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At Palm Coast Data, A Surprise Bonus to Employees Highlights Reset of Invigorated Company

| July 11, 2018

palm coast data

Palm Coast Data on Commerce Boulevard is still a colossal operation, handling millions of mail items a month. (© FlaglerLive)

Palm Coast and Flagler are reeling from the imminent closure of Sea Ray Boats and the loss of 440 jobs at one of region’s top employers. But there’s a contrasting, perhaps unexpectedly reassuring story from another top employer: Palm Coast Data.

The company that manages some 19 million subscriptions for a variety of clients across the country has had its difficulties since its peak in employment and business activity in 2008, when it had nearly 1,000 employees and its operations in other states consolidated with the Palm Coast plant. Amrep, its parent company, weathered serious losses while Palm Coast Data lost more than half its employees. Yet the company, leaner and surer of itself, is now quietly strengthening again, scoring wins and sharing the windfall with its employees.

In the paycheck that went out for the last pay period, on June 29, almost every employee who was on the company’s payroll for a full year going back to April 2017 got a bonus check ranging from $500 to $2,500, except for executives. The company made a point of limiting the payout to the ranks and to team leaders. So 345 employees out of 417 (80 of whom are part-time) got the bonus, Rory Burke, the company’s president for the past five years, said.

palm coast data burke

Palm Coast Data CEO Rory Burke: as unassuming as he is candid. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

The reason: The company had a good fiscal year (it ended April 30), beating expectations. In May, it landed its largest account in five years when it won the Smithsonian contract and its 1.8 million subscribers, a fallout from the sale of Time magazine in January. Time had a fulfillment service like Palm Coast Data’s. The company now plans to reap more accounts as Time, again up for sale, continues to fray.

“A lot of things fell our way,” Burke said at the beginning of a two-hour interview last week at the Palm Coast Data campus off Commerce Boulevard. He described the series of town hall-style meetings he held with all employees to share with them the year’s successes and explain why he says he’s “cautiously optimistic” about the company’s direction. “We have another client under a letter of intent so I expect to have that client within the next 10 days.”

As unassuming as his predecessor was cocky, as candid as his predecessor was cagey about the company’s fortunes—and misfortunes–Burke makes no  attempt to spin the past more brightly than it was. He speaks of it openly as if acknowledging it and contending with it all is one of the reasons the company survived to reset, though Burke himself may have also had something to do with it: He’d been Palm Coast Data’s executive vice president until he left to work with competitor CDS-Global until Palm Coast Data recruited him back two years later, then named him CEO in 2014. He then set about to change the company’s image.

maureen noble palm coast data

‘I love my job,’ says Maureen Noble, better known as Mo, a Palm Coast Data employee for 17 years. (© FlaglerLive)

“The activities that occurred a decade ago here left ill will in the community, left a bad feeling, related to how the employees felt, how the community felt about the company,” Burke said, referring to the the company’s pledge back then to grow to 1,700 employees in a deal with Palm Coast, county and state governments that included generous economic incentives–and failed commitments by the company. “The activity with this building, the government grant, all that left a bad taste in the community’s mouth. I understand that. We’re 11 years past that. I can’t change what happened. I got here five years ago and these people are just—you saw it: we’re just trying to move forward and make this place certainly a success and a good place to work, and it doesn’t happen overnight. We have obviously economic realities, we’re self-funded, we’re profitable, but we’re taking cautious steps forward.”

If anything, Burke may be understating some of the enthusiasm in his ranks. To get a sense of that, you need only speak with Maureen Noble, a 17-year employee and a manager in the colossal mail room who’s seen the 34-year-old company through its best and worst times: she’d been a waitress at the Plantation Bay country club, where one of the founders of the company was a member, when she decided it was time to get a more serious job and applied at Palm Coast Data. She’d started as a nighttime insert operator before getting promoted to manager.

palm coast data mail room

Palm Coast Data’s mail room might as well be a post office. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

“It’s not all gumdrops and lollipops, I swear,” Noble says. “I run out of here probably multiple times during the year saying I’m going to put my résumé together, I’m going to leave. But the other 349 days of the year, I love my job. They do everything for me. They support us, they promote us. One of the gentlemen that I hired is now working with Rory Burke as one of the sales people for our company. You know how proud I am? I’m very proud. And it’s the people that they promote, with the aspiration to try to do good, that promote other people to come up behind us with the same kinds of morals and ethics.”

Over the years Noble has had to read numerous reports showing Palm Coast Data in a poor light, not least of them on FlaglerLive, which has chronicled Amrep’s decline since 2010. “It’s not what you report that bothers me, it’s the response of the people that say negative things about my company, and it breaks my heart,” Noble says. “Because my home is paid for by Palm Coast Data, my utility bill—I have hired, like, nine people that I got them their very first job in the United States of America, nine, and two are still with me. It’s how people respond that don’t know my company and how proud I am to work here–that’s my problem.”

palm coast data smithsonian

Part of the team that pulled off the Smithsonian’s transition of 1.8 million subscribers to Palm Coast Data. From left, Murielle Dougherty, Ellen Morgan, Shelly Baldwin and Jeri Daniels 17. (© FlaglerLive)

Or you could speak with the quartet of veterans who took hold of the Smithsonian’s 1.8 million subscriber database and managed to “translate” it from Time’s to Palm Coast Data’s language, a gargantuan task that had to be accomplished within deadlines and without disrupting subscriber services: Murielle Dougherty had just marked her 19th year with Palm Coast Data, Ellen Morgan has been there 29 of the company’s 34 years, Shelly Baldwin has been there 30 years, and Jeri Daniels 17. They were all huddled in Morgan’s office, continuing to work out the kinks on the Smithsonian contract.

Or you could speak with Lisa Douglas-Denton, an eight-year veteran at the company who heads one of Palm Coast Data’s lesser-known but high-impact contracts: New York City Mass Transit’s Metrocard, the little magnetic card that subway and bus riders use to pay their fare. You wouldn’t think Palm Coast Data would have anything to do with the card that enables 5.7 million rides a day in the nation’s largest city.

Yet here it is: while Palm Coast Data doesn’t handle the cards that are sold in subway stations, it handles the 850,000 to 1 million transactions for cards sold everywhere else—in little bodegas, shops and agencies across the city or anywhere else that provides cards. Palm Coast Data ultimately processes the orders and sends them to the delivery company that packs and ships them, taking care of all the payments and handling the destruction of used cards. It even coordinates the armored cars that deliver the cards. And it’s all done by Douglas-Denton and her team of four from a small segment of the Palm Coast Data offices.

“We handle everything, we do all their reporting, all their books, all their accounting,” Douglas-Denton says. I have a fabulous team.” The irony: Douglas-Denton has never been to New York City.

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Or you could try to speak with the eight people behind a seemingly innocuous wall and a door decorated for July 4, with a small American flag and a few stars, next to a tiny, beguiling circular logo to the right of the door, just above an empty black mail bin. “Office of the Comptroller of the Currency,” the logo reads, its graphic displaying something like a judicial balance hanging over an old key. An accounting employee’s idea of a joke? Palm Coast Data witticism?

Not exactly. The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency is a separate bureau within the U.S. Treasury Department. It regulates and supervises all American banks and federal thrifts, ensuring that they operate soundly and treat customers fairly.

And Palm Coast Data two years ago won a three-year contract to provide the customer service agents who listen to complaints or concerns from consumers, document them, and provide them to the Treasury Department for investigation. It’s another way the company is diversifying its services, repositioning its trained workforce to do what it’s always done, but with unlikely clients. And it all happens behind that door, though access is strictly restricted.

Access is also restricted—but more permissible, when accompanied by a company executive–in the heart of Palm Coast Data’s traditional and most recognizable operation: the famous call center that handles anywhere from 140,000 contacts with customers a month to 175,000 around holidays. It’s  where workers in their small felt-lined booths, each individualized with family pictures, decorations, color schemes, talismans, mementos, framed sweethearts, spend their days resolving subscribers’ changes of address, payment issues, renewed subscriptions and so on.

Access is restricted, as is employees’ use of cell phones, because workers are dealing with customers’; credit cards all day. The company pledges a high level of security for its clients, and preventing credit card theft, including from Palm Coast Data’s employees, is one of the requirements.

But the vast floor plan hums more than shouts from 7 a.m. to midnight, so that while dozens of agents are in full-blown conversations with customers, it’s almost impossible to discern what they’re saying, and easier to have a conversation than it would be in the average restaurant.

office of the comptrioller of the currency

A little satellite of the U.S. Treasury Department, at Palm Coast Data. Click on the image for larger view.
(© FlaglerLive)

The company’s 210,000 square feet of workspace stretch between two buildings on either side of Commerce Boulevard and also include of course the enormous print and letter shop—exactly where Burke got his start 40 years ago with another company, which is why his employees say he has a blue-collar heart, like theirs—where those subscription forms take shape and morph into those mail pieces you’ll eventually be opening at your end, through some machines that can process 5,000 items an hour.

There’s the mail room, though calling it a “room” is deceptive: it’s an enormous post office where those millions of mail pieces a month are sorted down to their own carrier somewhere in California or Kansas in some cases, because the narrower the sorting, the more money clients can save. Palm Coast Data is naturally the local post office’s biggest single client. So big that the Post Office has an office in the mail room.

Finally there’s the warehouse, where every magazine’s preferred paper stock and other supplies arrive and are stored until they’re turned into those small mailed forms: the reams in tons are stacked on metal shelves a few dozen feet high and too lengthy to measure in a hangar-like array that brings to mind that final scene in “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” when the alleged Ark is sealed in a crate and stored in a warehouse more interminable than a city. Except that stacks in this warehouse have a very brief shelf life.

Fascinating as the operation is when seen from the ground up, Palm Coast Data seldom opens it up to visitors, and never to school groups: it’s not an intentional restriction so much as it’s not been thought of much as a place that visitors would find enticing.

Burke had another reason to show the plant and extend his message beyond the one he delivered in his company town halls. “I want to convey that Palm Coast Data is made up of citizens here, that the revenue that we generate goes right back into the community,” Burke said, walking back to his modest office in the building that was once Palm Coast’s City Hall. “Our revenue is about $29 million. Of that, $24 million of it is payroll, every two weeks our payroll is in excess of half a million dollars. We have 400 people here that are working hard to succeed.”

There was nothing rah-rah in his demeanor, no outsized promises, no self-promotion: just an insistence to look beyond the difficulties of earlier years and a recognition of recent successes, with expectations of moderate but solid successes to come. “We’re trying to move beyond that, trying to make a better environment for the employees, step by step,” he said.

And as its sign on Commerce Boulevard states: Palm Coast Data is hiring.

palm coast data hiring

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23 Responses for “At Palm Coast Data, A Surprise Bonus to Employees Highlights Reset of Invigorated Company”

  1. Flagler Beach resident says:

    Great happy story. It’s a wonderful thing when a company rewards the lower ranks with raises. It’s a win win with most of that money going back into the community. I still feel so bad for the Sea Ray employees.

  2. woody says:

    I am truly happy for the employees,but let’s get to work on paying back the taxpayers there owed money.

  3. Komodo Dragon says:

    How deceptive, that so called bonus was thanks to Trump for the tax break given to many companies to be distributed to the employees. Disney distributed right away while PCD waited months to do so. It wasn’t even distributed properly where senior employees got less than employees just making a year and are almost out the door. It’s going on six yrs they haven’t received a raise for the hard work they do covering more positions since they can’t keep the help as poorly as they are treated. The turn over rate is probably the highest in the entire state in this revolving door company.

  4. Anita says:

    Got to love this Trump economy, winning !

  5. Franco says:

    Woody, what your missing is this. Economic stimulus is the real story. 400 employees create over
    $100m in housing ( real estate and rentals) property taxes, goods purchased,
    The point of the story is today not years ago. Palm Coast Data is great for the Palm Coast economy.

  6. Daphne says:

    It’s truly wonderful to see PCD awarding bonuses to the backbone workers! Excellent reinvestment and reward for their efforts!

  7. F Section Homeowner says:

    “Amrep, its parent company, weathered serious losses while Palm Coast Data lost more than half its employees. ”

    The employees weren’t lost, they were fired/laid off. From what i gathered, they reduced the amount of employees as much as possible and passed the workload to the remaining employees. I recall hearing stories about how the additional workload placed on many remaining employees was unreasonable. It is nice to see current employees saying how much they love it there, but it might be interesting to hear the other side to the operations over the last 5-10 years.

  8. Hot Carl says:

    I hope that place has new management cause PalmCoast Data was a slave ship and a hostile place to work at. Always pushing people around and threatening to give them the screws. I put up with their caca for 11 months and finally gave them my notice. Who knows, maybe they’re turning over a new leaf, either way I hope they are treating their employees better than before.

  9. Bc. says:

    Trump tax’s cuts at work. MAGA go trump 2020

  10. Bill says:

    IMO this is how GOOD compoainies should handle bonuses , almost every employee who was on the company’s payroll for a full year going back to April 2017 got a bonus check ranging from $500 to $2,500, except for executives

  11. joe says:

    Really? An actual pay raise would be of far more benefit to employees than a one-time bonus. The supposed “big, beautiful, massive” tax cuts that blowhard Trump touts amounted to $17.00 a week more in take home pay for me. So, I can actually buy a pizza and a 2 liter soda each week with that! Wow!
    Thankfully, more and more middle class people are beginning to see the tax scam – a few more dollars in take home pay, now being more than offset by increases in other expenses – and the tariffs haven’t even really hit yet – the con man’s game is coming to an end..

  12. Truth says:

    To all you people parading Trump as the reason – take a seat. There are two reasons employees received this bonus—two clients were involved in decisions that awarded PCD more money that exceeded their budget and they paid it down as bonuses instead of raises so it was immediately felt by the employees.

    Trump had nothing to do with this so stop patting him on his back—it’ll leave marks.

    The tax breaks given to PCD was not enough to disseminate into these amounts over 400 people. The tax break I personally received from Trump did not even cover a tank of gas to get to work and will thereby most likely result in less tax return money for me next year. Perhaps I may even owe for the first time in my life. I already received less this year because I couldn’t claim all my student loan interest. So how am I being helped again?

    You were not in the meeting—if Trump and his tax cuts had anything to do with it, it would’ve been stated as as such because that’s the kind of stand up guy Rory is…he said more then he had to during our meeting and if he wanted to profess his love for all things Trump, he would’ve.

    Sorry to burst your #fakenews bubble there but your Trump Love is melting into a slush pile.

  13. mark101 says:

    Hey Joe, it sure bets not money at all. Heck I got $231.00 a month extra from Trumpo and I’m not going to give it back

  14. JustTheTruth says:

    Thanks Truth says for setting the record straight to those trying to give Trump the credit for this, no lets give credit where credit is do and that is to Palm Coast Data for their business success story. For so long everyone feared they may pull out of Palm Coast as Sea Ray did.
    This is great news to the community that they are doing so well. Palm Coast Data keep up the good work, we are rooting for you.
    For those that are praising Trump, you can thank him for families of parents and children being separated from each other. And for higher merchandise prices for his game playing tariff tactics.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Hey franco,A – what makes you think that EVERYBODY that works at PCD lives in Flagler County?B – if PCD pays back Flagler what they owe on the busted deal (somewhere around 1.7 million dollars) then that extra money would be recycled into the Flagler economy by people who live here.So it’s a win win.

  16. Ben Golfin says:

    Cynics! Why can’t we just revel in the fact that a Flagler employer is prospering after a long drought that, in order to remain a viable company, had to downsize its workforce.

    Are the cynics so out of touch that they don’t understand the impact of digital media on the magazine industry and the challenges to keep a a business afloat in a shrinking market.

    Hats off to the individuals that stuck it out and the Management team’s determination to overcome the odds and chart a course of diversification. Had it not been for for this group we would be reading of another major Flagler company having to close .

    By the way as posted by Flagler Live, Palm Coast Data agreed to pay back $1.7 million in incentives that they had received.

  17. Matt 78 says:

    Almost every employee got at least a 500 dollar bonus after a years employment??? What a joke!! My neighbor has been with them over 8 years, she got less than 400 dollars.
    It seems to me you need to be related to management there to get any pay raises, or promotions

    Sure am happy I don’t work there

  18. Veteran says:

    Worked at PCD from 2001-2012. In 11 years my pay went up $3.50. Never got a bonus. They lost many big customers because of late mailings. Unhappy employees and poor management make for substandard products. I saw about 15 people come and go in a 7 person dept.

  19. John Dolan esq. says:

    Cheap labor. Florida’s big gift to employERS.

  20. gmath55 says:

    I went to there web site They are hiring. Hiring four people. LOL

    Available Positions

    2nd Shift Machine Operator
    2nd Shift Warehouse Clerk
    Customer Service Representative
    Human Resources Administrative Assistant

    I would never work there. Work today laid off tomorrow.

  21. Vinny says:

    Go cut grass or clean pools, you will make more and enjoy life much better then being STUCK in that building for 10 hours a day. Its UNHEALTHY to be inside for that long everyday and breath in “air condition” that MAY contain the Legionaire Disease !

  22. franco says:

    Great comments. A few points. The new CEO inherited the economic stimulus dollars. This CEO has done a masterful job of turning PCD around. Let’s agree with that.

    One major point, it doesn’t matter if it’s Palm Coast or Flagler county, or Orlando. It is progress and positive at that. Look at Sea Ray, don’t under estimate the pain and uncertainty those folks are dealing with. Instead of being negative, we should be celebrating PCD success. A bonus or pay raise speaks volumes. The CEO decided to share the wealth not harbor it like many companies would have done. It is so easy to be negative, we finally get positive news and folks want to bash them.

    The CEO has been there 5-6 years. PCD is lucky to have leader who cares about the workforce. Too often, its isn’t the way.

    Greats news for PCD and the area.

  23. Dave burke says:

    These so called bonuses was because of Trumo. What he didn’t tell you was, at the same time, all pensioners were told that Amrep is discontinuing directi deposit of pension checks and will be issuing paper checks. Yea, that’s the sign of a healthy company. Having to depend on a 2 to 3 day float of pension money. As far as Burke, he’s a used car salesman. Don’t be fooled.

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