CHAVIES Amid rising unemployment and an increasingly alarming economy, one business in Perry County is bucking the trend and remains healthy despite a national recession. Sykes Enterprises reopened its Perry County call center in 2007 and is currently one of the largest employers in the county, responsible for hundreds of jobs locally. Were remaining steady from an employers standpoint, said Sykes Site Director Chris Melton. Were about 700 employees now, and the plan is we should be able to maintain that throughout 2009. Hazard Mayor Bill Gorman said he believes the Sykes center in Perry County is a boon to the local workforce, and is playing a major role in keeping unemployment relatively low since its return. Since Sykes has come back to Hazard and Perry County, and Eastern Kentucky, they have absolutely set an employment record as far as we can tell on new employees, said Gorman. Gorman noted that the 700 people Sykes employs is helping to offset the loss of nearly 300 jobs after two companies closed their Perry County operations in the past few months. Sykes has hired 700 people, so were way ahead, he said. The local center has a multi-million dollar effect on the local economy as well. In 2008, Sykes put back $15 million in the local economy in terms of payroll and benefits, and Melton noted that he thinks despite a slow economy that sort of effect will continue. But the company has its naysayers in the community who continue to opine on the demise of Sykes locally. The Chavies call center closed earlier this decade before announcing its return in the summer of 2007, and Melton noted that the companys history is well known locally, which makes it that much more important to continue to remain both a strong employer and community partner. Since taking the helm at the Perry County location, Melton has spearheaded a rebranding effort to reinforce the companys place in the community. He added that the local center is doing well and expects the company to remain a powerful force for local employment for years to come. No only are we healthy from a local standpoint and with our workforce here, but were one of the most successful sites in the U.S. (for Sykes), and the biggest site in the U.S., he said, noting that 11 other Sykes centers are currently in operation in the country. The Perry County center is Sykes largest center in the nation, and theres a few reasons why it continues to be successful, Melton said, including a good local workforce, employee morale, and client satisfaction. But Melton said he believes an equally important aspect of continuing a successful operation is being a partner with the rest of the community. Im a firm believer of not just being an employer in the community but being a good partner, he said. And theres a lot of different ways we do that. Since its return to Perry County, Sykes has remained visible in the community from participating in job fairs to sponsoring local events and organizations like the Performing Arts Series. The company will be the main sponsor for the 2009 Black Gold Festival and is the only business sponsor of the upcoming East Kentucky Leadership Conference which is set for later this month in Hazard. As an individual, Melton is a member of the Hazard Rotary Club and serves on the United Way of Southeastern Kentucky board of directors. Several volunteers from Sykes will also be participating in the upcoming March of Dimes event in Hazard as well. In addition to the volunteer hours donated last year, Sykes also pumped more than $100,000 in sponsorships and partnerships in Perry and surrounding counties from where the center draws employment. We love what we do and I love what I do, said Melton. You cant do this from my perspective all the way down to the employees in my opinion if you dont like what you do.