OAKLAND (AP) – Officials at the business park where L.L. Bean plans to build a new call center hope the presence of the nationally recognized retailer will attract other tenants.

Chief Operations Officer Leonard Dow said L.L. Bean’s plan to build a 50,000 square-foot call center is a major boost for FirstPark. The business park was hailed as a model for the state when it was conceived three years ago, but empty lots remain.

Dow said that while he is pleased L.L. Bean decided to move its call center from Waterville to Oakland, “we are even more pleased that it is coming to FirstPark. Our communities have been very, very patient.”

L.L. Bean decided to build the call center, which Dow estimated would be assessed at $7 million to $8 million, in part to ease parking woes for people who work at the company’s current location in Waterville.

“Our paramount interest was to put ourselves in a state-of-the-art complex that had the telecommunications infrastructure and an ergonomics and facility layout that best suited our business and parking needs,” spokesman Rich Donaldson said.

The company opened its call center at the JFK Mall in 1997, but the mall does not have enough parking to meet employees’ needs at peak seasons, when the permanent staff of 225 swells to more than 700 people.

FirstPark’s gain means another empty commercial building in Waterville, but Mayor Paul LePage said he is happy jobs will stay in the area and is encouraged that L.L. Bean has made a long-term commitment to central Maine.

As one of 24 communities invested in FirstPark, Waterville also would share in the tax revenue generated by the call center.

L.L. Bean hopes to have the new building up and running by this time next year, Donaldson said.

“That would give us an opportunity to work the kinks out prior to going into our busiest time of the year,” he said.

Donaldson said L.L. Bean would consider boosting the number of full-time, year-round employees at the new location, depending on how successfully the company grows its off-peak business.

Donaldson said L.L. Bean evaluated proposals from four development companies, each of which recommended the company build in FirstPark. South Portland-based Pizzagalli Construction Co. will build the call center.

AP-ES-06-03-04 0217EDT

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