Based on the announcements in December, the parking lot of the former Telvista building should’ve been a hive of activity by now. Instead, knee-high blades of grass now poke through the cracks in the asphalt along Cane Creek Boulevard.
PRA Group, the debt-collection company that announced it would bring $15 million in investment and 500 jobs and begin hiring this past spring, made promises it could not quite keep.
The Norfolk-based company now will invest $11 million and bring 300 jobs instead, and will likely begin operations at the former Telvista call center early next year.
“Our 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,” PRA Spokeswoman Elizabeth Kersey wrote in an email Tuesday.
As a result of the reduced job creation, the state and local incentives for PRA are being decreased accordingly, said Linwood Wright, public and governmental affairs consultant with Danville’s office of economic development.
Wright declined to provide details on the renegotiated incentive package.
“Performance agreements are not signed [yet],” he explained.
At the time of the announcement, the firm had qualified for a $900,000 local technology enhancement grant, based on anticipated future tax revenues from PRA.
The Virginia Economic Development Partnership worked with the city of Danville, the Southern Virginia Regional Alliance and the Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission to secure the project for Virginia.
Gov. Ralph Northam approved a $1.5 million grant from the Commonwealth’s Opportunity Fund to help Danville with the project.
In addition, the Tobacco Commission approved a $1.66 million Tobacco Region Opportunity Fund grant as well as a $1.66 million loan.
Kersey said PRA is working with state and local officials to finalize the renegotiated incentive packages. She also did not provide details on those incentives.
At the time of the announcement, PRA Group was to be eligible to receive state benefits from the Virginia Enterprise Zone Program, administered by the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development. Funding and services to support PRA Group’s employee training activities will be provided through the Virginia Jobs Investment Program.
PRA still is working on the $6 million purchase of the call center building — used by Telvista for 13 years until it closed in March 2018 — at Airside Industrial Park from the Danville Industrial Development Authority, Danville Economic Development Director Telly Tucker said.
The sale of the building is supposed to close by the end of August, Tucker said.
Multi-million-dollar transactions take time, he said.
“You have to work through ... all the legal maneuvering to be done to get the contract across the finish line,” Tucker said.
One item included having to transfer a small part of the parking lot from city ownership to the IDA.
“That took some time to get taken care of,” City Manager Ken Larking said.
Once PRA closes on the building, it will take about six months to complete renovations to fit the company’s needs, Kersey said.
“Once the renovations are complete, we will begin operations,” Kersey said. “Job fairs will begin off site soon after we close on the building so that we can begin operations as soon as the renovations are complete.”
Pay for the positions are expected to average about $39,000 annually by the third year of operations.
The firm originally planned to have 375 workers by the end of its first year, 425 by the end of the second, and as many as 500 by the end of its third year.
PRA employs about 5,000 worldwide and has major banks among its clients. The company is not relocating to Danville, but is expanding. It has locations in 16 countries, including call centers in Norfolk and Hampton; Burlington, North Carolina; Jackson, Tennessee; and other locations in the U.S.
The agency initially had announced it would agree to maintain 500 employees through March 31, 2025.
But 300 jobs is still a good number, Larking said.
“It’s still a significant number of jobs,” he said. “They’re still purchasing the building. We’re still very excited to have them here.”
Most of PRA’s employees will be on the telephones working with individuals who owe money and working out payment plans. PRA purchases debt from major banks.
“PRA remains committed to opening a site in Danville, and we are excited for what we know will be a very successful operation there,” Kersey said.
Crane reports for the Register & Bee. He can be reached at (434) 791-7987.