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Williams and Fudge to add 100 jobs in Rock Hill

Williams and Fudge, a Rock Hill-based collection company, is expanding, hoping to add as many as 100 workers this year, says owner Gary Williams.

The hiring will increase the company's workforce at the Cotton Factory to about 400 people, he said. The company had 159 employees when it moved in 2007 to the Cotton Factory at Dave Lyle Boulevard and White Street.

The new workers will be moving into the space once occupied by New South Interiors. The furniture company recently filed for bankruptcy.

Collectors are paid a base salary plus commission. The mean salary for Williams and Fudge employees is about $60,000, Williams said.

The expansion comes at a time that is historically good for collection agencies, said Tom Haag of the State Collection Service in Wisconsin.

"In tough times, the collection business grows. In better times it is easier to collect, but stable times are the most difficult time to collect," he said.

Eben Jose, an industry analyst with Ibis World in Los Angeles, said collection firms are now starting to hire after about five years of no growth.

While collection firms are adding people, collection rates are down and the federal government is increasing oversight because of consumer complaints, Jose said.

But the firms that are growing are the ones with a good business model and good reputation, Jose said.

"There is definitely room for growth," Jose said.

Williams and Fudge specializes in collecting student loans and related debt. The firm does not collect the federally backed student loans. Instead, it collects loans made directly by colleges to their students, as well as unpaid fines such as parking tickets.

Williams estimated there are about 40 firms nationally that do similar work. Williams said his firm has contracts with 1,200 colleges in all 50 states. Last year the firm added 100 clients, he said. In addition to colleges, Williams and Fudge also does some collections for banks that make student loans.

Williams said the average loan they try to collect is about $22,000. Many of those who have not paid did not graduate college, he said.

Student loans, Williams added, are promissory notes. There is no statute of limitations on paying them back and limited options in having them written off in bankruptcy court.

Haag, and Mike Shoop of the Professional Finance Company in Greeley, Colo., know Williams from his work with the ACA International, an organization representing collection firms. They said Williams and Fudge is successful because of the team he has built and his retention of employees.

"Gary is the best idea man I know," Haag said. "The things people are thinking, he is doing."

For the last three years Collections and Credit Risk magazine has named Williams and Fudge as one of the top places to work.