LEWISTON — Drawing long, loud applause, CEO David Friend announced Tuesday that Carbonite is closing its five-year-old tech support call center in India and bringing those jobs here — where they’ll pay nearly three times as much per hour.
With more than 1 million customers, Carbonite specializes in secure data backup for a flat yearly fee. Inc. Magazine last year named it the ninth fastest-growing company in America.
Carbonite is headquartered in Boston with one satellite facility in India.
The move to Maine makes sense, Friend told a standing crowd at the Androscoggin County Chamber of Commerce.
Company officials cited the number of colleges here, the availability of fiber optics, prospects for long-term job growth and proximity to Boston as reasons for choosing Lewiston.
Friend promised 50 jobs by the end of summer and said that could grow to as many as 250 by the end of 2012.
“Over the years, our view of customer support has evolved,” Friend said.
Customers call them on edge, worried that they’ve lost business files, wedding photos or thesis papers. “They are in high-tension mode, I would say,” Friend said. With a positive experience on the phone, and a tech that can reach their data, “we turn a nervous person into an evangelist.”
Boston has consistently gotten higher customer satisfaction scores than India, he said. Six months ago the company started looking stateside.
Rich Surace, Carbonite’s vice president of services, said average pay for the full-time jobs would be $35,000, including benefits, with a range of $45,000 to $50,000 for managers. The center will be open from 9 a.m. to midnight seven days a week. Surace said he’s looking for people with Mac and PC skills and associate and bachelor’s degrees.
Friend said an early job fair has already identified the first potential 25 employees.
In Boston, Carbonite employs 140 people. That smaller tech support center handles calls that need extra help.
“(There is) less than 3 percent attrition annually in our company, which is phenomenal for the type of service we provide,” Surace said.
Friend called himself a “serial entrepreneur and engineer.” The inspiration for Carbonite came after his business partner’s wife had her laptop swiped with two years of baby photos on it, pictures lost for good, and his daughter lost a term paper on her laptop.
A marketing study confirmed that if a new business were inexpensive and easy, customers would bite. He co-founded Carbonite in May 2005. Now, it backs up more than 200 million new computer files every day.
Gov. Paul LePage, visiting his hometown, credited the nonprofit Maine and Co. for helping attract Carbonite.
“Carbonite is just a super company for the future of Maine,” he said.
Lewiston City Administrator Ed Barrett said the news was a good sign for Lewiston-Auburn.
“It’s also a testament to the strong effort this area has made historically over the years (in attracting higher education),” Barrett said. “That investment, which was a long-term effort on the part of lots of people, put us in the position where we could be attractive to a company like this.”
Carbonite will announce its new local address in the next few days. Friend said Tuesday that negotiations were still ongoing for the 20,000-square-foot space.
Phones are expected to start ringing in early July.