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National Fuel Gas Co. is moving its customer service call center out of the AppleTree Business Park in Cheektowaga and shifting it to its headquarters building in Amherst, the energy company said Monday.

The move, which will take place this summer, will affect the center's 90 full-time and 11 part-time workers, but no job cuts are expected, said Julie Coppola Cox, a company spokesman.

"We're bringing over the folks who are doing that job now," she said. "It will be a seamless transition."

The move cements the future of the call center in the Buffalo Niagara region, ending speculation that arose during National Fuel's lengthy negotiations two years ago over its headquarters move that the customer service center could move to Erie, Pa.

The call center will move to roughly 9,000 square feet of additional space that National Fuel will take over from its neighbor in the office building, Tops Markets.

"When we made the move to this new office, we recognized the opportunity for future consolidation of other operations," said David F. Smith, the president of National Fuel's utility business. "It gave us the ability to bring more of our work force together when the opportunity arose."

Tops, which currently uses that space for accounting services and its Wilson Farms operations staff, will move those workers to other space within the building or at its annex at 2150 Wehrle Drive, said Stefanie Zakowicz, a spokeswoman for the grocery chain.

"We have some excess space," she said.

The customer call center handles more than 1.2 million calls annually, ranging from billing and service questions to inquiries about customer accounts and other topics. The Apple Tree call center opened in 1993 after National Fuel consolidated facilities throughout its Western New York service territory into a single call center. The company's lease for the AppleTree site is expiring.


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