 250 workers when it opens in fall 2005; 600 workers by late 2006 and up to 1,000 workers by 2009, company officials said.
News stories about the facility and its hundreds of jobs have been published for months. But remarks by company officials at Thursday's event were the first public confirmation that Royal Caribbean indeed will build its third - and potentially largest - customer service center in Springfield. The others are in Miami and Wichita.
At the upbeat, invitation-only, 100-person luncheon at Eugene's Valley River Inn, which included steel drum music and a brief video presentation on the project, state, local and company officials traded thanks and congratulations for bringing Royal Caribbean to Springfield.
Jack Roberts, executive director of the Lane Metro Partnership, Springfield Mayor Sid Leiken and others have been working with Royal Caribbean for months to find a suitable site.
"This is a wonderful day," Leiken said, "for our community and the entire metropolitan area."
Gov. Ted Kulongoski praised Royal Caribbean's workplace, environmental and community service efforts, and said: "Royal Caribbean represents exactly the type of company my economic development strategy is trying to attract to Oregon."
The state is giving Royal Caribbean $1.25 million in subsidies to locate and create a minimum of 600 jobs in Springfield.
In remarks after the luncheon, Kulongoski indicated that there probably will be a few more good-news jobs announcements in the state in the coming months.
"I do think there's a turn (in the state's economy)," he said. "I just wish it were faster."
News of Royal Caribbean's 1,000 jobs, with average hourly pay of $11, plus comprehensive benefits, is hitting Eugene-Springfield like rain after a long, dry spell. The center's estimated annual payroll once it employs 1,000 is $26 million. The annual salary for an entry-level sales representative would be $18,000 to …