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Geico Direct Confirms Plans for Amherst Service Center

By Associated Press

Buffalo, NY – Geico Direct announced plans Tuesday to open a customer-service center in Amherst that company officials said will eventually bring 2,500 jobs to the financially struggling Buffalo region.

"The area offers a well-educated and enthusiastic work force," Geico Chief Executive Officer Tony Nicely said. "We're excited about Geico's expansion in the greater Buffalo area and we appreciate the team support we have received."

The company, which will first open its center in a 50,000-square-foot building at Audubon Office Park in Amherst, is expected to create 650 jobs there over the next three years.

Geico then plans to move into a permanent 250,000-square-foot center at the CrossPoints Business Park, where the number of jobs are expected to grow to 2,500, company officials said.

The positions are expected to pay an average of $34,000 annually.

Geico, a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., investigated several cities before choosing the Buffalo area. Berkshire Hathaway also owns "The Buffalo News" and its chairman, Warren Buffet, was instrumental in helping the city land the Geico center.

Buffet attended Tuesday's announcement, which came on the heels of an incentive package the Maryland-based insurer ironed out with the Pataki administration. Under terms of that package, the company will be eligible for property tax abatements, employee-training funds and discounted power costs.

Pataki administration officials also said Geico will be eligible to apply for a $1 million state grant that would reimburse the company for project-related expenses.

"This is one of the largest economic-development deals in the nation and a start of a whole new era in western New York," Gov. George Pataki said. "When one of the fastest growing companies in the United States chooses western New York for an operation that will employ 2,500 people with good-paying jobs, it sends a message loud and clear that the Buffalo area is once again a region to be reckoned with when it comes to landing new jobs and new economic opportunities."

The new service center represents a $40 million investment in Erie County, state officials said.

Charles Gargano, chairman of the Empire Development Corp., said state officials first began talks with Geico five years ago when it became clear the company would outgrow its facilities on Long Island.

The company's decision to move to the Buffalo area is considered a significant economic boost to a region that has been hard hit by the loss of manufacturing jobs.

Buffalo also suffered a major economic setback last year when its plans for an Adelphia Cable office tower -- expected to employ 1,000 people and serve as the cornerstone to the city's waterfront redevelopment -- fell victim to the corporate scandal that eventually brought down Adelphia founder John Rigas.