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Liberty Mutual to open office in Springfield with 300 jobs

Stephanie Reitz

SPRINGFIELD — Liberty Mutual Group announced plans last week to hire up to 300 people for a new Springfield office, the second business to announce recent expansion plans in the city.

Gov. Deval Patrick made the announcement with officials from the insurance company and city leaders, all of whom said it shows their confidence in the western Massachusetts business climate.

Edmund F. Kelly, Liberty Mutual’s chairman and CEO, credited the expansion to the state’s shift this spring to a “managed competition” system for auto insurance, along with Liberty’s worldwide growth in recent years.

“These are good, middle-class jobs,” he said of the new positions, adding the Boston-based company is particularly happy to “build our business while building up our own backyard.”

The new office will house a call center and other operations. Entry-level jobs will start around $35,000 yearly with health and retirement benefits, he said.

Supervisors will move this spring into the new office in the former Springfield Armory in the Springfield Technical Community College Park. The company hopes to have more than 150 people on board by the end of the year, with a long-term goal of about 300 workers.

Kelly said several factors made Springfield an attractive spot for the expansion plans. The region has a well-educated workforce, solid technological offerings such as widespread high-speed Internet service, lower costs than greater Boston and easy access to highways and Connecticut’s Bradley International Airport.

The greater Springfield region has struggled to retain jobs as toy maker Hasbro Inc., leather goods maker Buxton Co. and others have announced layoffs over the past several months.

Local leaders say they see a turnaround ahead, however, citing Liberty Mutual’s plans and a Belgian company’s announcement last Wednesday that it would open a recycling facility in Springfield with 15 new jobs this spring.

“This shows that Springfield has an open door, a welcome mat — we want you to come to Springfield,” Mayor Domenic Sarno said.

Under Patrick, the state overhauled the way auto insurance is offered in Massachusetts, which was the only state where rates were set by regulators rather than the market. Under the April 1 shift to managed competition, companies will file their own rates.

Kelly said customers would be able to shop for coverage options — such as roadside assistance and “first-crash” forgiveness — that Liberty could offer before in other states, but not in Massachusetts.

The call center workers in the new Springfield office will work with current and potential customers to answer coverage and rate questions, help resolve claims and offer other services.

Liberty Mutual offers life insurance and liability coverage as well as policies on cars, homes and personal possessions. It has 4,400 workers in 33 offices statewide, part of a worldwide work force of more than 40,000 employees.

(Associated Press)