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Leaving Kenmare . . . A 15-year presence in Kenmare will end this month
when MTI closes its office in the downtown building it has shared with Eagle
Operating and First District Health Unit. The building is owned by the
Kenmare Community Development Corporation.
Finding employees has become too difficult
By Caroline Downs
After nearly 15 years in its location on Kenmare’s southside square, MTI will be closing the doors there January 27th.
Midwest TeleMark International, a Mohall-based business, opened at the Kenmare site on May 16th, 1997, with 12 employees, supervisor Kathy Cook, and plans to expand to 35-40 full-time workers. According to The Kenmare News, at that time MTI worked exclusively for telephone companies across the country to sell features such as call waiting, call forwarding, caller ID and long distance services to those companies’ customers.
Fast forward 15 years to Midwest Teleservices International, Inc., with North Dakota call centers in Beulah, Bottineau, Fargo, Fessenden, Grafton, Langdon, Linton and Rugby, as well as Mohall and Kenmare, and new call centers in Iowa. MTI now offers 32 different types of outsourcing services to its customers, including call routing, online chat, appointment setting, account management, security systems, dispatch, payroll, human resource, IT, and more.
The company has grown to serve nine industries, including telecommunications, financial services, fleet management, utilities, credit counseling, publishing, fundraising, education, and health care and pharmaceutical. MTI also intends to add businesses operating in North Dakota’s oil patch to its client list.
However, the oilfield’s demand for workers in western North Dakota is one reason Kathy Hett, CEO of MTI, gave for closing the site in Kenmare. “We couldn’t get enough employees in that site,” she said. “It’s difficult with the competition for jobs with the oil industry.”
Hett explained the Kenmare site would be consolidated with the Mohall site. “All the representatives from the Kenmare site will travel to Mohall,” she said. “We have a carpooling system going.”
Six MTI employees in Kenmare have decided to make the transition, with a seventh individual choosing to end employment with MTI. Hett said that despite offering hiring bonuses and assigning a variety of work to the Kenmare site, MTI could not attract enough employees to keep the office open.
“I’m glad it was such a close distance between the two sites,” she added.
MTI employs between 70 and 75 people at the Mohall site and 375 to 400 people company-wide. “We are hiring at all of our sites throughout North Dakota,” Hett said as she described how the complexity of MTI’s services continues to develop. “After 20 years [in business], your experience gets to be quite extensive.”
Hett’s husband, the late Steve Hett, launched MTI in Mohall in 1990, working with area phone companies and cooperatives to sell their services. At the time of the Kenmare opening, MTI operated other branch sites in Bowbells, Stanley, Bottineau and Boissevain, Manitoba.
As MTI has grown and diversified, however, the company has maintained its original commitment to providing challenging jobs and new opportunities to residents of North Dakota’s rural communities. MTI benefits by employing a quality staff.
“The work ethic in these communities is so good,” said Hett, adding that Kenmare was a particular example. “Kenmare was one of the earliest sites for MTI and we’ve been pleased with everything they’ve done, what Kenmare was able to deliver for us all the years we were there.”
She noted the final day for employees at the Kenmare location would be Friday, January 27th. “Then we plan to have a welcome party when they come to our site,” she said.
looking for tenants
MTI does not own property in Kenmare, but has leased office and work space from the Kenmare Community Development Corporation since 1997, using the main floor and a room on the second floor of the former JC Penney building remodeled to accommodate telemarketing services. According to Hett, the lease has expired.
Eagle Operating and First District Health Unit lease other offices in the facility.
A portion of the south end of the building used by Kenmare Theatre was also used by MTI at one time.
KCDC executive director Barb Wiedmer said all the former MTI space will be available to lease for commercial purposes. Anyone with further questions about the building should contact Wiedmer at 701-385-4232.