Merger puts Monroe telecom on Fortune 500
When Louisiana-based CenturyTel acquired Kansas-based Embarq in July 2009, the combined companies become CenturyLink, a Fortune 500 telecommunications firm headquartered in Monroe, Louisiana. The deal created the fourth-largest telecommunications firm in the country, with company staff spiking from 6,000 to 20,000 across 33 states. Harnessing all that growth with top headquarters talent presented Louisiana with a challenge: Could the state retain CenturyLink in Monroe?
LED develops CenturyLink HQ solution
Knowing Louisiana could grow with CenturyLink, LED leadership met with CEO Glen Post. Keeping CenturyLink in Monroe appealed to Post, too. A graduate of Louisiana Tech University, Post recognized the value of maintaining CenturyLink’s long relationship with the state. However, re-establishing headquarters for a larger CenturyLink could not be a sentimental choice: It had to make business sense.
To address CenturyLink’s need for talent, LED partnered with Louisiana Tech. The state offered $900,000 over three years to establish the Clarke M. Williams Professorship in Telecommunications, named for the company’s founder. CenturyLink would collaborate with Louisiana Tech to design advanced technology curricula. CenturyLink also would qualify for the state’s Quality Jobs Program to support new job creation, and Louisiana offered LED FastStart® — ranked the No. 1 state workforce program in the nation — to provide recruiting, screening and training services to identify the best talent.
CenturyLink embraced the state’s solutions. The company could grow successfully in Monroe and keep its headquarters in the region where it had been established over sixty years before.
“Louisiana’s custom-fit solutions are enabling CenturyLink to add 1,150 employees faster.”
As CenturyLink expands, new opportunity emerges
In November 2009, state and local officials joined Post as he announced CenturyLink’s decision to remain in Louisiana and grow its business in Monroe. The company agreed to add 350 jobs to its Monroe-area payroll over the following four years.
“The state has stepped up to make Louisiana more business-friendly; and we appreciate their efforts and the incentives being put forth … in the years to come,” Post said. “Our people are the engine that drives our success, and we will continue to add jobs and training to enhance the quality of the workforce.”
Soon after, LED FastStart developed quality of life, job description and job orientation videos to enhance CenturyLink recruiting, and hiring began in earnest.
Poised for more growth in 2010, CenturyLink disclosed plans to buy an even larger U.S. rival — Qwest Communications. Speculation emerged over CenturyLink’s future in Monroe, with Qwest’s 52-story Denver tower looming in a metro of nearly 3 million. Post conveyed his interest in keeping CenturyLink in Louisiana. If a better opportunity presented itself, however, CenturyLink had to evaluate all options.
LED redoubled efforts to retain the company in Monroe. New challenges had to be addressed, with the Qwest acquisition projected to add 800 corporate jobs and the existing Monroe headquarters not large enough to accommodate them all.
LED officials proposed a multifaceted solution. Louisiana offered a $14.9 million match to pay for the construction or leasing of additional headquarters space. The state added a $3.3 million performance-based grant to reimburse CenturyLink for relocation costs of Qwest employees. Additionally, LED offered a discounted lease on 150,000 square feet in the state-owned Accent Building, a temporary site for CenturyLink as it expanded in Monroe. LED also committed to build the company’s talent capacity, providing an additional $1.2 million over four years to expand CenturyLink’s partnership with Louisiana Tech.
CenturyLink inks deal to stay in Louisiana
In June 2011, with several floors of CenturyLink employees ringing the company’s multistory atrium at its Monroe headquarters, CenturyLink leadership and state officials announced a successful negotiation: CenturyLink would remain in Louisiana through at least 2020.
“The agreement we’re announcing today really helps enable our headquarters to grow in a way to support our growing operations,” Post said. “We’re really appreciative of the opportunity we have to work with the state to grow our headquarters operations, our buildings and accommodations for our employees here in the years to come. This is not just an agreement in and of itself. It’s an expression of confidence in our future ... and our CenturyLink family.”
A few months later, CenturyLink completed a merger with Savvis, gaining the cloud computing business of clients who make up one-third of the Fortune 100. The Savvis acquisition demonstrated CenturyLink’s gradual shift into cloud-based enterprise services as Louisiana grew its software and IT sector with a best-in-the-nation tax credit on software developed in the state.
A gleaming new tech center for CenturyLink
In March 2013, company executives and state leaders broke ground on a new 300,000-square-foot headquarters expansion in Monroe — the CenturyLink Technology Center of Excellence. Designed to accommodate 800 employees, the expansion would grow the company over time to 2,600 employees in the Monroe area. When the center opened in March 2015, the company had hired all 350 positions associated with the Embarq deal and 530 of the 800 jobs announced with the Qwest merger.
LED FastStart developed training materials for CenturyLink’s Ambassador Program, which welcomed new employees and their families to the Monroe area. FastStart also created Interactive Training Modules on diverse CenturyLink-based topics to be completed at each user’s pace. The expansion brought the CenturyLink campus to 665,000 square feet and added environmentally sustainable building practices that earned the company certification in the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design system.
“Today marks an important milestone for CenturyLink and our North Louisiana community as we open the CenturyLink Technology Center of Excellence, a facility that will be a key in driving our company’s future growth,” Post said. “As CenturyLink transitions from a traditional network communications provider to a growing, integrated provider of advanced IP-enabled network, cloud, hosting and IT services, it will be increasingly important that we are able to attract the best talent in the world. We believe the Technology Center will help us accomplish this transition successfully.”CenturyLink unveils Century Village development
CenturyLink unveils Century Village development
A month before CenturyLink opened the new center, IBM announced it would establish a 400-job Client Innovation Center in Monroe as the anchor of an 88-acre, CenturyLink-affiliated mixed-use development. Located on U.S. Highway 165 across from CenturyLink’s corporate headquarters, Century Village is being developed by Louisiana-based Southern Lifestyle Development with office, retail, hotel, park, multifamily and single-family residential space.
“The growing technology focus and capabilities of businesses and universities in our area, along with the support of state and local government should create even greater opportunities for growth and advancement of our communities in the months and years ahead,” said Post. “We are excited to partner with Southern Lifestyle Development to make Century Village a reality for our employees, local area citizens and those who visit Monroe.”
The expanded headquarters, growing workforce and public-private partnerships proved a testament to CenturyLink’s strong roots in Louisiana. By the end of 2016, the company had a staff of more than 2,400 employees in the Monroe area.
In October 2016, CenturyLink announced another merger that will cement its place in business enterprise technology — the acquisition of Colorado-based Level 3 Communications. The deal makes CenturyLink the second-largest communications provider serving global enterprise customers and adds 200,000 route miles to the company’s fiber network.