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Fidelis Care wins tax breaks for expansion <br> Company's growth to create 139 new jobs

Fidelis Care New York is planning to more than double the size of its Amherst office in an expansion that could create as many as 139 new jobs at the health insurer over the next two years.

The Amherst Industrial Development Agency on Friday granted $2.9 million in tax breaks for the $15.3 million project, which would allow Fidelis Care to move its Amherst office to a new location within the town.

Fidelis Care, which provides government-sponsored health care programs, plans to move its back office facility, currently located in a 40,300-square-foot building in the Audubon Industrial Park, to a new, 90,000-square-foot building at 480 CrossPoint Parkway.

Fidelis Care expects to create 139 new jobs within the next two years, bolstering a payroll that now tops $20 million annual for its current 429 full-time and five part-time workers.

Fidelis Care officials said the company has outgrown its current office at 40 John Glenn Drive. The new building will have room to accommodate future growth, while also improving efficiency by allowing the company to operate from a single facility that has been tailored to its needs.

Uniland Development Co. would be the developer for the new building in the CrossPoint Business Park.

Fidelis Care is the New York State Catholic Health Plan, providing government-sponsored coverage in 50 counties across the state. The company has regional offices in Amherst, Syracuse, Albany and Rego Park, with satellite offices in Rochester, Poughkeepsie and Suffern.

Fidelis Care's nearly 590,000 members statewide have access to more than 37,000 health care providers through programs such as Child Health Plus, Family Health Plus or Medicaid managed care coverage. Fidelis also offers a Medicare Advantage program to senior citizens in 22 counties and a combined Medicare and Medicaid plan in 17 counties.

The Amherst IDA also voted to contribute up to $1,000 toward legal fees associated with a lawsuit that the New York State Economic Development Council may launch against a new tax on industrial development agency revenues that will cost the Amherst IDA $44,217 this year.

The Erie County IDA earlier this month agreed to contribute $7,500 toward the lawsuit, while IDAs in Lancaster and Clarence also have agreed to provide up to $1,000. The new tax has spawned a groundswell of opposition among local IDA and economic development officials who are backing new legislation to repeal the tax.

Amherst IDA board member Aaron Stanley voted against the contribution. "I just don't believe we should get involved in a lawsuit," he said.

The Amherst IDA also voted to amend its policy for charging fees on tax-exempt financing projects, reducing its normal 1 percent charge to 0.5 percent for projects that receive only a mortgage tax exemption. Projects receiving property tax breaks still will be charged a 1 percent fee.

e-mail: drobinson@buffnews.com

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