WADE DANIELS Staff Reporter The next time you dial “411” to find a phone number, chances are the question will be answered by an operator in Van Nuys. Pacific Bell has moved 455 employees to a new directory assistance center in Van Nuys, and has plans to expand the number even more. The company’s “Universal” center, as it is called, opened in late September and is one of four Southern California directory assistance centers, which were consolidated from 30 centers in the region. “It’s part of a big reorganization effort to update directory assistance with consolidation and brand-new technology,” said Adolph Cantu, a Pacific Bell systems manger. Directory assistance centers in Reseda, Simi Valley and Canoga Park were closed in July, and about 90 percent of their respective workforces took up offers to transfer to the new location at 6920 Van Nuys Blvd., Cantu said. The company intends to fill about 60 jobs at the site in coming months. Van Nuys is the central recruitment office for the other Southern California Directory Assistance centers in Culver City, San Diego and Anaheim. The employment office was set up there because there has historically been a large pool of people in the area who desire entry-level jobs with the company, Cantu said. The starting wage for a directory assistance operator is $7.75 an hour. After a year of employment at the center, operators will have the opportunity to transfer to the other centers, Cantu said. The center occupies the third floor of a building originally occupied by the phone company in the late 1950s. On the first floor, a 150-member staff receives and processes phone bills during the day and on the second floor a 300-person staff handles phone calls from people requesting new or changed phone service. The directory assistance staff works from 6 a.m. to 1 a.m. During the Van Nuys center’s non-operation hours, or if there are more calls than it can handle, calls are routed to the San Diego location, which operates at all hours a feature of the new directory assistance equipment the company installed in the reorganization. The addition of 455 workers at the Van Nuys Boulevard site is a boon to local merchants, said Nancy Hoffman, executive director of the Van Nuys Chamber of Commerce. “It’s great because it will mean a boost for the nearby retail community, the restaurants and other shops,” she said.