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A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held in McAllen on Tuesday, July 26, for the Abt SRBI research call center.

MCALLEN, RGV – While the Zika virus continues to be a primary concern for international travel, Abt SRBI call centers are conducting interviews in 20 states in United States, plus Puerto Rico, to measure and monitor various information.

Abt Associates revealed their new call center, Abt SRBI, in McAllen this week with a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Abt SRBI dedicates itself to research in a number of areas including health, education and immigration. According to Jay Knott, executive vice president and chief business officer of Abt Associates, the company has about 2,500 to 2,600 people operating in nearly 40 countries.

Abt Associates Founder, Clark Abt, fled from the Nazis and immigrated to the United States. After graduating from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Abt and some friends started a small company above a machine shop in Cambridge, Mass.

“What [Abt] started was this dream that if you could have a company that really focused on data and analysis and apply it to social policies then policy makers would be able to achieve better decision-making for the toughest problems of our world. You’d be able to improve the lives of people around the world. That was the vision in 1965 [and] it continues to be our mission today,” Knott said.

Chief Operating Officer of Abt SRBI, Elizabeth Teehan joined the company over two years ago. As a priority, she took note of how their telephone research strategy was in alignment with their client service needs. Teehan said there were a few gaps.

“Our nation has changed, the demographics have changed and we were underrepresenting our Latino population and our ability to conduct interviews in Spanish,” Teehan said. “We also realized that we had … a fantastic call center … primarily located on the East Coast. One time zone, so we weren’t able to capitalize and get in enough interviewing hours.”

In searching for a new location, Abt SRBI gathered information on demographics and socioeconomic data from different cities across the nation. Teehan said two cities met the criteria–bilingual capabilities, a different time zone and great climate.

“[The] distinguishing factor, that thing that pushed us over the top (in choosing McAllen) was all of you. We have felt so welcomed since the first visit here,” Teehan said. “You have rolled out the red carpet to us. You have provided us places to train, places to interview before our building was ready for that. It’s just been an incredible outpour from the community and I think this is a testament to that today. Looking at the showing today to help us celebrate is just fantastic. So you should feel proud about it as a city because it truly truly was the people that tipped us over the edge. We have no regrets and I don’t think we will have any regrets.”

Abt SRBI has over 120 employees at the McAllen call center. Within the next couple of months, the center expects to have over 160 employees as well as 15 supervisors and managers. Keith Patridge, president and chief of executive office of the McAllen Economic Development Corporation, says the call center is an opportunity to provide jobs to the younger generations.

“The great thing about [Abt SRBI] is that this gives us an opportunity to really provide good jobs for our young, college kids that are going to school,” Patridge said. “It’s an opportunity for them to start really building those soft skills and an opportunity to really start building the basic structure of what it takes to be successful in a career.”

Michael Link, president and chief executive officer of Abt SRBI, has been working in the research industry for over 25 years and noticed the change in atmosphere amongst their McAllen employees.

“It’s been incredible to see the work that they are doing–the high quality work is amazing,” Link said. “I’ve never felt this energy before. When I came into the facility the other day, the youthful energy, the vigor, the hard work and the pride really came through.”