Call center company gets $500,000 grant to help employees out of poverty

Call center company gets $500,000 grant to help employees out of poverty

By Kimball Perry 
The Columbus Dispatch

Hoping to help low-income Franklinton residents, the Franklin County commissioners approved a $500,000 grant Tuesday for a local for-profit company that hires, trains and promotes its workers to help them out of poverty.

“The only way out of poverty is skills and sustained employment,” Fortuity Calling President Fred Brothers told the commissioners Tuesday.

The company decided to put the call center on West Broad Street near the Mount Carmel West complex.

What’s unusual is that Fortuity is looking to hire 300 low-income workers, preferably from Franklinton. That’s not just to save the company money, but also to help those in poverty get a sustainable job and learn skills to help them — and the company — grow. Those jobs will pay $11, $13 and $15 per hour based on qualifications. The jobs also provide medical insurance and other benefits.

A big part of the company’s business model is to help employees advance. It located where it did because it wanted to be near its worker base and ease employee use of public transportation to get to work. The company also helps navigate child care and other issues that are especially challenging for women because, Brothers said, 75 to 80 percent of its workers are women, most of them mothers and many having only a high school education or its equivalent.

That helps employees and their families and gives the 3-year-old company longer-term employees who don’t have to quickly quit because of problems tied to low pay, day care or transportation.

“We are using business principles to run a principled business,” Brothers told the commissioners.

Commissioner Marilyn Brown praised the company for doing what commissioners envisioned when they created People Works, a county funding program for job creation and growth, especially among low-income residents.

“This is the path out of poverty,” Brown said.

The $500,000 from the commissioners is a reimbursement grant. Before Fortuity gets the money, the company first has to spend money and then prove it did what it said it would.

That requirement is tied to the 300 low-income residents the company plans to hire; it also plans to hire an additional 200 workers who don’t have to be low-income.

The business is opening but needs to sign up customers before hiring. To apply for a job, go to www.columbusworks.org.

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Fortuity Calling named a Columbus Business First Corporate Citizenship finalist.

Fortuity Calling named a Columbus Business First Corporate Citizenship finalist.

Franklinton social-enterprise call center awarded up to $500,000 in grants to train workers

Franklinton social-enterprise call center awarded up to $500,000 in grants to train workers