Peoples Gas plans North Shore complex

| Friday, Sept. 17, 2010

The new Peoples Natural Gas Co. said Thursday day it plans to create a corporate headquarters and customer service center with about 200 employees at the Del Monte Center on the North Shore.

The company, which was part of energy giant Dominion Resources Inc. until February, expects to start moving employees into the sixth floor of the building by late this year and to complete the move in the spring.

Peoples looked at dozens of locations. "In the end, having the city as a headquarters was important, having a place where people can take public transportation and that is centrally located," CEO Morgan O'Brien said. "The North Shore is an exciting place right now, with a lot of economic development."

About 65 employees will be hired for the customer call center, starting early next year. Richmond, Va.-based Dominion has been handling Peoples' customer service calls from a center in Charlotte, N.C.

SteelRiver Infrastructure Fund North America LP paid $780 million to acquire the Peoples business from Dominion. The company has been operating out of temporary offices at One PPG Place, Downtown, and a center in Wilkinsburg.

Eventually, Peoples will add as many as 200 employees in the Pittsburgh region, in administrative functions that Dominion handled out of state, O'Brien said. Peoples started early this year with about 525 workers and now has about 550.

The company's billing and credit functions, now handled in Virginia and Ohio under Dominion, will move to the Del Monte Center in the next year. About a dozen employees would handle those tasks, spokesman Barry Kukovich said.

O'Brien, who previously was chief executive at Duquesne Light Co., said customers will benefit by being able to call a local office for customer service.

"This will be a call center trained by us and managed by Peoples gas folks," he said.

Because workers will be familiar with city neighborhoods and other local communities, O'Brien expects they will be more committed to helping customers. "It just feels right," he said.

Peoples has about 359,000 customers in 16 counties in Western Pennsylvania.

The company's engineering and operation departments, with about 120 employees, will stay at the company's building on Pitt Street in Wilkinsburg.

"Part of the challenge for me to come on board is to create a Western Pennsylvania company. We lost our identity as part of a multistate holding company based in Virginia," O'Brien said.

The Peoples name dates to the late 1800s. Dominion acquired Peoples' former owner, Consolidated Natural Gas, in 2000.

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