By Natalie de La Garza, Aroostook Republican & News
CARIBOU, Maine — If all goes as hoped, Virtual Managed Solutions could see an additional 65 to 100 jobs at its Sweden Street facility by mid 2016.
Approaching its eighth year of business, VMS and its 25 employees currently provide software support and central reservation services for more than 3,300 hotels across North America, according to company CEO C.B. Smith.
Smith explained on Tuesday that one client of VMS recently approached the Caribou company about expanding its workforce to meet the client’s anticipated increased demands.
If the growth plans are put into operation, Smith believes most of the new workforce will be found right in central Aroostook.
“Most of the folks who work at VMS U.S. — 70 percent of the current staff — are former employees of ATX software, myself included,” Smith said, adding his optimism that VMS’s employment increase could garner other former ATX employees and their experienced customer service and computer expertise.
Tax software developer ATX employed hundreds of individuals in Caribou at one time, drastically decreasing employment following a relocation and sale before vanishing from the local landscape over the last few years. Smith believes there are former ATX employees out there who would relish the opportunity to come back into a similar line of work. New employees would find themselves in very experienced company, as the typical contact center agent at VMS has between 15 and 17 years of customer service, software support experience.
Should VMS obtain a contract that would warrant increasing staff, Smith anticipates the company would provide around $4.2 million in local wages at maximum employment — about a $3.5 million increase from current levels.
A round of hiring could start as early as third quarter this year and Smith is busy preparing for what could be. To increase equipment and obtain additional working capital, the CEO is working with Caribou officials to obtain a Community Development Block Grant.
“Anything we can do to help businesses grow and create jobs,” City Manager Austin Bleess said on Monday. “The number-one thing Caribou and Aroostook County needs are more jobs. If we can help a business create more jobs, that’s city time and staff time well spent.”
VMS officials are enthusiastic and hopeful for the increase of jobs, Smith acknowledged that the ball is in his client’s court at the moment. Should the client not require the additional jobs, Smith explained that the CDBG process would stop.
“But we’re very hopeful that this process will continue to go forward and by the end of the year, we should see more jobs here,” he said.
As part of the CDBG process, a public hearing will be held during the next Caribou City Council meeting at 6 p.m. on Monday, April 13, in the City Councilors Chambers.