Sunday, March 15, 2015

Accenture begins construction of facility in Ilocos Norte

Beyond call centers, Ilocanos await economic revolution

ACCENTURE, a global management consulting technology services and outsourcing company, is expanding its services in the Philippines particularly at Valdez Center in San Nicolas, Ilocos Norte. Top Accenture management officials in the Philippines headed by Mr. Benedict Hernandez, San Nicolas Mayor Melanie Grace Valdez, San Nicolas Vice Mayor Alfredo Valdez Jr., Atty. Hilario Valdez and Ilocos Norte Vice Governor Angelo M. Barba lead the groundbreaking ceremony on Feb. 24 at the Valdez Center. (Doms dela Cruz; Photo by Alaric Yanos)

By Leilanie G. Adriano
Staff reporter

San Nicolas, Ilocos Norte—“A greater future is coming your way.”

This is the message of Accenture, the country’s largest growing information technology and business process management (IT-BPM) company to all Ilocanos as it formally announced on Feb. 26 the construction of a new facility to house hundreds of professionals who may want to start or shift to a career in the Philippines’s top earning company of diversified global workforce.

Prior to the time capsule-laying ceremony where a built-to-suit, three storey-building will be constructed in a bustling commercial district locally known as the Valdez Center in San Nicolas town, strategically located between the cities of Laoag and Batac, a heartfelt rendition of cheerful songs and dances welcomed participants as they witnessed the unveiling of the first Accenture billboard right at the site where its building will rise this year.  

Attended by Accenture’s top executives from India and Metro Manila, teachers and students from the different state colleges and universities of Ilocos Norte, provincial government officials led by Ilocos Norte Vice Governor Angelo Marcos Barba as representative of Ilocos Norte Governor Ma. Imelda “Imee” R. Marcos, San Nicolas town officials led by Mayor Melanie Grace P. Valdez and San Nicolas Vice Mayor Alfredo P. Valdez Jr., the country’s biggest employment provider so far is now in Ilocos Norte with the groundbreaking of its third delivery center next to Metro Manila and Metro Cebu.

Early hiring
Since February 2, the company has started hiring young professionals including graduating students particularly those with knowledge or experience in accounting and finance as the first batch of trainees.

“We are extremely excited to be here. This is the best kept secret in the Philippines for us,” said Benedict Hernandez, service delivery operations head of Accenture Philippines.

Ilocos Norte’s optimal telecommunications infrastructure, accessibility to the Laoag International Airport, presence of special economic zones, education centers and a deep poll of local talents have impressed investors like Accenture to expand business in the province.

According to Mr. Hernandez, Ilocos Norte is an ideal site for IT-BPM companies having outstanding universities and colleges, producing graduates with a passing rate several times higher than Manila.

Relating his first impressions of Ilocos, he said, “Everything is there except for a building infrastructure that can run 24/7, with a high density and high occupancy building with hundreds of people working in it and it can get a PEZA accreditation.”

Partnership with VENVI
This major requirement apparently holding the company to seal the deal with Ilocos Norte was answered with the favorable action of San Nicolas town, recently adjudged as the most business-friendly municipality in the country, offering Accenture its needed facility through the VENVI group of companies, a real estate developer owned by the Valdez clan in here.

Under a built-to-suit scheme, VENVI  partnered with Accenture to build its third delivery center in this northern gateway of Luzon, situated near Ilocos Norte’s first—and so far only—mall which earlier stirred further development and prompting other big time investors to expand food chains and restaurants, hotels and condominiums and other commercial and entertainment facilities here.  

According to Atty. Hilario Valdez, chief executive officer and chairman of the VENVI Group of Companies, it has been one of the aspirations of VENVI to put Ilocos Norte in the world map of the BPO industry hence they supported Accenture’s move to expand business in the province.

San Nicolas honored for chance
“We are honored that San Nicolas was chosen as the first location for Accenture in Ilocos.  We are looking forward to a long-term relationship with Accenture as they build their business in the province. We welcome Accenture to our community and we pledge our commitment to support your endeavors in the municipality,” Ms. Valdez said.

As there are about 700 Ilocanos employed with Accenture based in Metro Manila and Cebu at present, Ms. Valdez said that they may now consider to work back home with a delivery center now in Ilocos.

During the inauguration and unveiling ceremony, Mr. Hernandez said that the Ilocos facility will initially hire at least 200 local graduates and experienced professionals in Ilocos Norte to provide health administration and finance for the company’s global clients across Europe and North America.

In fact, at least 10 young graduates and graduating students of the Mariano Marcos State University and the Divine Word College of Laoag (DWCL) were already tapped by Accenture, after passing a series of examinations and interview, to undergo training while the facility is being constructed.

Citing Accenture as a diverse company operating much more than a call center, Hernandez also added that they will also be hiring nurses, clinicians, pharmacists and engineers as the company expands operation.

“I thought the company (Accenture) is just a call center. I’m so thankful when I submitted my resume and luckily I passed the interviews and exams. Thank God, I see a bright future to start my career with the company,” said Mariel Batara, a graduating accountancy student of DWCL.

Most famous migrants
Among Filipino groups, Ilocanos are the most famous migrants. They are located everywhere in search for a greener pasture. Their top destinations are the United States of America particularly in Hawaii, Canada and some parts of Europe. When you go to a foreign land or elsewhere in the Philippines, most of the Filipinos there knows Ilocano language or at least trace an Ilocano root in northern Luzon.

The out-migration in Ilocos Norte has never been a major concern in the province until in 2010, a study showed that four out of 10 Ilocanos are left with no livelihood.

Recognizing this problem, the administration of Ms. Marcos has started to initiate reforms to prevent apparent brain drain in the province as most of the graduates would prefer to seek employment outside this dominant agriculture province and apply for work abroad.

Over the years, some families who are left behind in the province have also developed “remittance dependency” from a family member working overseas. This is evident with the presence of the most number of banks and remittance centers scattered everywhere in Ilocos Norte’s major commercial districts.

Under the Task Force Trabaho program of the provincial government which is meant create more jobs for Ilocanos and reduce dependency to dollar remittances, the Marcos administration has aggressively promoted Ilocos Norte as an alternative destination for various investment opportunities including BPOs. 

To date, Expert Global Solutions (EGS), also a major IT-BPM provider is now operating at the government-owned i-hub center at the Ilocos Norte Centennial Arena, employing over 100 local workforce since November last year.

‘Next Wave City’
In 2014, the Department of Science and Technology has awarded Metro Laoag as best in IT-BPM infrastructure and a premier Next Wave City or an alternative IT-BPM destination to Metro Manila and Metro Cebu.

As an investment-friendly province, Eric Pascua of the provincial government’s Investment Office said qualified investors are given special incentive packages including a one-stop documentation center for simplified documentation procedures and easier processing of business permits should they consider investing in the province.

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