Bristol call center adding 500 jobs

Teleperformance, a global customer service company, is adding 500 jobs to its call center in Bristol, Tenn.

Miranda Collard, Teleperformance's president of Enterprise Delivery, said Wednesday the company's 700 existing employees from across the Bristol area "are incredibly passionate and hardworking" and the expansion will help the company handle more business.

"Teleperformance is one of the major customer service operators in the state and a significant part of an industry that employs nearly 13,500 Tennesseans," said Randy Boyd, Tennessee's commissioner for Economic and Community Development. "We're pleased to partner with a growing international company, known around the world for helping businesses and their customers alike, and we welcome Teleperformance's continued contribution to the Bristol community."

Teleperformance reported $3.7 billion in revenues last year. The firm operates 147,000 computerized workstations, with close to 190,000 employees at 311 contact centers in 65 countries.

Amazon opens third Chicago-area warehouse

E-commerce giant Amazon is opening a third Chicago-area fulfillment center in the suburb of Romeoville, Ill.

Unlike Amazon's fulfillment centers built in Chattanooga and Charleston, Tenn., the company didn't receive any local or state tax breaks for its latest expansion in Illinois.

Employees at the more than 750,000-square-foot warehouse will pick, pack and ship large items, such as big-screen TVs, sports equipment and kayaks, Amazon said in a statement.

"It's very exciting for us. To have a large employer of this scale come into your community and bring in hundreds of new jobs almost overnight is always a positive," said Romeoville Mayor John Noak.

After years of keeping physical operations out of Illinois to avoid sales taxes, Amazon has been rapidly ramping up operations in Will County, south of the city. Amazon announced plans for its first Illinois warehouse last summer, a 500,000-square-foot facility employing 1,500 in Joliet, which is in Will. In May, Amazon said it would add an even bigger 700,000-square-foot facility with more than 2,000 full-time jobs in Joliet.

Cement maker to cut pollution from 5 plants

Federal officials say a cement manufacturer has agreed to invest about $10 million to cut emissions of air pollution at five of its plants in Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama and Texas.

Under a consent decree, Cemex Inc. will pay a $1.69 million civil penalty and conduct energy audits at the five plants. It also will spend $150,000 on energy efficiency projects to mitigate the effects of past nitrogen oxide emissions from its plants.

The Department of Justice and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced terms of the settlement Wednesday. The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The five Cemex facilities are in Demopolis, Alabama; Louisville, Kentucky; Knoxville, Tennessee; and New Braunfels and Odessa, Texas. Pollution control authorities in Knox County, Tennessee, and Louisville participated in the settlement.

Mercedes-Benz starts $500 million van plant

NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. — Prompted by growing North American demand for its vans, Mercedes-Benz Vans broke ground Wednesday on a new $500 million U.S. assembly plant in South Carolina.

The site is next to an existing plant where, for the past decade, the company has put Sprinter vans made in Germany back together after being disassembled and shipped to this country because of the high duties on importing finished vehicles.

"The logistics process is a nightmare," Volker Mornhinweg, the head of Mercedes-Benz Vans, told reporters.

In the existing factory the parts and bodies of the vans, shipped through the Port of Charleston, are reassembled in a process that takes four to five hours.

During the past decade, Mercedes-Benz Vans has been gauging the North American market for its vans and sales have been growing. Last year the company delivered 28,600 vans to customers in the United States, an increase of 11 percent over 2014.

After Germany, the United States is the largest market for the vans.

WTO chief: Global trade not culprit for lost U.S. jobs

GENEVA — Global trade is not the main cause for the loss of manufacturing jobs in places like the United States and needs to be defended from its critics, the chief of the World Trade Organization said Wednesday.

Director-General Roberto Azevedo rebuffed arguments made by some politicians around the world, such as U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump, that global trade deals are destroying jobs or causing them to move to lower-cost countries.

He pointed to recent studies showing that as much as 90 percent of the U.S. manufacturing jobs recently lost were due to new technologies, innovation or improvements in efficiency.

Durable goods orders plunged during June

Orders to U.S. factories for long-lasting manufactured goods fell in June by the largest amount in nearly two years, reflecting a big decline in the volatile category of commercial aircraft and broad weakness across a number of other areas. The key category that tracks business investment eked out a small gain.

Demand for durable goods dropped 4 percent in June, the biggest setback since an 18.4 percent drop in August 2014, the Commerce Department reported Wednesday. Excluding the volatile transportation area, orders would have still been down but by a smaller 0.5 percent.

The new report was weaker than analysts had been expecting and indicates manufacturing remains under stress from weak global demand and a strong dollar.

"It is a tale of two economies," said Chris Rupkey, chief financial economist at MUFG Union Bank. "Consumer expenditures are strong with the economy at full employment but companies are pulling back as the strong dollar and slower world growth are taking a toll on exports."

Lilly CEO Lechleiter to retire in December

Eli Lilly Chairman and CEO John C. Lechleiter will retire in December after leading the drugmaker through a challenging period in which it lost U.S. patent protection for several top-selling products.

The company says the president of its bio-medicines business, David A. Ricks, will replace Lechleiter as CEO in January and become board chairman next June.

Lechleiter became CEO in 2008, nearly 30 years after joining the company as an organic chemist.