It's Ted Morse's job to be patient, a skill that's on display as he fields a particularly trying call at Comcast's new call center in Lynnwood...

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It’s Ted Morse’s job to be patient, a skill that’s on display as he fields a particularly trying call at Comcast’s new call center in Lynnwood.

The caller’s chief complaint is a downed Internet connection, but Morse’s questions are continually interrupted as the caller shares personal anecdotes and complains about her children.

Morse’s melodic voice never wavers. Eventually, he’s able to steer the conversation back to the problem and arrange for a service technician to visit.

“Sometimes people will really push your patience,” said Morse, who has worked as a call-center representative for about seven years.

He is one of about 380 Comcast employees who have recently moved into the company’s new $20 million headquarters in the Opus Northpointe Corporate Campus.

The 87,385-square-foot call center has been heralded by state and local officials as a boon to Snohomish County, even garnering an appearance by Gov. Christine Gregoire at its groundbreaking ceremony last year.

The Philadelphia-based cable operator has the added room at its new center to nearly double its staff over the next few years and is holding a hiring fair today to find 30 new workers for its two centers in Snohomish County.

While call centers aren’t typically considered the bread and butter of local economic growth, this one is being placed on a pedestal because it represents a larger employer’s commitment to Snohomish County, said Matt Smith, vice president of the Snohomish County Economic Development Council.

“It gives us a certain corporate presence that we can tout,” Smith said.

The company’s three Washington call centers — its other locations are in Everett and Fife, Pierce County — employ 1,143 employees and serve 1.2 million customers statewide.

Call-center representatives in Lynnwood start at $14.25 an hour, about 25 percent more than the company’s Everett location; another reason why the call center has caused a stir. Employees at the new location handle calls about service problems and require more technical skills. All customer-service representatives receive a health-benefits package.

“We get everything from what’s on KING 5 to the most complicated computer question,” Morse said.

In the last year, at least two major call centers in Snohomish County have closed, resulting in hundreds of lost jobs. Washington Mutual last year shuttered its call center in Bothell’s Canyon Park and Mortgage Investment Lending Associates (MILA) in Mountlake Terrace recently followed suit.

“We seem to have lost more than we’ve gained recently,” Smith said.

Comcast’s decision to open a center in Lynnwood is a strange reversal of a national trend — instead of moving call centers overseas, the company is keeping its centers in the United States.

When asked if Comcast has recently considered outsourcing, Cindy Gallanger, vice president of customer care, vehemently answered, “No.”

It did, however, look at a location in Bothell in King County before settling on Lynnwood.

“Outsourcing can actually be more expensive,” Gallanger said. “You don’t have control over your employees.”

Kirsten Orsini-Meinhard: 425-745-7804 or kmeinhard@seattletimes.com