Thursday, Nov. 15 2012 5:56PM
Government agency plans to roll out 300 new jobs in Lee’s Summit
By Toriano Porter
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service will make a push to become the largest employer in Lee’s Summit after announcing a plan to roll out 300 new federal jobs in the city over the next eight to 10 months.
USCIS, which operates both the National Benefits Center and the National Records Center in Lee’s Summit, plans to add 300 new jobs to the existing benefits center at 950 N.W. Chipman Road Suite 5000 from now until mid-2013.
The number of employees at the National Benefits Center (1,325) coupled with the number of employees at the National Records Center (550), 150 N.W. Space Center Loop, total close to 1,900 jobs. With an additional 300 jobs coming to the National Benefits Center over the next eight to 10 months, the USCIS will become the second largest – in terms of employees – employer in Lee’s Summit with 2,175 jobs.
The Lee’s Summit R-7 School District is currently the largest employer in the city with a total of 2,199 jobs according to the latest figures from the Lee’s Summit Economic Development Council.
The national benefits and records centers are both a division of the USCIS.
Tim Counts, spokesman for USCIS, said the new federal jobs in Lee’s Summit will range from $27,000 up to $41,000 depending on education, experience and other factors.
“That’s great news for Lee’s Summit and the region,” Jim Devine, president and CEO of the LSEDC, said Nov. 13 after the USCIS announced plans to add a total of 800 jobs in the Kansas City metro area over the course of less than a year. “Good quality, good paying jobs in a down economy is good – they’re not going to go away easily.”
The USCIS will move into Rosana Square in Overland Park, Kan. at the end of the month and add 500 jobs at that location. The 106,215-square foot lease will serve as an administrative processing center for USCIS, which currently employs about 1,900 federal workers and contractors at the two locations in Lee’s Summit.
The new Overland Park facility, located at 7600 West 119th Street, will be an extension of the existing benefits center in Lee’s Summit.
USCIS plans to begin operations in the new Overland Park space by mid-December. Employees there and at the Lee’s Summit location will process immigration applications and petitions.
“We are very excited about this news,” said Stephen Arbo, Lee’s Summit city manager. “I had an opportunity to tour the facility a couple of weeks ago and I think that our citizens would be amazed to learn about the hundreds of thousands of applications that gets processed in this facility on an annual basis.”
Counts said some of the new hires will be full-time hires by the government and others will be contracted workers hired through Serco, Inc., a professional services company awarded a $190 million contract from the federal government three years ago to provide record processing for the adjudication of immigration benefits.
Serco provides records management services at the benefits center and its services include file operations, records distribution management, business process improvement support, automated system transactions, and system update functions.
“There are functions being moved from other USCIS facilities in other areas of the country to the local facility that require the hiring of new positions,” Counts said of the government’s expansion in Lee’s Summit and Overland Park. “The functions are the adjudication of the applications to replace the green card and adjudication of applications for petitions for an alien relative of a green card holder to petition for an immediate family member to join them. That’s primarily what the new employees will be involved with.”
Counts added some of the positions have already been announced and interested applicants should go to the online government job site, www.USAjobs.gov, and enter the keyword “USCIS” along with a geographic location.
“Having a good immigration system is vital to the success of our country – not only for security purposes, but to also allow some of the best and talented people in the other parts of the world become a part of our society,” Arbo said. “The best part about the USCIS program is that the need for immigration services will most certainly continue to expand and have demand for their services, unlike other types of federal programs. I’m confident that these types of federal activities will be a stable and growing program in the future.”
Whether the USCIS overtakes the R-7 School District in terms of number of employees is yet to be seen, but Devine welcomes the federal government’s decision to bring 300 new jobs into the local marketplace.
“The whole National Benefits Center is such a huge employer here in Eastern Jackson County and Lee’s Summit specifically,” Devine said. “We are very fortunate to have them in our region.”