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GEICO seeks to hire 300 at Amherst center; Will fill new jobs, vacated positions

Auto insurer GEICO Corp. plans to hire 300 people in Amherst over the next four to six months, as the company replaces some local staff while responding to significant customer growth in New Jersey and New England.

GEICO, the nation's third-largest auto insurer and No. 1 in this state, is hiring for entry-level positions in sales, customer service and claims at its Northeast Operations Center.

The jobs include both replacements for people who have left the company or moved out of the area, as well as to handle the insurer's expansion, said Steve Cunningham, regional vice president and general manager of the facility, located in CrossPoint Business Park.

"We're a growing organization. People always need insurance," Cunningham said. "We're saving people money, and in these tough economic times, people are trying to save every dollar they can."

Currently, the company employs 1,900 at the 250,000-square-foot site, built in 2005 -- with great fanfare and significant government tax breaks -- to ultimately handle as many as 2,500 workers. The $40 million facility has been ramping up its employment gradually over the last few years.

"We have a great work force in Western New York," Cunningham said. "We have a nice facility here, and we're taking an opportunity with that."

The Northeast center, one of 12 primary locations for Washington, D.C.-based GEICO, handles sales, service and claims for New Jersey and New England, while assisting the company's Long Island office in covering New York State.

It also hosts one of two offices of GEICO Insurance Agency, which sells homeowners and other non-auto personal insurance policies underwritten by other insurers.

Cunningham said the company grabbed the No. 1 market share in both New Jersey and Connecticut last year, and is growing in Massachusetts after entering the state for the first time in May 2009. He declined to give specifics.

GEICO, the largest direct marketer of auto insurance, now operates in all 50 states. It employs 24,000 nationwide, and serves 10 million customers with 16 million vehicles.

In all, GEICO offers car, motorcycle, all-terrain vehicle, recreational vehicle, boat, homeowners, renters, condo, co-op, mobile home, personal umbrella, life, flood, overseas, commercial auto and identity theft insurance.

GEICO is owned by Warren E. Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc., which also owns The Buffalo News. Buffett is the newspaper's chairman.

e-mail: jepstein@buffnews.com

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