Tommy Scoggin and Mary Savage have launched an enterprise that they are convinced will help employers make wise hiring decisions.

They say, for example, they could have informed a Burlington taxi company that accused murderer Keith Allen Brown, charged in the Nov. 3 death of Kathy Clark Fogleman of Burlington, had served time in prison for assault and robbery.Trouble is, Scoggin and Savage have had a tough time convincing employers to give them a try.

``The problem we're running into is it's hard to get people to see the need to change their ways,' Savage said the other day.

So business has been slow. After nine months in operation, Employment Research Partners is working with six businesses, and Savage, the company's vice president, is the only one working full time. Scoggin, the company president who shares the responsibility for calling on employers, is plant foreman at a family machine shop.

Savage is undeterred. It often takes a while for new ventures to get going.

``We're just so new, it's been hard to get (the word) out there,' she said.

Employment Research Partners is one of 80 distributorships across the nation for CIC Inc. - a 2-year-old Tampa, Fla., company that digs into the past of prospective employees for information that can help businesses make the right hiring decisions.

The only other distributorship in North Carolina is located in Sanford.

Savage's company can put together detailed credit histories, verify educational backgrounds, do employment and earnings checks, veri-

The company can even look into a person's workman's compensation record to see if he is making a living filing claims.

``There are some who do that,' Savage said.

Some reports require special release forms from the prospective employee before the searches can be conducted, she said.

``There's a lot of legal stuff to this,' Savage said, referring specifically to privacy laws. ``You can get into trouble very easily.' Mary Savage Undeterred by slow start Employment Research Partners is connected with three national credit bureaus - CBI, Trans Union and TRW - which enable it to check the credit of individuals as well as businesses, Savage said. Those checks can disclose information from bank accounts, tell howprompt mortgage and credit card payments are made, and reveal other information.

``Running a credit history on someone is fast becoming a pre-employment tool,' Savage said.

Savage, a self-taught computer programmer, learned about CIC (Computerized Information Center) from her brother who helped develop the company's software. She saw the service as sorely needed in North Carolina.

As a mother, stories about child molesters in day care centers worried her. She felt an employment research business could help companies identify workers with problems.

``We believe that history repeats itself, and employers need to know what that history is,' Savage said.

Employment Research Partners can tailor a background check to a company's needs. While a company can spend up to $200 per worker for all the company's services, they typically pick only the ones they feel they need, and the average bill is less than $50, Savage said.

Most companies hiring candidates for key positions start with a criminal background check, she said. Once the field of candidates is narrowed, they may want educational backgrounds verified.

A record check Savage did saved a company looking for a driver from hiring a person with a record of motor vehicle offenses.

``We don't do anything that you can't do,' Savage said. ``Anybody can research records, do background investigations. The problem is that it takes time, mounds of paperwork, legal red tape and it's costly.'

She hopes companies in the Triad will eventually realize her business can save them time, money and manpower.

``This is where we can help,' Savage said.

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