Edmundston is getting a new Sears Canada call centre this spring, which is expected to create an estimated 180 jobs and deliver "wow" experiences for customers.

"It's great news," Mayor Cyrille Simard said on Wednesday.

Some people have already been hired and training is underway, he said.

Positions will include business services agents, team leads, information technology support, human resources personnel, administrative support and managers, with wages starting at $15 an hour, he said.

The New Brunswick government will contribute about $3.5 million toward the business services centre, which includes some payroll rebates and loans, Premier Brian Gallant announced on Wednesday.

"We are seeing growth in the business services sector as we partner with this well-known national brand," Gallant said in a statement.

"This is a sector that will continue to create jobs for New Brunswickers in all regions of the province and will have a positive impact on our economy."

The government estimates the 180 new jobs will increase the provincial GDP by $8.9 million annually.

Turning retail approach 'inside out'

Sears Canada

Sears Canada is making significant investments in technology and customer loyalty, said executive chairman Brandon Stranzl. (Canadian Press file photo)

Sears Canada executive chairman Brandon Stranzl says the Edmundston centre will be unlike any others.

The company is "turning its approach to retail inside out," he said in a statement. "We are in the process of a major reinvention of our brand and what it means for our customers."

The new "Canadian-domiciled customer loyalty team" will "deliver 'wow' experiences, create positive emotional connections with our customers, and, in so doing, reinvent and be the stewards of the Sears Canada brand," said Stranzl.

More jobs are expected, he said, but he did not say where they will be located.

Edmundston started wooing the retailer giant more than a year ago, the mayor said. "We put together … everything we had to offer."

Simard believes it was the city's skilled, bilingual workforce that helped seal the deal.

'Sometimes people are, you know, kind of wary of companies that are coming from the United States.' - Cyrille Simard, Edmundston mayor

Although the region's unemployment rate is currently lower than the rest of the province, at about six per cent, compared to 9.4 per cent in December, "there's always people looking for new opportunities," he said.

He believes Sears' long-established history will attract a lot of interest.

"Sometimes people are, you know, kind of wary of companies that are coming from the United States," said Simard. "They don't offer always the same package in terms of stablility."

Edmundston has had some other call centres last only a few months, he said. "The Sears company is a company that has been known for many years."

Opportunities NB will contribute $2.2 million through a combination of payroll rebates and loans. The Department of Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour will provide $458,000 through the One Job Pledge initiative, and the Regional Development Corporation will contribute $850,000.

Sears Canada currently employs 418 people in New Brunswick through its four full-line stores, four Hometown stores and 22 online merchandise pick-up locations, officials said.