When it comes to back-office facilities and call centers, Buffalo is certainly no backwater.
Western New York has a well-established reputation as an attractive destination for back offices because of the lower costs of real estate, wages and energy that make it appealing to companies.
That's helped it lure the likes of Geico Corp., Citigroup, Bank of America, Yahoo! and a host of other companies, with thousands of employees based in facilities across the region. And economic development officials have worked to cement that reputation by carving out back-office centers as one of the target areas for future growth.
Last year, the Buffalo Niagara region continued its success with a couple of new entrants to the field and several expansions. There are no silver bullets among them, with thousands of jobs in one fell swoop, as those are few and far between.
But from financial services and collections to a high-tech data center and services for New York City transit riders, they will still bring hundreds of new positions and over $30 million in new investments to the region.
Strategic Financial Solutions
The New York City-based company already had about 350 workers at its Lawrence Bell Drive facility in Uniland’s Amherst International Park as of August, when it announced plans to more than double the size of its local operation and add another 150 jobs.
The $1.1 million expansion, supported with $96,250 in tax breaks from the Amherst Industrial Development Agency, would more than double its total space in the business park off Youngs Road from 20,000 square feet to 45,000 square feet. And it would put the employee-owned company a third of the way toward its ultimate employment target for the region.
The 13-year-old debt-consolidation and debt-counseling company emerged out of nowhere in 2017 — at the urging of investors and Buffalo boosters Jordan Levy and Ron Schreiber — to announce it would open a 60,000-square-foot customer service and operations center in Amherst to employ up to 1,500 employees within five years. That's on top of 600 jobs it already has in New York City.
The $20 million project, which represents one of the biggest single employment gains locally in years, is backed by $10 million in performance-based Excelsior Jobs tax credits from Empire State Development Corp., contingent on the company's hitting its employment targets.
Verizon Media, which owns Yahoo!, announced in March that it would invest another $28 million in its Town of Lockport data center campus by constructing an addition to the second facility that was built in 2013. As before, officials cited the favorable cooler weather, incentives and the availability of both lower-cost workers and low-cost electricity.
The 75,000-square-foot project is only adding 10 jobs to the workforce at the site, for a total of 200 employees — 75 in the original data center that opened on Enterprise Drive in 2010, and 125 at the building on Crown Drive.
But factoring in the cost of the new computer equipment, the total cost of the expansion will be $241 million. In all, the company will have invested over $500 million at the Lockport campus in the past 10 years.
In exchange, Verizon will save $17.3 million in sales taxes on building materials or equipment and almost $11.6 million in property taxes over 15 years, but it agreed to start making payments-in-lieu-of-taxes this year instead of waiting until 2024.
Health insurer Fidelis Care, now part of St. Louis-based Centene Corp., plans to add 70 jobs to its burgeoning Getzville data center after its landlord agreed to add an enormous parking lot and the Amherst IDA approved $245,220 in tax breaks.
The insurer already employs 1,420 in two buildings at Uniland's CrossPoint Business Park, but it needs more parking for its workers. So Uniland is building a 6-acre parking lot that will add more than 600 spaces for Centene, increasing the total number of parking spaces for the insurer to 1,400.
As part of the $4.5 million project, Centene pledged to add 70 jobs. In exchange, it will receive $213,520 in sales tax breaks, $18,000 in mortgage recording tax breaks and $13,700 in property tax breaks.
The company that runs the new contactless payment system for New York City's Metropolitan Transit Authority subway system opened its new $1.1 million operations and customer service center in Amherst, where Western New Yorkers will answer questions from Big Apple subway and bus riders about how to pay their fares.
Located at 33 Dodge Road in Getzville, the new 20,000-square-foot facility will support the operations of Cubic Transportation Systems.
The facility started out with about 20 employees fielding questions and fixing payment problems for customers, but Cubic expects to eventually employ more than 200 under a contract with the MTA that runs through 2023. Cubic received $96,250 in sales tax breaks from the Amherst IDA to support the project.
Capital Management Services
The Buffalo-based debt collections and call-center firm, which is experiencing increased demand for its services from large financial institutions, continued its growth in the region by adding 100 more jobs to the 800 it already has spread across four locations in the region.
That includes two locations each in South Buffalo and Amherst, with a fifth site in Pennsylvania that employs 175.
The company's roots were in collections when it was founded in 2000, but it has since expanded its services. The hiring included both agents and managers for the call center.
The Geneseo-based collections agency is opening a location in East Aurora, for its second office in the Buffalo Niagara region.
Coast, which was renovating space at 300 Gleed Ave. last year, plans to hire over 100 employees when the facility opens this month. Those hires will include customer service representatives, managers and support staff. The firm focuses on higher education and government debt.
This will be the fifth location for Coast. The firm already has a fully staffed office in the Jamison Business Park in Elma, where it has more than 200 workers, plus two in Louisiana, and its main site.