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Liberty Mutual to create jobs, lower rates

(left to right) Gov. Deval Patrick, Liberty Mutual President and CEO Edmund Kelly and Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno announced at a press conference last week that the company will be coming to Springfield, creating up to 300 jobs and offering competitive auto insurance rates. Reminder Publications photo by G. Michael Dobbs
By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

SPRINGFIELD The move to a managed competition in auto insurance is being touted as the reason rates are lowering in Massachusetts. Until Thursday morning, few people knew there was another benefit: a Liberty Mutual customer service center in Springfield that will create up to 300 jobs.

Gov. Deval Patrick joined Liberty Mutual President and CEO Edmund Kelly for a press conference in the offices of what soon will be the company's new Springfield office at the Springfield Technical Community College Technology Park. The announcement was attended by dozens of area elected officials and business and community leaders.

Kelly explained, "With reforms in auto insurance, we can sensibly grow again in our home state."

The Springfield office will have about 160 positions starting to be filled in April and concluding in the late summer, Kelly explained. If business goes well, he anticipates the Springfield office will eventually have up to 300 employees.

Kelly said the entry-level jobs would pay about $35,000 and include a number of benefits. He said the company would be looking for people with good basic reading and writing skills who enjoy working with people.

Under the new state system of controlled competition, Liberty Mutual's prices will be on average 10.7 percent lower than those in 2007. Kelly said the new system will allow the company to offer consumers products they've sold in other states, but never before in Massachusetts. Policies will now have features such as a roadside assistance package and first accident forgiveness. The company will be the only insurer in the state to offer consumers the option of buying a policy through a local sales representative, over the Internet or from a licensed sales counselor in a call center.

Peerless Insurance, a Liberty Mutual company, announced it would be the first new company to enter the Massachusetts market under controlled competition. Peerless had stopped selling auto insurance in Massachusetts in 1988.

Kelly said he couldn't relate the exact sequence of events that led the company to pick the Springfield location, other than to say when the move to reform the auto insurance system in the state came about, the company began looking for a place to expand.

Kelly said he appreciated the cooperation and reception he received in Springfield.

Noting the reduced cost of doing business in the western part of the Commonwealth, Kelly said with a smile, "Massachusetts is an excellent place to do business if you stay out of 495."

Patrick said the new auto insurance plan would give consumers a range of choices with various rate reductions. He said that while consumers will have to shop around for the best deal, "good drivers in every neighborhood will benefit."

The governor noted the state has moved from being ranked at 48 for job creation to 15 during the first year of his administration.

"We need good jobs with good wages in every region of the Commonwealth," he added.

"This shows Springfield can do it," Mayor Domenic Sarno said. "The battle cry is 'Why not Springfield?'"