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Verizon Wireless Celebrates Expansion Of Its Columbia Call Center

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COLUMBIA, SC — Governor Jim Hodges and S.C. Commerce Secretary Charles S. Way Jr. were among the guests who today joined Verizon Wireless to celebrate the expansion of its Columbia Call Center located in the Richland Mall. A recently completed $10 million expansion project has nearly doubled the size of the customer service call center from 70,000 square feet to just under 140,000 square feet.

"Accommodating an expansion of this magnitude has its challenges, so we are especially grateful to the state and local officials who worked with us to make it possible for the Columbia Call Center to remain in its original location," said Jerry Fountain, Verizon Wireless' regional president - Carolinas. "The growth of the customer service call center reiterates Verizon Wireless' commitment to both provide superior service to our rapidly growing customer base and to cultivate the partnership the company enjoys with the Palmetto State and the people of Columbia."

Nearly half of the 500 jobs to be created by the expansion have already been filled by skilled customer service call center representatives who will answer a growing number of calls from the company's Northeast and South areas. Currently, the Columbia Call Center employs more than 800 people, and it is expected to employ 1,050 people by 2002.

"Our relationship with Verizon Wireless grows stronger as each of the 500 newly created jobs is filled," said Governor Jim Hodges. "With its leading-edge facility in the Midlands and its Carolinas Region headquarters in Greenville, Verizon Wireless continues to impact the state with jobs and business opportunities for hundreds of South Carolinians."

In addition to its hundreds of new employees, the Columbia Call Center also has a new director of customer service, Raymond J. Auch. Prior to his new position, Auch was associate director of customer service for the call center, where he has worked for nearly two years. He succeeds Cathie Firlein, who had been director of customer service since the call center opened in August 1999. Firlein was recently promoted to vice president of customer service - South Area.

Aside from its expansion in Columbia, Verizon Wireless is also undertaking an expansion in Upstate South Carolina. In late February, the company announced it will relocate its Carolinas Region headquarters from Greenville to a new $38 million, 192,000 square-foot facility it is building in Mauldin, so it may accommodate a planned expansion of its customer service call center. The expansion is expected to create as many as 750 jobs by 2005, mostly for skilled customer service representatives who will answer a growing number of calls from the Carolinas.

"As a valuable member of Team South Carolina, Verizon Wireless knows our state's progressive business climate is built one job at a time by successful companies," said S.C. Commerce Secretary Charles S. Way Jr. "Verizon Wireless knows as a result of expanding in the Palmetto State, it will have hundreds of dedicated employees and a team of economic allies that understand the needs of a forward-thinking company."

The expansions in South Carolina are part of Verizon Wireless' nationwide call center service improvement plan and part of the company's commitment to continue delivering superior customer service during a period of projected strong growth.

About Verizon Wireless

Verizon Wireless is the largest wireless communications provider in the U.S. with more than 27 million wireless voice and data customers. The coast-to-coast wireless provider was formed by the combination of the U.S. wireless businesses of Verizon Communications (NYSE:VZ) and Vodafone (NYSE and LSE: VOD), including Bell Atlantic Mobile, AirTouch Cellular, GTE Wireless and PrimeCo Personal Communications. Verizon Wireless has a footprint covering more than 90 percent of the U.S. population, 49 of the top 50 and 96 of the top 100 U.S. markets. The company, headquartered in Bedminster, NJ, is 40,000 employees strong. Reporters and editors can find more information about the company on the Web at