HUNDREDS of new jobs are set to be created at a former South Tyneside call centre.
Local firm Utilitywise has revealed plans to double its workforce after moving into the former Garlands site in Market Dock, South Shields.
Recruitment is already under way, and the company is ready to make 200 new jobs available during 2012.
It comes as a boost for South Tyneside’s economy, with new figures showing 7,227 people in the borough claimed Jobseekers Allowance in January.
The borough remains a regional jobless blackspot, with 7.2 per cent of the working age population now claiming benefit, compared with 5.6 per cent across the North East.
Utilitywise, which relocated last month after outgrowing its former base at Albert Dock, Jarrow, helps businesses to manage their electricity, water and gas to save energy.
Adam Thompson, Utilitywise managing director said: “We have big expansion plans for 2012. Energy costs are one of the major pressures businesses of all shapes and sizes face.
“While securing the best rate is important, the biggest savings in energy costs come from reducing consumption and that is where we are able to support businesses, which is good news for them and for the environment.
“Having moved into the new premises we’re now able to offer our clients the complete package of savings under one roof.”
Most of the new jobs will be in customer services and managing the accounts of business clients.
Mr Thompson said the expansion plans have been driven by the success of an energy monitoring system, which has been installed at business premises across the country.
Developed by Utilitywise, the system allows businesses to identify where they can make energy cost savings.
The company has grown rapidly since it was founded in Jarrow in 2006, and currently employs 190 people.
The move has finally found a new use for the former Garlands call centre, which stood empty for more than 18 months.
It closed in May 2010 following the collapse of Garlands, when 178 workers were made redundant.
The employees later took their former bosses to a tribunal, where it was ruled that they should receive almost £3,000 each.
The call centre was built in 2007, despite objections from residents in the area about heavy traffic and parking, and the size and appearance of the building.