Every year RTI International’s survey research workers handle more than 5 million phone calls, process 1.5 million pieces of mail and scan 1 million pages of questionnaires and other documents. Now those workers can do all of that work in one place.

RTI’s Research Operations Center officially opened in Raleigh on Thursday. Wayne Holden, president and CEO of RTI, said that the new facility will support the institute’s research work worldwide.

“Survey research really drives the scientific work at RTI,” he said.

While the facility is newly remodeled, RTI has had a call center at the Capital Boulevard site for 10 years. That site worked in tandem with another RTI research operations facility located in Research Triangle Park. But two years ago, RTI started looking for a single location to house the entire operation.

RTI settled on staying at the Capital Boulevard property in space that was expanded from 20,000 square feet to 37,000 square feet. Parking at the building has more than doubled to 250 spaces. The extra space and parking, plus room to grow, were needed because the survey work at the operations center has grown, said Richard Heman-Ackah, director of the research operations center.

The research operations center, which is open seven days a week, now employs close to 500 people – nearly double its workforce year ago. About 450 of those workers are data collection specialists who fill full and part-time shifts at the center. RTI conducts its phone surveys in seven languages and an estimated 10 percent of the interviewers are bilingual or multilingual.

Most of the phone interviewers are supplied by staffing firm Greene Resources. But Heman-Ackah said that although the temporary staffers are only obligated to stay for the duration of a project, many continue with RTI and transition to new projects. Retaining those staffers for the new projects cuts down on training time and improves efficiency, Heman-Ackah said.

The research operations center handles about 50 projects a year conducting surveys on issues such as public health matters. A project can last a few months. But some projects last five years, even 10 years. Heman-Ackah said growth in the center’s workload has come as RTI lands more contracts and contracts of longer duration. With more of these contracts in the pipeline, RTI expects it will be able to add more full-time and contract employees at the site.

“There’s a strategic push to expand, diversify our client base,” Heman-Ackah said.