MBNA to keep open Maine call centers

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PORTLAND – Bank of America is cutting another 1,900 jobs in three states but it will keep open its MBNA call centers in Orono and Brunswick, the company announced Monday. The company also is putting up for sale some of its buildings in Belfast.

Bank of America, which completed its acquisition of MBNA on Jan. 1, announced in February that it was closing four of MBNA’s call centers in Farmington, Fort Kent, Portland and Presque Isle resulting in a loss of 345 full- and part-time jobs.

Keeping the Orono and Brunswick centers open results in at least 350 jobs being retained, said Jack Cashman, commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development.

“Obviously this is good news,” Cashman said from Augusta. “Maine competes very well with financial service institutions, and I think this proves it.”

The future of MBNA’s Maine operations has been a source of speculation since Bank of America, which is based in Charlotte, N.C., and MBNA agreed to the acquisition last year. MBNA had significant operations in Belfast and six call centers elsewhere in the state.

At the time of the announcement, Bank of America said it expected that the combined work force would be reduced by about 6,000.

While Monday’s announcement was good news in Maine, Bank of America said it was closing call centers in Dover, Del., Horsham, Penn., and Colorado Springs, Colo., resulting in the loss of 1,900 jobs, said company spokesman Ernesto Anguilla.

Bank of America also intends to consolidate its Belfast operations, moving employees from one part of the sprawling campus to another part of the campus. It will put buildings with approximately 130,000 square feet of space up for sale, Anguilla said.

“None of the announcements in Maine affect employment, but we will continue to evaluate the combined organization to ensure we are operating under the most efficient model available,” he said.

The company as a matter of policy does not break down its employment figures by state or facility, Anguilla said.

Cashman estimated that the Brunswick and Orono facilities employ 350 to 400 people between them, with the Brunswick facility being the larger of the two.

Bank of America also intends to seek buyers for all of its real estate holdings, Anguilla said. The company prefers to lease, rather than own, its facilities and lease them back from the owners.

U.S. Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine released statements praising the decision to keep the facilities open.

“The company’s decision to retain these centers will help bring some stability and certainty to its skilled and dedicated work force and to the Midcoast and Penobscot County economies,” Collins said.

Meanwhile, Cashman said he expects to make an announcement in the next month about a new tenant for the closed MBNA call centers in Farmington, Fort Kent, Portland and Presque Isle. He expects the tenant to be in the financial services industry.

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