C3/CustomerContactChannels will hold an open house Friday, July 7.

A.E. Araiza / Arizona Daily Star

Call-center operator C3/Customer Contact Channels opened a second location here and increased its local workforce by 131 percent in 2015.

That made C3 Tucson’s fastest-growing employer last year, the 2016 Star 200 survey shows. Our annual list of Southern Arizona’s 200 largest employers anchors a 24-page special section inside today’s Arizona Daily Star. The section also features articles about local economic trends, including the key role — sometimes bemoaned — played by call centers here.

“When we opened in 2011 in Tucson, we anticipated that it would be a good labor market for us. It’s turned out to be a great labor market,” said Bob Tenzer, C3’s senior vice president of recruitment and human resources.

The qualified workforce here is one of the reasons a second site was launched, at the Foothills Mall, he said. The company grew from 600 full-time-equivalent employees on Jan. 1, 2014, to 1,388 a year later. And it continues to hire, looking for 120 new workers at a recent job fair.

“We have found the quality of the labor in terms of work ethic, in terms of skill and in some cases, bilingual skill, to be very strong,” Tenzer said.

Growth for the Florida-based company has not been limited to Tucson. With call centers in the United States, the Philippines, Europe, China, India and Guatemala, C3 grew in 2015 to about 20,000 employees and $300 million in revenues, officials said.

“We formed C3 because we saw an opportunity to do something different in the market, and our instincts were correct,” said COO Rick Ferry. “We felt confident we would be successful with our model, but we are expanding faster than anticipated.”

That growth can be attributed to three things, Ferry said: C3’s business model, its customers’ own growth as a result of using its services, and a corporate culture that helps spread the word about success.

“When companies see the returns that effective customer engagement can deliver to their bottom line, they realize the difference the right partner can make,” he said.

C3 offers customer outreach through phone, email, text, online and social media to companies in a variety of industries, including health, insurance, travel, cable and telecom. In Tucson, the company mainly handles health care calls and does some telecom work, officials said.

Although staffing issues have not been a problem, C3 has to compete for workers with other contract call-center companies in the area, including Apac, Afni and Agero.

“Certainly the market has become more competitive. The unemployment rate has dropped since we opened in 2011, and a number of call centers have opened since that period,” Tenzer said.

The work itself is challenging, he said.

“The agent is on the phone, they’re getting calls, in some cases back to back, where they may have very demanding customers on the other end of those calls.”

But the nature of the calls also makes it rewarding, he said.

“The health care work we do is senior-related, some Medicare and pharmacies, so when someone calls and we can help them … you’re really making a difference in people’s lives,” he said.

The company with three C’s in its name focuses on four other C’s — compensation, career, culture and community — to retain employees, its executives said.

Along with “an attractive starting wage” — which he would not specify — employees can earn more through performance incentives that reward quality, consistency and attendance, Tenzer said.

C3 almost exclusively promotes from within.

“Career is very much of a draw for us,” he said. “Folks that come in to work for us can go on to become a quality assurance associate, a trainer, a supervisor; they can work in recruitment, human resources or workforce management.”

The company culture also tries to make employees feel they matter, Tenzer said.

“In many call centers people are like a number — it’s just a person to come in, they occupy a seat and they leave,” he said. “We encourage people to really build and become part of our family.”

Contact reporter Luis F. Carrasco at lcarrasco@tucson.com or 807-8029. On Twitter: @lfcarrasco