Saying “in Buffalo, you have a combination of smart and friendly,” Warren Buffett played a key role in the recent announcement that GEICO Insurance Company – owned by Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Company – will establish a regional customer service center in the Buffalo region. One of the largest insurance companies in the United States, GEICO will invest $40 million in its new facility, creating as many as 2,500 jobs.
"This was not handed to Buffalo, this was earned by Buffalo," said Buffett in describing the decision to locate the center here. Buffett said the pleasant demeanor of Buffalo-area residents make them perfect candidates to work at the center. "When you get right down to it, it's friendly people who make phone sales work, and that's what makes GEICO tick. Smart people are pretty easy to find, but you can't train friendliness. In Buffalo, you have a combination of smart and friendly.”
"We are going to hire 2,500 of the friendliest people you ever met," he added. The average salary offered at the center will be $40,000 a year.
"We knew New York was the right place to expand," said GEICO Chairman Tony Nicely. "And we’re excited about the welcome we’ve received from the people in Buffalo. We will work hard to provide our new associates with long-term career opportunities and to help them move ahead in the company. We’re very proud to be part of the Buffalo community."
GEICO plans to develop a 250,000-square-foot facility in the CrossPoint Business Park in Amherst, over the next several years. Before the facility is completed, GEICO will lease space in the Audubon Office Park, also in Amherst.
The company will soon begin move-in and training activities, and expects to be operational during the second quarter, 2004. Initially, GEICO expects to hire 650 sales, service and claims associates within 3 years, and could expand that to as many as 2,500 employees ultimately after the CrossPoint site is completed.
The Buffalo Niagara Enterprise, a private/public sector, business-driven organization that is focused on attracting companies to the region, facilitated the collaboration among the various state and local organizations it took to put the project together. Thomas Kucharski, President and CEO of the Buffalo Niagara Enterprise, commented, “Large deals are never simple, but the number of moving parts and relationships that had to be pulled together to get GEICO were unparalleled.”
Kucharski added, “I can't emphasize enough how significant this is, not only in terms of the jobs it will create, but for the Buffalo region's image. When a quality employer like GEICO picks Buffalo, it sends a very positive message and opens up future doors to economic growth."
"This is one of the largest economic development deals in the nation and the start of a whole new era in Western New York," said New York Governor George Pataki. "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 out 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."